IR professionals satisfied with pandemic response, NIRI study finds

Apr 05, 2021
But some respondents are concerned about their ability to influence senior management while working remotely

Nine out of 10 IR professionals are satisfied with how they adjusted their IR program to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, according a new study produced by NIRI and Cision.

More than half (54 percent) of respondents say they are very satisfied with their pivot in response to the crisis, while a further 38 percent say they are somewhat satisfied. Only 4 percent say they are somewhat unsatisfied and 5 percent are neutral. 

Both IR practitioners and advisers cite the quick move toward virtual conferences and non-deal roadshows as being particularly effective.

Kip Rupp, vice president of investor relations with Quanta Services, says that in some cases the move to virtual conferencing led to more high-quality interactions with investors. ‘Portfolio managers were participating in conferences much more than they normally would,’ Rupp says in the report. ‘PMs don’t usually travel as much as their analysts do, so there was more PM participation — which is good. They’re the ones who pull the trigger on buying your stock.’

The positivity expressed by IR respondents is particularly notable because more than eight out of 10 (83 percent) say their IR program was somewhat or strongly impacted. Seven percent report little to no impact as a result of the pandemic.

Concerns about standing, despite growing importance of ESG

Many IR professionals covet a close working relationship with their senior management and view their role as being an adviser to the C-suite – rather than a facilitator on behalf of the C-suite.

But the remote working conditions imposed during the pandemic have led some IR professionals to feel concerned about their internal standing. Respondents were asked whether they agreed with the following statement: ‘Working from home impacted my ability to have a seat at the table in my organization.’ One third of respondents somewhat or strongly agree with the statement, while 45 percent disagree and the remaining respondents are undecided.

One way IR professionals can demonstrate more value is by contributing to their company’s ESG efforts, as 60 percent of respondents say ESG initiatives became more important in 2020 than in 2019. Despite the increased importance of ESG, 49 percent of those surveyed expect their company’s CSR budget to remain unchanged from 2021 to 2022.

Brad Sylvester, vice president of investor relations at Chesapeake Energy, says companies that take a leading stance on ESG will reap the benefits. ‘It needs to continue to be at the forefront of people’s minds, whether you’re the CEO or at the other side of the table as an investor,’ he says in the report. ‘And companies that can take that responsibility and that challenge and run with it, they’ll be favored.’

But although discussions of diversity, equality and inclusion have dominated headlines and prompted CEOs to make public statements, 64 percent of respondents say that the recent social and racial justice movements have had no impact on their IR program. Almost one third of those surveyed say there has been some impact on their IR program, while a smaller group (6 percent) say there has been a significant or heavy impact.

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