Global Top 10: TSMC on managing expectations

Jan 18, 2016
<p>The first in a series of articles profiling the world&rsquo;s top ranking IR teams</p>

Global Top 50 rank: 10

Asia Top 50 rank in 2015/2016: 1

IR Magazine Awards won in 2015: 2

IR team size: 5

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is unique among its Global Top 10 peers for a number of reasons: first, it is the only Asian firm to make it into the top 10 in 2015; second, 90 percent of the 279 one-on-one investor meetings it undertook over the year were conducted by Elizabeth Sun, head of IR at the company for more than a decade.  

This length of time in the role has allowed her to develop the processes needed to really hone her knowledge of the company and sector, she explains – despite coming from a finance rather than a technical background. ‘The semiconductor industry has a very high level of technical knowledge requirements – it is not like food or automobile or department stores,’ Sun says. ‘But most of the investors are not that technical – they are not trained in electrical engineering or physics or material science.  

‘Because of the nature of our company, I and the other IR team members have to take a lot of time to understand the technical aspects of the business to a very high level so that we can internalize that information and communicate it to the outside world in a language people can understand.’

To do this, Sun explains that she gets herself invited to internal events discussing new developments or technologies and also reads a lot of market intelligence and sell-side reports. If anything remains that she doesn’t feel she has a thorough-enough grasp of, she’ll track down the relevant expert from within TSMC. Despite the constant change in technologies, however, mastering the intricacies of the semiconductor business isn’t what Sun sees as the biggest IR lesson she has learned over the years. Instead, that would be managing market expectations. ‘This really is an art; it requires a lot of judgment,’ she says. 

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