30 IR stars in 30 days: Dr Elizabeth Sun of TSMC

Jan 03, 2019
To celebrate 30 years of IR Magazine, our series highlights the achievements of 30 IR stars from the last three decades

IR Magazine has a long history of honoring those men, women and companies around the world that excel at investor relations. In celebration of 30 years of IR Magazine, we selected 30 IR stars that have shone particularly brightly over the past three decades and will be posting one profile each day for 30 days. 

As noted in her 2016 cover story for IR Magazine, Dr Elizabeth Sun, director of IR at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), is a rock star of IR. In the IR role at TSMC since 2003, Sun has won numerous awards for the company and herself, this year taking home the award for best crisis management for TSMC’s handling of a computer virus that stopped production, and the lifetime achievement award at the IR Magazine Awards – Greater China. 

Sun says that over her 15-plus years as an IRO, one of the biggest changes she’s seen in the profession is ‘the diminishing importance of sell-side research, which puts a lot of responsibility on IROs. We will need to take on a bigger role in educating investors not just on company fundamentals but also on various subjects such as industry structure and dynamics, company position vis-a-vis competitors, supply chain dynamics, and even geopolitics. We need to explain well how these bigger-picture factors impact the company’s numbers and its strategy.’ 

Another development Sun highlights is the increased attention investors have been giving to ESG issues over the past five to 10 years. ‘It has become important that IROs not only need to be well educated and well versed in this trend,’ she notes, ‘but we also have to serve as ambassadors, taking investor issues and demands back to management to help initiate change.’

As someone at the top of her profession in Asia, Sun also tells IR Magazine how she has seen IR evolve in the region, where it traditionally stands somewhat apart from the US and Europe in funding and practice. The profession has certainly grown in Asia, she says. ‘IROs in Asia are becoming more mature and more sophisticated,’ she notes. ‘Many of them can do a great job of talking about their own company’s business and explaining industry dynamics well. Many companies also now have very good financial reporting and attractive websites.’ 

But it’s on the ESG side that firms continue to lag behind, she adds: ‘When it comes to engaging in CSR or ESG conversations and being a change agent, I believe we still have room to improve.’

Stay tuned for more IR stars this week and pick up a copy of the winter issue of IR Magazine to see the full list.

A version of this article was published in the winter 2018 issue of IR Magazine – the 30th anniversary issue of the industry’s premier publication.

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