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Jun 01, 2016

Timesaver’s guide to CIRI

A guide to CIRI's June 12-14 conference in Québec City

Canada’s oil, gas and mining companies are facing another gloomy year with prices beaten down. One course would be to hunker down and wait for the cycle to turn. But a better one would be to go learn and network at CIRI’s 29th annual investor relations conference in Québec City in June.

‘Recognizing that it’s been a tough economic environment for so many, it’s particularly important to encourage IROs to come,’ says Yvette Lokker, president and CEO of CIRI. ‘Especially if they’ve been working in isolation, this is an opportunity to get together with their peers.’

In response to the gloom, CIRI is offering a discount for multiple people from the same company and, as of mid-April, registration is projected to hit the 220 mark, the same as last year’s conference in Banff, Alberta. This year’s conference committee is co-chaired by Melanie Hennessey, vice president of corporate communications at Vancouver’s Novagold Resources, who grew up in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in Québec, and Roberto Sbrugnera, vice president of treasury, risk and investor relations at grocery chain Metro in Montreal.

‘Québec City is a great place to have the conference, with its nice pubs, Old Québec and the Plains of Abraham,’ Sbrugnera says. Hennessey adds: ‘As one of the oldest cities in the country, it makes for an interesting historical environment and a different culture to hold a conference in.’ Attendees will get a chance to explore during the day leading up to the conference, which opens with Sunday activities: golf, a hike through Jacques-Cartier National Park and a culinary tour through Old Québec.

The conference theme is ‘360 degrees of IR: creating value for the long term’. ‘We’re noticing such a broad diversity in the IR role,’ Lokker says. ‘IROs need to know about governance, the economy, trading activity and CSR. There are so many facets and we’re trying to cover the spectrum.’ The result is an array of sessions on IR’s connection to corporate development, marketing and other functions.

The committee has focused on bringing in new and different speakers, with diversity of opinion in every session. For example, the panel for a ‘power lunch’ on activism and shareholder engagement includes Taseko Mines, a BC copper producer that has been battling a Chicago-based shareholder activist, and the long-only viewpoint of fund management firm Jarislowsky Fraser.

In a new twist, the conference will feature a session with roundtable discussions on various topics, ‘where people can sit and have a really seasoned IR veteran lead the topic,’ Sbrugnera says. ‘People will be able to pick their topic of choice, then change tables and go to another topic,’ Hennessey adds. ‘They’ll be able to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time.’

Hennessey identified a speaker to represent the anti-short-termism stance put forth by BlackRock’s Larry Fink in his famous letters to S&P 500 CEOs: J Royden Ward, an econometrician and chief analyst at Cabot Benjamin Graham Value Investor in Salem, MA, who recently published an article titled Stop the short-term hysteria.

‘As a closing keynote speaker, Ward will be able to wrap up a lot of the concepts we’ll be talking about throughout the conference,’ says Hennessey, who underlines her own company’s focus on long-term value creation.