CIRI annual conference: Sunday and Monday roundup
Organizers chose Montreal for CIRI’s 25th annual conference; this was the first time the city hosted the event and the mood was typically festive.
Themed ‘Accelerate your investor relations’, the confab was timed to coincide with the Canadian leg of the Formula One auto race circuit.
Accordingly, the downtown hotel’s lobby proved an eclectic mix of conference goers mingling with disturbingly suntanned international race car fans.
One thing organizers probably didn’t count on was an entirely different sort of crowd thronging outside in the streets as boisterous anti-capitalists continued their own months-long daily festivities.
While the demonstrations sometimes added a certain frisson to intra-city travel, as conference co-chairs Denis Jasmin, vice president of IR at SNC-Lavalin, and Tim McNulty, CFO at Central Resources Group, noted, ‘turbulence may now be the new norm’. IRO attendees were determined to network, sharpen their skills and learn about new tools to be ready for whatever comes their way.
The official program kicked off Sunday at six in the morning when hardcore golfers left for the links. They were soon followed by contingents of race fans off to the track and cyclists eager to pedal through a brisk guided tour of the city.
That afternoon things got down to business with a trio of seminars focusing on new technology and the rapidly changing media landscape.
Monday morning saw sessions on implementing a social media program, international marketing, high-frequency trading and shareholder activism, among others.
One gathering revealed a few snippets from CIRI’s IR compensation and responsibilities survey. Key evolving trends include the increasing professionalism of the IRO and the job’s heightened visibility in the C-suite and the boardroom.
‘The job is becoming much more proactive and strategic,’ said Jennifer McCaughey, senior director of investor relations and financial communications at Transcontinental.
‘It now has a dual role, being both external and internal facing. And you can add a lot of value on the internal side.’ McCaughey added that feedback from perception surveys has led Transcontinental to raise dividends 50 percent over the last two years.
George Kesteven, manager of corporate and investor relations at Sterling Resources (and CIRI’s new chairman), said any value can only be added with management and board buy-in.
He pointed to recent studies by Rivel Research contrasting the market value of a good IR program with a bad IR program.
‘If you are having trouble with the management team, build a cost-benefit study with this research,’ he suggested. ‘Then put an IR budget in front of the team and ask which scenario looks better.’
Lunch’s awards ceremony saw Alyssa Barry, manager of investor communications at Amica Mature Lifestyles, receive the Belle Mulligan Scholarship for the CIRI/Ivey Investor Relations Certification Program.
Meanwhile, Sonya Mehan, IR manager at OpenText Corporation, took home the Belle Mulligan Award for Leadership in Investor Relations and David Carey, senior vice president of capital markets at ARC Resources, scooped the CIRI Award for Excellence (along with a standing ovation).
‘To this day, there is not a single CIRI event I attend where I do not learn something from somebody else,’ said Carey. ‘The group knowledge that we have and share is the strength of our profession.’
The day continued with stimulating and often highly interactive discussions featuring buy-side and sell-side analysts along with senior IROs and wrapped up with a tasty Grand Prix Gala dinner.
‘All in all this has been a great opportunity to connect with people I don’t see that often and find out what’s going on in the industry,’ commented Janet Comeau, director of corporate communications at CDS.