Rooms with a view at CIRI

Aug 01, 2011
<p><i>Jeff Cossette</i> reports from CIRI&rsquo;s national conference</p>

Lake Louise is stunning: emerald and ice, ringed by rocky towers, shimmering in iconic glory – the mountain lake easily captivates slack-jawed visitors. So it was testament to the popularity of CIRI’s annual conference that, despite the view, the sessions were well attended.

Some 225 delegates came for the shindig, CIRI’s best turnout yet, and they’d been promised, in the words of conference co-chair Tanis Robinson, director of financial communications at Royal Bank of Canada, ‘ideas and tools to achieve not just best practices, but also next practices, and in doing so become leaders in today’s financial markets.’

The main program kicked off with Kevan Cowan, president of TSX markets and group head of equities at TMX Group, talking about the exchange’s controversial proposed merger with the London Stock Exchange (since consigned to history). An excellent speaker, Cowan found himself pitching his story to a room full of story experts – and not everyone bought it. Some wondered whether the exchange’s communication strategy might have been improved while others wanted concrete examples of how the merger would benefit their companies.

‘The core issue is whether we want to stand alone or be part of globalization,’ responded Cowan. ‘We are in a technological arms race and the merger would put us into a better position to keep up.’

Later Mike Wilson, president and CEO of fertilizer producer Agrium, gave an impressive talk on his company’s successful strategy. As Judy Hutchins, Marketwire’s senior vice president of Canadian sales, put it: ‘Everyone seemed to enjoy his candor. He’s very open and honest about what he does as a CEO.’

One breakout session featured a ‘fireside chat’ with senior IROs exchanging ideas, including how to measure the strength of analysts and how to choose roadshow escorts. George Kesteven, manager of corporate and investor relations at Sterling Resources, pointed out that analyst coverage wasn’t the final word when determining brokerage sponsorship. ‘The trading and sales teams can be even more important than the analyst,’ he commented.

Meghan Brown, IR director at Canaco Resources, suggested, ‘Go with banks that are trading your stock because those are the ones whose sales people are getting through to clients.’ Pat Marshall, vice president of communications and investor relations at Cineplex Entertainment, added, ‘You’ll know which analysts investors respect because their reports will keep coming up at investor meetings.’

As the conference drew to a close, Jon Bey, CEO and president of Steel Rose Communications, was presented with the first Belle Mulligan scholarship for the new CIRI/Ivey IR certification program and Elaine Wyatt, president at Craib Strategic Directions, took home the award for excellence in IR.

In an inspiring finale, Mac Van Wielingen, founder and co-chairman of ARC Financial, and chairman and founder of ARC Resources, called on IROs and corporate leaders to show a higher level of leadership.

This article appeared in the August print edition of IR magazine. It is an edited version of two articles that appeared on IR Magazine, covering the first two days of CIRI and the final day.

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