At the NIRI 2023 Annual Conference, IR Magazine caught up with NIRI National president and CEO Matt Brusch to find out the big talking points from the event and how IR professionals can stay up to date with the latest tools and trends.
What are some of your takeaways from the NIRI 2023 annual conference?
Obviously, there are a couple of topics that are of prime importance to investor relations professionals: ESG and artificial intelligence (AI).
We saw a variety of levels of ESG content, beginning with the first general session yesterday, which was very strategic: where’s ESG now? Where’s it going? How has it become politicized and what does that mean for public companies? We looked at it from the perspective of institutional investors and what they want from public companies. And then on a more tactical level, you’re starting up an ESG program – how do you do that? What are some tools and tactics?
And then AI, of course. Everybody wants to know about AI. When we started this process nine months ago, AI wasn’t new but, over the last six months or so, with the advent of ChatGPT and generative AI, we’ve seen it creep into most of the sessions.
What are your initial thoughts on the practical benefits of AI for IROs?
We actually [held] a think tank on AI and IR back in 2020, and convened a group of thought leaders and a futurist to help us consider the topic: what it means for investor relations professionals and how they can [use] it to their benefit.
And really, that’s how I look at it. Yes, there are some issues we have to consider – for example, ChatGPT. If you plug something into ChatGPT it becomes public, so you have to consider that. But… investor relations professionals need to think about this topic, you need to do the research and understand what’s happening in real time. And I’m not an expert, but I can tell you that there are many experts here in the IR services showcase. Many of the service providers are beginning to bring AI tools into their offerings.
IR at its core is a communications profession so there’s nothing more important than the idea that you need to understand your shareholders, how they work, what they look for [and] the tools they use. They’re using AI, right? So it’s important for us to understand how they’re using those AI tools so we can [ensure] the disclosures we make feed into [those] tools. It’s only through the communications you have with them that you understand how you can optimize your own communications to help them in their jobs.
What are you working on from a lobbying perspective?
We spend a lot of time at NIRI National headquarters thinking about advocacy and how we can help investor relations professionals and public companies in that regard. And the number one issue on the advocacy front for IR professionals for quite some time has been shareholder transparency.
The SEC has a regulation called 13F, which requires institutional investors to disclose their positions once a quarter, within 45 days of the end of the quarter, and that hasn’t been updated since, I think, 1975. But if you think about how trading happens these days, it’s in microseconds – so there’s a there’s a distinct dichotomy there.
We’ve been working for quite some time to advocate on behalf of public companies to improve that institutional investor disclosure. In 2020, we were working with the House Financial Services Committee to help create a bill around 13F and we were making progress. Unfortunately, that got caught up in the charged political atmosphere we’re experiencing now. But we’re back at the table and making good progress this year and that’s our number one priority. We’re going to continue to push that forward, as best we can.
Are there any tips or recommendations you would offer to IROs for the rest of the year?
Keep in contact with NIRI. Attend your chapter meetings. Rely on NIRI National to help you through. We have a quarterly magazine [where] we provide education, training and updates. Just from a personal perspective, come to events like this.
We had a great capital markets session this morning. That’s one of my focus areas – to make sure we help IR professionals understand how capital markets work, and how they continue to evolve. In fact, we’ll have a think tank report out later this year on the evolution of the capital markets. It’s really a matter of keeping current with NIRI and the tools, products and services we provide to help you stay current and professional.
What can you tell us about next year’s conference?
We’re going to be in San Francisco next year, on June 9-14, at the Marriott Marquis. It’s a beautiful location where everyone will be under one roof. And it’s just it’s going to be a wonderful event. We look forward to seeing everybody there.