Skills to look for when recruiting for your IR team

Jan 04, 2017
<p>Tips for making the right hire</p>

This article was produced in association with ELITE Connect. It was originally published on the ELITE Connect platform

Although the fundamental role of an IRO – to facilitate the effective communication between a company, its shareholders and the financial community – can be perceived as a relatively simple function, the reality is anything but. 

Changes in regulation, accountability to varying internal departments and the shifting landscape in terms of ESG issues are just a few of the many challenges that even the most resolute of IR teams can face. With this in mind, we examine the essential skills and knowledge that Laura Doyle, head of IR at Legal & General, and Chris Griffith, group IR director at Tesco, feel are key to successful IR appointments. 

Effective communication skills

‘Given that the key role of an IRO is to manage the dialogue between the investment community and a company, having the ability to engage and build strong relationships with both management and investors is critical,’ comments Griffith. ‘The best IROs are able to not only confidently represent the company to investors and analysts, but also represent the views and opinions of investors – especially shareholders – at a senior level within the company.’

Doyle agrees: ‘Given the high demand for talking to such a wide variety of influential people, if someone isn’t an excellent people person, a career in IR really won’t be for him or her.’

Financial competency and understanding

In addition to good communication skills, financial proficiency ranks highly among the vital attributes Doyle believes are essential to effective IR, especially for those teams that report directly to the CFO.

‘While financial qualifications don’t necessarily matter, financial skills and understanding of the math behind the markets definitely do,’ she says. ‘Fifteen years or so ago, IROs would largely be able to get by with strong communication skills, but now – especially for those departments firmly embedded in the finance function – team members need to be able to speak comfortably on a broad range of financial matters.’

A desire to learn

Griffith echoes Doyle’s opinion regarding skills, but adds that enthusiasm to learn and provide strong service levels are also valuable qualities: ‘A good understanding of financial markets and investor needs is clearly helpful, though a real willingness to learn and a desire to offer a great level of service to any external stakeholders can enable anyone to succeed in IR.’  

A team attitude

Particularly within smaller teams, being able to work well with others is a fundamental attribute, says Doyle. ‘A can-do attitude is crucial – there’s certainly no room for egos in successful IR teams,’ she points out. ‘We’re very lucky to work in a privileged position in IR; very few other departments within a company enjoy such high visibility at senior management level, or get the opportunity to talk externally about such high-level issues. Teamwork is vital to both external and internal IR communications running smoothly.’

A solid track record and appetite for success

‘Great judgment and a high level of integrity are probably the most important factors to me in a new appointment,’ comments Griffith. ‘Also, evidence of strong technical skills, usually demonstrated by prior experience, are clearly important, as is a genuine interest in the business and a strong ability to engage with colleagues at every level in the organization.  These factors are all usually supported by strong references and/or personal feedback.’

Doyle adds that enthusiasm to succeed is also essential. ‘New team members don’t need to join knowing absolutely everything – in fact it’s sometimes better if they’re open to learning new methods,’ she explains. ‘But what is important is a willingness to learn and to do so in a positive manner. IR can be an amazing place for those team members who really want to make the most of new opportunities.’

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