Compensation changes, virtual onboarding and pivots: IR career advice during Covid-19

May 06, 2020
April’s US unemployment rate will likely be the highest since the Great Depression, but IR hiring isn’t necessarily abating

The US unemployment rate in April could be as high as 16 percent, according to a study released by Refinitiv and the Wall Street Journal last weekend, but leading executive search specialists predict that IR professionals could find opportunity in the disruption Covid-19 has caused.

Investor relations is a crucial function during any crisis and a number of companies – including Adobe and IMAX Corporation – made IR appointments during April.

‘IR is such a valued asset within an organization, especially during a downturn,’ says Peter McDermott, senior client partner at Korn Ferry. ‘IR is normally a resource-limited team to begin with, so cutting the team may not make as much sense for a function that is so important for managing the next earnings process and communicating with investors.’

McDermott tells IR Magazine that his team continues to work on active searches, in spite of Covid-19. He adds that he assisted a client with a digital onboarding recently, ensuring the successful candidate had a complete schedule of meet-and-greets with the team and peers, as well as getting him set up with all the necessary technology to do his job remotely.

Smooch Repovich Reynolds, managing partner at ZRG Partners, believes opportunities may emerge for top-tier IR talent in the coming months. Speaking at an IR Magazine virtual event last week, she said: ‘Management teams around the globe today are still trying to steady their businesses, their employment forces and the chaos we’re in. Probably by the end of June or early July, they’re going to have things steady enough internally that they can step back and look at where their industry might pivot [to] and whether they have the right talent to do that… You have to be ready to take calls about confidential searches.’

McDermott adds that the structure of compensation packages will need to be revisited during the coming months if companies attempt to lure senior IR professionals to new opportunities. ‘The client will need to reassure the candidate with some kind of sign-on or first-year bonus guarantee, because there will be a risk associated with changing jobs at the moment,’ he says.

Daunting environment

But Repovich Reynolds acknowledged that the current environment is ‘daunting for all’, and that not everyone will be prepared to take on the risk of changing jobs right now. ‘No one in the hiring sphere is going to hold against you any decisions you make today that might feel awkward – whether that’s a lateral move, a step back or a part-time job,’ she said at last week’s event. ‘This is the third recession I have navigated through as a recruitment specialist. Especially when 9/11 happened, people made dramatic decisions that were different from what was expected and their careers still took off afterwards.’

She added that IR professionals should be doing everything they can to anticipate the changes their company might need to undergo, and to ensure they have the skills to provide value in those new environments.

Personal branding is also important during this time, Repovich Reynolds said. For IR professionals who don’t currently have a job, she recommended taking a fresh look at their resumé and social media accounts, to be sure there is consistency between them.

A personal branding exercise

Repovich Reynolds went on to encourage the virtual event audience to ‘find a soundbite about what you will bring to the table.’ In order to do this, she recommended a personal branding exercise for all IR professionals.

‘Take the time to talk to five people about who they think you are,’ she said. ‘Ask an open-ended question about what they see you doing next. You’ll get some very interesting answers. The people you have coveted relationships with will help you understand who you are. You can’t be all things to all people, because that dilutes your brand. Everyone needs to be clear about their brand. I’ve always believed there’s tremendous opportunity in chaos.’

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