CIRI brings out the leader in you

Jun 07, 2011
<p>Delegates experienced an action-packed first two days at CIRI 2011, both inside and outside the conference center</p>

Lake Louise is stunning this time of year. Emerald and ice, ringed by rocky towers, shimmering in iconic glory, the mountain lake easily captivates slack-jawed visitors.

So it was a testament to the attractions inside the Chateau Lake Louise that, despite the view and unexpectedly fine weather, the first day and a half of sessions at CIRI’s annual conference were well attended.

Some 225 delegates are here for the shindig, CIRI’s best turnout yet, and they’ve been promised, in the words of conference co-chair Tanis Robinson, director of financial communications at Royal Bank of Canada, ‘ideas and tools to achieve not just best practices, but next practices, and in doing so become leaders in today’s financial markets’.  

But that’s not to say no one had plain old fun. More than one moment was undoubtedly stolen in walks around the lake. And chatter during day one’s breaks and meals centered on that morning’s guided hike (‘grizzly-bear free’), whitewater rafting (‘cold but fun’) and the various levels of sporting prowess at the institute’s 15th annual golf tournament.

Following afternoon sessions on social media and engaging retail investors, attendees browsed exhibitor booths, were officially welcomed and then set off on various important dining and social missions.

Selling the TMX/LSE merger

The following morning kicked off with Kevan Cowan, president of TSX markets and group head of equities at TMX Group, talking about the exchange’s controversial proposed merger with the London Stock Exchange.

An excellent speaker, he nevertheless found himself pitching his story to a room full of story experts and not everyone bought it. Some wondered if the exchange’s communication strategy might have been improved, others wanted concrete examples of how the merger would benefit their companies.

‘The core issue is do we want to stand alone or be part of globalization,’ responded Cowan. ‘We are in a technological arms race and the merger would put us into a better position to keep up.

‘Other benefits are harder to quantify but even more important. As you put liquidity pools together you get greater visibility. If we can make our market more visible while facilitating inter-listings, many TSX and venture companies will meet the investment criteria of more international funds.’  

An hour later, Mike Wilson, president and CEO of fertilizer producer Agrium, gave an impressive talk on his firm’s successful strategy. Judy Hutchins, Marketwire’s senior vice president of Canadian sales, commented, ‘Everyone really seemed to enjoy his candour. He’s remarkably open and honest about what he does as a CEO.’

Breakout sessions followed on the influence of proxy advisory firms, how to attract socially responsible investors and how to engage investors with technology. Fortunately, for delegates who found it hard to choose, all presentations and audio are being made available online after the conference.

Michael Salter, senior director of investor relations and corporate communications at Mosaid Technologies, explained how the patent licensing firm used video to dramatically improve its reputation. ‘Video can create better, more personal relationships,’ he said. ‘Investors can see, hear and learn about Mosaid as a business and investment directly from the management team.’

Picking a roadshow partner

Afternoon breakout sessions included a regulatory update, ideas on how IROs can deal with investment blogs and a ‘fireside chat’ featuring senior IROs exchanging ideas on topical issues. A recurring theme at that last gathering involved measuring the strength of analysts and choosing roadshow escorts.

George Kesteven, manager of corporate and investor relations at Sterling Resources, pointed out analyst coverage wasn’t the final word when determining brokerage sponsorship. ‘The trading and sales teams can be even more important than the analyst,’ he commented.

Meghan Brown, IR director at Canaco Resources, suggested, ‘Go with banks that are trading your stock because those are the ones whose sales people are getting through to clients.’

Pat Marshall, vice president of communications and investor relations at Cineplex Entertainment added, ‘You’ll know which analysts investors respect because their reports will keep coming up at investor meetings.’

The day concluded with a session on catching the attention of sell-side analysts and institutional investors.

According to Gordon Tait, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets, the trick is to be consistent in both good and bad times. ‘You see many companies that look comparable on paper but trade at significantly different multiples,’ says Tait.

‘It is because some are more consistent and realistic than others. If we have to make a choice, and we do, we’ll pick the ones I trust the most.’

Pre-dinner, IR professionals gulped oysters, guzzled GlaCIRIis (vodka, blue curacao, lemonade) and, for the most part, gathered around the clever folks at the Zu booth to watch the hockey game.

This ‘everyone is a leader’ reception also featured some of the more innovative participants dressed as their favourite leader, including a rowdy crew of Tom Enright lookalikes complete with pony tail.

After dinner, Enright (sans pony tail) concluded, ‘It was a great day. And the conference was pretty good too.’

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