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May 31, 2023

CIRI 2023: Self-care, leveling up and standing ovations

Canada’s IR association holds first in-person annual conference since 2019

Warm sunshine and clear blue skies blessed Toronto this week as CIRI’s annual conference returned to an in-person format for the first time since 2019. The upbeat weather was mirrored by the event’s ‘Level up your IR career’ strapline, with attendees challenged to find ways to take their IR programs and careers to the next level.

The first day, however, reminded IROs that sustainable success requires not pushing yourself too hard, too often. ‘Self-care Sunday’ began with a presentation on how to find a good work-life balance and avoid burnout – a real danger for some IR professionals given the stretched resources they often work with.

Next, networking expert Jolene Watson discussed the science behind making good connections with your peers. When introducing yourself, leave a small gap between your first and last name, as it makes it much easier to remember you, she said. She also revealed some fascinating psychological tricks. For example, when meeting a potential investor or client, matching the color of your clothes to the logo of the firm helps to make a good impression.

The conference began in earnest the next day with kick-off remarks from co-chairs Charlotte Thuot Kucyi, senior manager of IR at Tricon Residential, and Curtis Pelletier, director of IR at Graham. They welcomed attendees and highlighted innovations to the conference agenda, such as the addition of ‘masterclass’ sessions to ensure attendees have clear takeaways to go back and use at their companies.

Recession risk

Next, Eric Lascelles, chief economist at RBC Global Asset Management, gave his thoughts on the economic outlook. Despite being ‘reasonably surprised’ by how well the US and Canadian economies have been performing this year, he said RBC thinks a recession is still coming, putting the chance of a downturn in the second half of the year at 80 percent. ‘There are a lot of levered players out there and we may see a few other things break,’ he noted.

After that, attendees had a choice of three breakout sessions, covering the competition for capital, dual listings and getting to the other side of a crisis. Sponsored teach-ins and more breakout sessions followed, including a masterclass from Ian Gillies, managing director of institutional research at Stifel GMP, about how to work effectively with the sell side.

A panel session at CIRI 2023
A panel session at CIRI 2023

Attendees then sat down for CIRI’s AGM and awards lunch. The 2023 award for IR excellence went to Isabelle Adjahi, vice president of IR at Lion Electric, who has won many prizes with IR Magazine over the years. Later, during the AGM, there was a standing ovation for Yvette Lokker, CIRI’s CEO for the last 10 years, who announced prior to the conference she would step down in July.

Adam Borgatti, CIRI chair and vice president of IR at Aecon, paid tribute to Lokker in an interview with IR Magazine, highlighting her key role in CIRI’s accreditation program, advocacy work and guiding the association through the pandemic.

‘Yvette has been a tremendous resource for the Canadian capital markets and as head of CIRI for the last 10 years,’ he says. ‘She’s been with the company for 15 years, a true professional, she has put her heart and soul into the profession… she will be extremely missed.’

Strategic partner

Keynote sessions in the afternoon focused on measuring the success of IR and how to be a strategic partner to the C-suite and board. At the latter talk, IROs were urged to act like a ‘think tank’ for the C-suite and be proactive with suggesting ideas, rather than waiting to be told what to do. Later, attendees had the chance to let their hair down at a pool party featuring barbecue food and live music, with plenty of Hawaiian shirts on show.

CIRI 2023
CIRI 2023

The last day of the conference began with a thought-provoking talk from Genevieve Roch-Decter, CEO and founder of GRIT, a financial media company, on the rise of the retail investor and what that means for IR teams. Online communities of retail investors rival large hedge funds with their investing power, she said.

Does engaging this stakeholder group make sense for non-consumer facing companies, like miners, asked one audience member? It can, Roch-Decter said, but issuers need to think of ways to make their services relevant to younger investors – for example, by explaining how precious metals are key to smartphones.

Impact of artificial intelligence

Over the rest of the morning, breakout sessions covered a range of IR topics, from the potential impact of AI to crafting engaging earnings call scripts and successful institutional marketing outside of Canada, where a packed room listened to insights from Agnico Eagle Mines’ vice president of IR Brian Christie.

The final session of the conference, delivered during lunch, saw a panel of investors discuss how they are integrating ESG into their decision-making. The wide-ranging conservation covered topics such as AGM voting, ESG frameworks and the value of sustainability reports.

During the panel, it was suggested that companies produce a shorter version of their sustainability report for investors, running to just a couple of pages and focused on key data points. The suggestion led to a few wry smiles in the room, given the amount of effort IR teams put into often lengthy ESG disclosure. But it was noted that investors are just one of many users of sustainability reports, so it may not be advisable to cut back the size of the full report.

After that, it was time to draw the conference to a close. Lokker, who received another standing ovation, thanked the conference committee and CIRI staff for all their work on the event. She also revealed the details of next year’s event, to be held in Calgary, Alberta on June 2-4.