New head of IR at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Jul 22, 2021
Learning technology firm appoints Chris Symanoskie as vice president of investor relations

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), a Nasdaq-listed learning technology firm that serves more than 50 mn students and 3 mn educators in 150 countries, has announced a new hire to lead the company’s IR efforts.

Chris Symanoskie brings 20 years of IR experience to his new position, with many years in the education sector. He most recently served as vice president of IR and corporate communications at American Public Education, an online provider of higher education, where ‘he built a respected investor relations program and led the company’s successful ESG reporting initiatives’, according to a company statement announcing his appointment.

Previously, Symanoskie served as the head of investor relations and corporate communications at Laureate Education (formerly Sylvan Learning Systems) and Strategic Education (formerly Strayer Education).

Described as an ‘enthusiastic member’ of NIRI since 1998, Symanoskie has been a member of NIRI’s Senior Roundtable since 2013 and holds the Investor Relations Charter credential. He reports directly to Joe Abbot, CFO of HMH.

‘We are thrilled that Chris will lead our investor relations program in support of our Digital First, Connected strategy and the teachers and students we serve each day,’ says Abbott. ‘His substantial education industry experience and outstanding reputation within the financial community will enable us to share our compelling story with a wider audience, build on our current momentum and advance our business transformation.’

Symanoskie joins the Boston-headquartered company during an ambitious restructuring. In October 2020 the company announced a restructuring plan to accelerate its digital transformation and ‘align its cost structure with its Digital First, Connected strategy’. The company is in the process of streamlining operations in order to, as it said at the time, ‘better enable HMH to support teachers and students with digital first, connected solutions that drive successful outcomes in remote, face-to-face and hybrid learning environments.’

Although the strategic restructuring plan was first announced in October 2019, the company notes that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift in education to digital learning.

‘The Covid-19 pandemic has cemented the central role of technology within the K-12 [from kindergarten to 12th grade] space,’ said Jack Lynch, president and CEO of HMH, in a statement on the company’s restructuring plans last year. ‘As districts embrace new remote learning formats and rely more heavily on digital solutions, HMH is well positioned to be a holistic partner in delivering successful outcomes and supporting educators and the students they serve.’

The changes would create a ‘more focused company,’ Lynch added, also acknowledging the significant job losses – a 22 percent reduction in the HMH workforce – that would be taking place. ‘We recognize the personal impact these actions will have on our HMH team members,’ he said at the time. ‘We thank our departing colleagues for their contributions and are committed to treating them in a respectful and compassionate way.’

Abbott added at the time that the restructuring is expected to drive billings growth, position the company to build up its recurring subscription revenue base, simplify and strengthen the business model, reduce costs and generate sustained and positive free cash flow.

‘By realigning our organization, we will be better positioned to support our customers in today’s learning environment while creating value for our shareholders,’ he said. ‘We are taking decisive steps to further improve our free cash flow potential and dramatically lower our break-even billings levels in the future.’

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