Five questions with IR Magazine Awards judge Catherine James

Jun 15, 2017
<p>Former IRO at Diageo shares her judging criteria ahead of European awards</p>

You were head of IR at Diageo for nearly 20 years. What is the view like from the advisory side?

It is the same: good, transparent communication of a company’s investment case is about making sure investors and analysts understand the strategy, how it will be implemented, and what are the KPIs against which to judge the success of the management team in delivering value from that strategy.

How can IROs communicate successfully during a corporate transaction?

It will be the result of the strength of the relationships they have already created. You cannot start a conversation during a transaction; you have to continue a dialogue that has already been started. Speed and clarity of messaging is key. IROs have to reach out quickly and clearly – you cannot appear unsure.

What do you believe makes a great investor event?

It is about the management team on show. Is it a team? Does it have complementary capabilities? As individuals and as a team does it come across that they have chosen the right strategy, the right way to implement it and the right measures of success? 

Can you tell us about a communications crisis you handled during your career?

An earnings downgrade after the global banking crisis in 2008. Downgrades were probably to be expected but we reaffirmed our outlook at a company conference because we saw no signs of consumer weakness. We should have been more circumspect and the crisis was to some extent self-inflicted. But by being open about the fact that while we probably should not have made such a specific statement in a period of uncertainty, we had not at the time seen any change in trading that would alter our outlook, so we got through it. We were talking to investors and analysts who knew us, which helped.

What will you be looking for when judging an annual report?

I’ll be looking at the extent to which it links the strategy, how it is implemented and the KPIs. I also want to see the market trends and opportunities and company risks clearly articulated.

Winners of the IR Magazine Awards - Europe 2017 will be revealed at the awards ceremony in London on June 21.

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