09 May 2017

Hot topics for the 2017 IR conference season

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With the much-anticipated IR conference season nearly upon us, we hear from John Gollifer, general manager of the UK’s IR Society, Gary LaBranche, president and CEO of NIRI, and Yvette Lokker, president and CEO of CIRI. Each gives a sneak preview of what’s on the agenda for their 2017 event.

ELITE Connect: What are the main items on your 2017 conference agenda?

John Gollifer: In line with the IR Society’s 2017 annual conference theme of ‘A new world order: The ascent of IR’, we’ll be addressing the most significant trends we see. The conference will consider the bigger picture with an opening plenary that features speakers from the media, pollsters and government in a discussion on information, communication and what these mean for IR.

As always, we’ll also feature best practice IR, views from the buy side and sell side and a critical assessment of the changing regulatory environment. In particular, we’ll discuss the practical implications of the recent market abuse regulation, as well as the ongoing Mifid II debate and its impact on market structure and the capital markets. Other hot topics include pay and performance as well as the imperative of responsible investing and ESG issues.

Gary LaBranche: Everything starts with the conference theme, ‘Breaking the Mold’. Our annual conference committee and co-chairs were very focused on ensuring we acknowledge the constantly evolving nature of IR by also transforming and adapting the NIRI annual conference to this ever-changing environment.

Each day is anchored by compelling general session topics and speakers. These include, among many others, a session on market disruption with IEX CEO Brad Katsuyama and Brad Stone, author and Bloomberg News senior executive editor for technology; an update on sustainability disclosure with former SEC chair Elisse Walter; and a session on managing for the long term with the CEO of the Focusing Capital on the Long-Term initiative, Sarah Williamson. The NIRI annual conference is always a large event, so we’ve segmented the content into five separate tracks to help attendees customize the experience based on their needs and interests.

Yvette Lokker: this year marks an important milestone in the history of CIRI as we celebrate our 30th annual conference. The 2017 theme – ‘Brilliant IR: Bringing Clarity and Value to Investor Relations’ – recognizes not only the event’s diamond anniversary, but also the core of what the IR profession brings to investors and the companies they represent. We have sessions focused on best practice in core areas such as marketing, communications and capital markets as well as exciting new topics.

Here are just a few of the topics we will tackle: ‘The changing investor landscape’ will examine how investor behavior and expectations are changing and how that impacts IR. ‘Is it time to move to a virtual AGM?’ will highlight the legal challenges in Canada, as well as the experience from south of the border. Given the importance of networking, both personally and professionally, we will kick off the conference with a session on ‘The power of networking’. Leading up to the conference, we’ll be publishing an article on networking and following this up with a pre-conference webinar. Delegates will learn how to make the most of networking, and gain access to tools to make them more successful in their networking efforts.

How does this year’s event differ from 2016? What have been the main progressions over the past 12 months?

JG: Our aim for this year’s conference is to explore how the role of IR has evolved into the higher-profile profession it is today and how IROs can equip themselves to navigate a new world of investor communications in the face of enormous challenges. These challenges result from a heady mix of economics, geopolitics, regulation and technological change.

GLB: We’re incorporating many new and innovative initiatives into this year’s conference. Attendees should look for new types of sessions, more fun events, and additional networking opportunities. For example, we’ll have smaller group sessions that take a deeper dive into cutting-edge IR topics, case studies, a ‘New to NIRI’ session for first-timers and a new ‘IRO teach-in’ focused on IR strategy, planning, implementation and measurement. We’ve put tremendous energy into providing the best possible attendee experience with the introduction of these, and other, creative initiatives.

YL: The environment issuers operate in continues to evolve. This year’s program has been developed by IROs for IROs, to keep them current on the changes and what they mean for their companies and the IR function itself. We’ve seen a surge in passive investing and demand for more CSR information that presents challenges and opportunities for IROs. We are also seeing advances in technology continue to affect the investor relations field, from virtual AGMs to the increased use of video to convey messaging, results and strategies.

What are you personally looking forward to most about this year’s conference?

JG: To support this year’s IR Society conference, we will once again be joined by our renowned host, Evan Davis. We also have a fantastic range of C-suite speakers (including Lady Barbara Judge, chairman of the Institute of Directors and Anne Richards, CEO of M&G Investments), CFOs and the Investor Forum and The People’s Trust, among other buy-side participants. Ultimately, we’re looking forward to celebrating the ascent of IR in 2017.

GLB:  I look forward to meeting everyone! At the time of our conference, I will have been NIRI’s new CEO for just over two months. In that time, I’ve had the opportunity to visit several chapters and meet a number of our important partners. As you know, the NIRI conference is the largest annual gathering if IR professionals anywhere in the world, so it will provide me with a unique opportunity to very efficiently connect with NIRI’s key global stakeholders.

YL: We will have Randy Smallwood, president and CEO of Silver Wheaton, speak about his company’s success, how it’s been achieved, his views on the IR function and how IR contributes to the success of the organization. I am very much looking forward to hearing from him. I am also looking forward to celebrating this year’s milestone anniversary with the IR community.

For more information, please visit:

2017 NIRI Annual Conference, June 4 – 7, Orlando, FL

2017 CIRI Annual Conference, June 11-13, Kelowna, BC

2017 IR Society Annual Conference, June 20, London