‘I had never even been on a cruise at that point!’ says Jessica John, thinking back to the immense impact of Covid-19, which struck just three months into her new IR role at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH). Putting that impact into perspective, she says: ‘The entire cruise industry was shut down, with zero operations and no end in sight. We were in a unique situation, even compared with other hard-hit travel, leisure and hospitality companies.’
A former sell-side analyst, John had covered a range of industries, from insurance and medical technology to metals and mining, but travel was new to her. She was not only coming in as a new name in investor relations, but was new to the industry, too.
Just a short time later and John finds herself head of investor relations, corporate communications and ESG, having helped work through multiple deals to secure much-needed capital, including what she describes as ‘an historic quad-tranche transaction’ that saw the firm raise $2.4 bn in a single day in May 2020 as an insurance policy against a potential further 18 months without revenue.
John worked heavily on NCLH’s first ever ESG report, in response to investor demand, and the IR team was also involved in many other aspects of the pandemic response, including health and safety protocols, creating an advocacy platform, co-ordinating media campaigns and more.
In the trenches
So how did she go from new-to-IR to where she is today? She credits being ‘in the trenches’ with former head of IR Andrea DeMarco as a big help. ‘I was able to learn from her and ramp up [my knowledge] on the company and the industry as fast as possible,’ John says.
Her time on the sell side also helped cement her place as a voice for the investment community within NCLH.
‘There were a lot of differing opinions within our management team on how to move forward given the unprecedented uncertainty,’ she explains. ‘None of us were used to being in a situation like this where we had very little control and no idea what was coming our way next.
‘Given my background on the sell side, I was a huge advocate for providing as much transparency as possible. I knew firsthand how important it was to the investment community to be up to date with the latest and best information we had. Investors would understand that we did not have all the answers in this type of environment and would appreciate that we were willing to be open and honest and provide what we could.
‘I also knew investors and analysts were juggling rapidly evolving information for dozens of companies at a time, so we tried to make sure our materials were as simple, clear and informative as possible.’
In fact, John says the crisis itself was like a fast-forward on her IR career. ‘As challenging as the onset of the pandemic was on both a professional and personal level, I believe it prepared me to step into the head of IR, corporate communications and ESG role sooner than I would have otherwise,’ she says. ‘As it was all hands on deck, I was able to contribute right away, have my voice heard and gain the trust of our management team.’
NCLH was a runner-up for best crisis management at the IR Magazine Awards – US 2021 and this year John took home the trophy for rising star, an award clearly deserved given her rapid rise within the company.
This is an extract of an article that was published in the Summer 2022 issue of IR Magazine. Click here to read the full article.