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Jun 26, 2023

IR professionals should think like activists and be trusted advisers

Truthful internal discussions with C-suite during ‘polycrisis’ are crucial, say event speakers

IR professionals should engage in transparent internal conversations with their CEOs and other members of the C-suite as much as they do with their external stakeholders, according to the latest IR Magazine Think Tank – Europe.

At the event, held in London on June 22, delegates were given best practice advice by leading IROs and corporates on how to respond to converging macro challenges.

Listing some of the key events that have led to what is defined as a ‘polycrisis’, speakers referred to inflation, supply-chain disruptions, digitization and a rise in climate change and sustainability awareness as the top disruptors.

think tank Europe 2023

At a time when all these factors are having a significant impact on companies and professionals across several industries, it’s important for IROs to understand who their stakeholder groups are, panelists said.

‘[You need] to understand the level of uncertainty each of these stakeholder groups is probably facing and the pressures they have,’ said one panelist. ‘No one has a crystal ball, nobody knows [what’s going to happen].’

‘Think as an activist’

Speakers stressed that it is paramount for companies and IROs to ‘introspect’ and understand that there is not a one-size-fits-all type approach, so companies should prioritize internal conversations to start with.

‘People are trying to figure out who the winners and losers are and that’s a conversation that needs to happen,’ another speaker said. ‘It’s important to make sure you’re not just speaking to one stakeholder group. If you feel those [important] topics are not being discussed within your own company, then either you’re in the wrong company or you’re not doing your job properly.’

Internal conversations with those sitting at the top are a must-have for IROs, stressed panelists. And while investor sentiment is important, it’s not the only thing that matters: ‘[You should not] have blinkers [on] and look only at what investors are looking for,’ a speaker noted.

think tank Europe 2023

Managing internal and external expectations is also a fundamental part of the IR function, even more so during a polycrisis. That’s why IROs need to step up their engagement with their CEO and become a trusted adviser.

‘It’s very lonely at the top,’ said one of the panelists, addressing how market volatility causes some companies to experience dips in their stock that in turn results in added pressure on the board. ‘It’s important to have that level of partnership [with the board].=

‘[If your stock price is falling], your equity story needs to change. Think like an activist. You [as an IRO] are responsible for your company, and that’s what the bulk of us would expect. Often CEOs have a lot of yes men, but [IROs] should look at being a trusted adviser to [the board].’

IR Magazine returns to California for its next Think Tank – West Coast on September 26. Requests for invitations to attend are now open.

IR Magazine Think Tank – Europe 2023 partners