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NIRI 2023: Mark Hayes of Breakwater Strategy on helping IROs get a seat at the board level

Jun 13, 2023
‘An elevated IRO needs a different set of tools and capabilities’

The role of IR is evolving with a greater need to play a role at the board level to help shape the strategic environment of a company, according to Mark Hayes, partner at Breakwater Strategy.

Hayes spoke to IR Magazine at the NIRI 2023 Annual Conference held in Chicago last week, where he reiterated the importance of IROs playing a much broader role at the C-suite level.

‘Our view is that an elevated IRO needs a different set of tools and capabilities to win and we’re excited about the opportunity to support that need,’ Hayes said.

ESG has been a hot topic among Breakwater clients, he added, with companies trying to think about how to position themselves as an organization in the future.

In his opinion, this can be done in two ways: by thinking less about ESG and more about deconstructing it to focus on a strong governance performance, and by thinking about becoming a purpose-driven organization.

‘I think it’s an exciting time to recognize that ESG work has been a strong down payment,’ Hayes said. ‘Now the question is: what do we do next?’

Crystal ball gazing

Switching focus to the rising trend of artificial intelligence (AI), Hayes explained that one of the questions he is hearing from clients surrounds how to add client value in the AI context: ‘The headline for us is that we are going to provide a combination of strategic thinking and the ability to activate across a collective set of capabilities in relation to AI.’

With macro pressures looming, particularly next year with the US presidential election, we asked Hayes whether there was any ‘crystal ball gazing’ the Breakwater team could share with the IR community.

Looking at the S&P 500 list of companies, Hayes remarked that more than 70 percent of these firms exceeded their top-line or bottom-line guidance. The natural question to ask is, he said, is: what’s next?

‘There are a number of key variables and one of the things Breakwater brings to the table is the ability to partner with companies and IROs to think about a variety of scenarios over the balance of the year, to help them frame what that could look like and provide incremental transparency for investors.’