Spotlight on a top IR team: AstraZeneca

Oct 25, 2017
Q&A with senior director of investor relations Craig Marks

FTSE 100 biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca scooped three prestigious accolades at the recent IR Magazine Awards – Europe 2017, including best in region for the UK & Ireland and best investor event. We hear from AstraZeneca’s senior director of investor relations, Craig Marks, who gives us an insight into his team and shares his tips for IR success.

Describe your event schedule over the past 12 months.

It’s been a busy 12 months for the IR team at AstraZeneca. We’ve had an incredible amount of pipeline news flow, coupled with IR events at many of the big medical meetings around the world. This has meant investor roadshows, bus tours and conferences right across Europe, North America and Asia. We’re keen to keep up with investor demand and deliver clear messages on how AstraZeneca is transforming.

What are the most popular investor queries you get?

CM: Until recently, AstraZeneca was mostly considered as a pipeline story, with growth a distant prospect as we navigated our way through the patent cliff with the pipeline yet to deliver. With the pipeline now delivering strong results, and the patent cliff almost entirely behind us, the focus of investor queries has become more balanced between scientific, commercial and financial questions. This is why we have such a balanced set of skills and experience in the IR team, so that we can answer all these questions first time and deliver a great customer service.

How does your team use technology and social media?

Within the regulatory environment in the sector, it’s difficult to use social media in any meaningful way on the IR side. We do, however, take advantage of key tech platforms that are out there. These include Wrike for event planning and Eventbrite for RSVPs and attendees. We also get the most out of Ipreo’s customer relationship management system, especially on the road, where TripIt for itinerary management is excellent.

What are your current and future IR challenges?

It sounds clichéd, but there are only opportunities in IR. Our focus is on the following:

1) Making sure we cater not just for the specialists but also the generalists

2) Understanding the impact on the team structure and activities following the implementation of Mifid II

3) Making sure investors understand the evolving AstraZeneca story and the fast-paced news flow from the company.

What is your hottest topic at the moment?

For the IR world, it’s Mifid II, followed by Mifid II. The only problem is that there’s such varied speculation out there and no one really knows what the impact is going to be – the most common response on the impact is ‘I don’t know’. We think it’s a fantastic opportunity to get to know our targets better and deliver an even more proactive event program. It’ll certainly be more work for IR; the trick will be to master that work so that it pays off for both the corporate and the investor.

What is the most important thing IR teams can offer to investors?

There are three things: two ears and real clarity. It’s easy to speak for an hour with an investor about what you want to talk about. It’s far harder to listen, get feedback and ensure the wider company understands the investor’s needs. Finally, clarity is something we all talk about, but there’s still a huge need for simple messages in plain English, acronym-free and without spin.

What, if anything, does your team do differently from others? What makes it so successful? 

I’m not sure we do a huge amount differently from other teams – all I can do is speak for AstraZeneca IR. We always want to be described in six words: prepared, reliable, knowledgeable, clear, honest and proactive. We’re so passionate about delivering clear messages to our targets and ensuring that by developing great relationships we can contribute to bringing valuable medicines to patients, as well as doing justice to the breathtaking work of our colleagues.

What are you most looking forward to terms of future IR activity?

We do really well at ensuring the larger institutions and the specialists get a great customer service from the IR team. What excites me is the prospect of us extending this service to generalists and the smaller investors. We’ve already started this journey, going to see these kinds of investors at their offices so that we see a team of people, rather than one of them just attending a group lunch. As AstraZeneca and the sector is quite complex, there’s a huge amount of value for both sides in investing the time and, as the company is Anglo-Swedish, we’re doing this in the UK and Sweden, as well as in the US.

What is your biggest IR success?

We haven’t had our biggest success yet. We’re not approaching the future – we’re creating it. It sounds obvious but if you keep improving, you’ll achieve your biggest success one day. The chance to work in a brilliant team at such an exciting company is real success, and the award wins are very nice.

This article was produced by ELITE Connect and originally published on the ELITE Connect platform


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