TUESDAY 27 JUN 2017 2:44 PM


Last week, the IR Society held its annual conference. But this year, the organisation was able to announce a development that puts it on a path toward further professionalisation of the industry.

The IR Diploma, officially launched at the conference, has just seen its first graduates receive their qualifications. The diploma is designed as a follow up to the longstanding IR certificate, which is designed for those becoming more familiar with investor relations. The diploma seeks to enable experienced IR officers to advance in their careers.

Gary Davies, director of investor relations at GSK, is one of the recent graduates. He decided to pursue the qualification in order to become more involved in the IR Society, but also, after 29 years at GSK, to “demonstrate my hunger to continue to develop, to continue to learn.”

He says the qualification has not only earned him the congratulations of colleagues at GSK and peers within the industry, but the ability to serve in one of the society’s committees and to share his experiences with other IR professionals both in attendance last week and digitally.

The diploma is what IR Society chair and O2 director of IR, David Lloyd-Seed, says a degree-like qualification. The bulk of study is on the job and IR professionals are expected to have a good deal of experience before they embark on the diploma. They are tested on practice, principles and ethics in two exam papers and then candidates must make a brief presentation to a jury of peers to demonstrate their communications skills. Eventually, Lloyd-Seed says, graduates can become part of that jury and also offer mentorship to future candidates.

“So far, the momentum is there,” he says. “I hope that it continues and the graduates that come out if it encourage other people to go through it. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Sue [Scholes, past chair] and the others who were involved in developing it. It’s taken a lot of thought, a lot of time. I think they’ve done a cracking job.”

The graduates were presented with their diplomas at the conference. The event focused on the ascendancy of the IR profession and the growing value of investor relations to the business. Speakers discussed the changes to the regulatory framework that may arise in coming years, the impact of the ‘post-truth’ era, the value of IR and the relationship between investor relations and the C-suite. That final point allowed a panel of CFOs to discuss the relationship between leadership and communications. One panellist, Gerbrand Nijman, CFO of Global Telecom Holding, said, “The big challenge of IR is you have to stand up to your boss, be independent and tell them the truth in a nice way. There are circumstances where that won’t be easy.”

Others throughout the day focused on the need for transparency from management, to IR, to stakeholders and the strategies for improving communications between these groups. The programme concluded with an interview of Anne Richards, CEO of M&G Investments, and remarks from Newsnight presenter Evan Davis.