Spotlight on a top IRO: Oliver Stratmann, Lanxess
Oliver Stratmann, head of treasury & IR at German specialty chemicals company Lanxess, scooped the award for best investor relations officer (small & mid-cap) at 2018’s IR Magazine Awards – Europe, held last month in London. Here, he shares his IR views and experiences with ELITE Connect.
Can you please give a brief overview of your career history to date?
I started at the German chemical conglomerate company Hoechst almost 20 years ago, then moved into Celanese, a chemical spin-off with a dual listing on the NYSE and in Frankfurt, to work in corporate controlling. After a stint in treasury, I was subsequently hired by Matthias Zachert (now CEO of Lanxess) in 2004 to join the IR team of the newly founded Lanxess, which had been spun off from Bayer. From there, I was appointed head of IR in 2008 and head of the combined group functions – treasury and IR – in 2015.
What first attracted you to a career in IR?
IR offers the opportunity to combine the necessary skill set of financial knowledge with the ability and willingness to structure and communicate complex financial and business messages. There’s also a huge degree of freedom in IR, combined with the possibility to really position a corporation on the financial markets (equity and fixed income).
What are the main changes you’ve seen over the course of your career?
I’ve certainly noticed an ever-increasing amount of regulation during my time in IR. This has not only resulted in a need for the industry to evolve and an increase in levels of professionalism in IR, but also highlights the need for IR societies, such as Germany’s Dirk.
What has been the highlight of your IR career to date?
I would mention two things: firstly, the experience of having been with a company through the entire business cycle – both good times and bad – including issues such as restructuring and enjoying times of prosperity. Secondly, and importantly, the opportunity to meet and engage with exceptionally smart investors, such as Warren Buffett when Berkshire bought shares in Lanxess.
What are the main issues on your agenda and horizon at the moment?
We’re consistently trying to identify and target the right investors – those that could be interested in the characteristics our company provides – and keep them up to date with the latest development of strategy implementation. Mifid II and its (potential) side effects are a hot topic at the moment, along with how we develop concepts to cope with the new situation. We’re also looking at digitizing some aspects of our IR work.
What advice would you give to anyone seeking a career in IR?
You have to be committed – very committed. IR requires a very broad skill set and lots of dedication. Learn your basics in a financial department and implement this knowledge afterwards in IR. Build your network inside the company and then establish yourself as a reliable discussion partner in the financial markets by simply being proactive and accessible – it’s not a 9.00 am-5.00 pm job.
What do you enjoy most about working in IR?
The many facets of the job: internal and external communication, a great sense of freedom, excellent support by our top management at Lanxess and explaining changes and strategies to analysts and investors. Putting it simply, I enjoy the market community.
Any final thoughts to share with us?
In IR it’s important to remember that it’s always about the team, not the individual or head of department. Teamwork is important to ensure everyone speaks with the same voice to effectively communicate the company’s story. I think we have a great team at Lanxess, and that we do this well.