Get the most out of Ottawa with a rundown of what not to miss at CIRI's annual conference
What: CIRI 2014
When and where: June 15-17, Ottawa, Canada
This isn’t just Rudy Sankovic’s first time as conference co-chair; it’s his first CIRI conference ever. He moved from TD Bank’s wealth management division to become senior vice president of IR barely three years ago and has only just got to know the IROs from Canada’s other big banks. Helping organize the conference, he says, ‘is a great opportunity to get involved in the broader IR community’ – as is attending it.
The title of this year’s conference is ‘21st century IR: Empower, lead, deliver’. ‘IROs today juggle all sorts of priorities, including immediate ones, but they also have to keep an eye on the future,’ Sankovic says. He and conference co-chair, Newalta’s Anne Plasterer, classify today’s IROs as ‘economists, strategists, storytellers and fortune-tellers, all wrapped up in one.’
In 2010 Ottawa was the site of CIRI’s first conference in a city, rather than a resort. ‘It’s a city that feels like a resort,’ says Yvette Lokker, CEO of CIRI. ‘It has a lot of green space with the canal running through it and there’s Parliament Hill, ByWard Market and nightlife, and it’s becoming a bit of a foodie town.’
A big change this year is a stronger focus on sustainability and CSR. ‘We saw it in the evolution of the role of IR, so we wanted to evolve our event, too,’ Lokker says. A Monday morning session on CSR is bound to be creative: it’s sponsored by creative agency the Works Design Communications. ‘Each year we look at our green efforts and take them one step further,’ Lokker says. Limited printed materials will be on Forest Stewardship Council paper, while presentations will be posted online, not distributed on paper or USB memory sticks. CIRI is also working to reduce waste elsewhere, such as donating leftover food to charity.
Tap to be heard
There will be a lot more live polling this year, with attendees using their phones to register opinions and even guide the discussion during some sessions.
Perfect for new IROs…
The conference content should hit home with those new to the profession with a breakout session on Monday called ‘Understanding the art of valuation’, led by Baytex Energy’s Brian Ector, a sell-side analyst turned award-winning IRO.
…and also for veterans
‘To be or not to be an IRO’, also on Monday afternoon, caters to seasoned IROs thinking about their next move, with a lineup of panelists at contrasting stages of their careers: BMO Financial Group’s former IRO, Viki Lazaris, now in the bank’s wealth management group; Greg Kist, former IRO at Progress Energy, now president of Pacific NorthWest LNG; and Heather Keeler-Hurshman, who recently left a 15-year finance career to take on IR at High Liner Foods in Nova Scotia.
Lokker’s looking forward to thought-provoking sessions like the closing keynote address by Lynn Stout, a Cornell University Law School professor whose book, The shareholder value myth, argues that an unhealthy focus on stock price is bad for long-term returns.
Sankovic has helped assemble a strong panel for a breakout session on debt IR – of particular interest to him considering he and his team spent 20 percent-25 percent of their time on it in 2013. Another session looks at how changes in market structure are affecting IR: ‘Very timely considering the new Michael Lewis book, Flash Boys,’ Sankovic says.