A lesson in IR – the Turkcell way

May 14, 2013
<p>Turkish telecoms leader brings investor relations to a new generation at Istanbul&rsquo;s Bah&ccedil;eşehir University</p>

As Turkish IR has matured and grown, so has demand from the next generation of financial professionals to dip a toe into the world of investor relations.

Turkcell is not only the country’s largest telecoms provider; it is also the only Turkish company to be listed on the NYSE, putting its IR team in a unique position when it comes to regulation and disclosure. So when Istanbul’s Bahçeşehir University decided to offer a course in investor relations, it asked Turkcell to get on board.

‘We believe there’s an increasing demand for IR in the country,’ explains Yesim Tohma, IR and disclosure manager at Turkcell. A rapidly growing economy as well as structural reforms in both the public and private sectors ‘have resulted in a stable economic and political environment, and thus a perfect climate for sustained growth,’ she adds.

Turkey’s capital markets have ‘improved significantly,’ continues Tohma, while foreign direct investment has increased four-fold over the past 10 years to $16 bn in 2011. ‘Turkey became an important market for global investors,’ she says. In recent years, Tohma has seen a growing number of IR executives at investor conferences as Turkey’s top-level managers began to realize IR is ‘much more than just disclosure. It’s very important to talk to investors, to understand their needs. We now have a more expanded vision of IR in Turkey.’

Turkcell's Yesim Tohma (center) with students Burakhan Gedik (left) and Akin Moroglu.
Turkcell's Yesim Tohma (center) with students Burakhan Gedik (left) and Akin Moroglu.

Taking all this – plus the country’s burgeoning youth population (Turkey has more than 70 mn people, with an average age of around 30) – into account, Bahçeşehir University decided it was time to educate its students on best practices in IR.

The university’s inaugural Investor Relations Strategies and Implementation course took on 17 students for a 14-week course in the fall of 2012-2013, mostly fourth-year students doing PR or engineering degrees, according to Tohma. All had expressed an interest in the capital markets and, for a variety of reasons, wanted to learn more about what investors want.

In addition to showcasing Turkcell’s own story – which includes positives such as a dual listing and a 52 percent market share in Turkey, as well as negatives like the drawn-out, Europe-wide boardroom battle for control of the company – lectures focused on ‘the questions frequently raised by investors, and management’s approach to handling critical issues such as legal developments and crises, as well as building strategies for sustainable growth,’ explains Tohma, who led some of the lectures herself.

The company also wanted to give the course an international angle. ‘Turkcell not only has to comply with Turkey’s capital market requirements, but also with those of the SEC in the US,’ explains Tohma. ‘This requires us to work closely with international lawyers to monitor any changes in reporting requirements, as well as regulations that may affect the capital markets.’

This experience was brought to life for the students through case studies focusing on corporate governance issues and disclosure, says Tohma, while the final project involved having students prepare and present their own investor presentations.

No date has been set to offer the course in the coming academic year, although Tohma says Turkcell is in talks with Bahçeşehir University – as well as other institutions – to run it again. She clearly feels it had a lot to offer. But what did the students think?

Early investor insight

Covering topics ranging from regulatory issues to IPOs and CSR was a good match for the needs of fourth-year engineering student Akin Moroglu, who got an insight into how these issues can affect the perception of a company. Moroglu, who already has his own start-up, left his job at Samsung Electronics in Turkey to return to university and focus on his own business – and gain ‘the mentality of an IR person’.

‘When you have a start-up in Turkey and want to make it bigger and get some investment, I think it’s better to think like a big company,’ he explains. ‘It’s given me a different perspective. To think about investor relations has taught me so much.’

While Moroglu wants to use his new IR skills to make his own business more attractive to investors, Burakhan Gedik, a final-year PR student at Bahçeşehir University, says he would like to one day become an IRO himself.

Gedik explains that he has long been interested in the stock markets: investing ‘student sums’ in the local stock market while studying, and making money from it. But he says the IR course served as a ‘really wide, really good connecting bridge between school and the industry. It really made me want to work in IR.’

And like Moroglu, Gedik says the course also highlighted the wider benefits of a solid, transparent IR program – especially one with an international reach. ‘Even people in Turkey who don’t know much about PR and IR know Turkcell is doing very well internationally, and it definitely affects their ideas about the company,’ he says.

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