NIRI Annual 2024: How to “See Around Corners” and Drive Stronger Performance in IR

NIRI Annual 2024: How to “See Around Corners” and Drive Stronger Performance in IR
Quick Navigation

For the past three years, we've proudly sponsored the NIRI Annual Conference, where the investor relations community from North America and beyond gathers to explore the latest industry trends and network. In our ongoing commitment to advancing innovation in IR and capital markets, we partnered with FactSet at this year's event. Together, we engaged with leading IROs in three days of enriching discussions.

Trends like ESG and AI have recently dominated discussions in IR. However, the most valuable conversations often focus not on trends but on foundational strategies. These conversations can significantly enhance IR and assist IROs in managing the complexities of their daily roles.

Seeing around corners in your IR program

One of our top episodes (and most downloaded) on the Winning IR podcast discussed the importance of deeply understanding your shareholder base, introducing the concept of “seeing around corners” in IR.

Inspired by this concept, we hosted an educational session at NIRI Annual titled How to ‘See Around Corners’ in Your IR Program and Lead With Influence.

Our session aimed to equip IROs with the skills to sharpen their strategic insight, anticipate market shifts, and craft compelling narratives from complex data to engage boards and investors.

Our expert panel featured Shivani Kak, Head of IR at Moody’s Corporation; Kate Patterson, GVP Finance/Investor Relations and ESG; Shirley Serrao Martin, Senior Director, Investor Relations at American Eagle Outfitters; and Tiffany Willis, Vice President, Head of Investor Relations at Starbucks. 

Discussions spanned various topics, including strategies for predicting market trends, addressing investor concerns, utilizing technology and AI for efficiency, the significance of data analysis, consistent storytelling, managing CEO transitions, and aligning internal and external communications.

Anticipating future opportunities

Companies of different market caps and team sizes must stay aware—of markets, investor activities, research, peer analysis, and available data—to anticipate future opportunities.

Having your finger on the pulse of the financial community is imperative, but equally important is effectively distributing this information to company stakeholders. This ensures a well-informed management team and board, preparing them for discussions with investors and research analysts.

“We get a lot of reports on who's buying and selling our stock, and we pay particular attention to the top 20. If we see that someone has been engaging in some unusual activity, we'll reach out to connect with them and see why they are selling. If they're buying, we’ll get them some time in front of senior management after we’ve spoken with them.”

- Shivani Kak, Moody’s Corporation

Proactive steps IR can take to address investor concerns–before they escalate

Setting expectations

Strong relationships require engagement beyond just earnings calls—IROs must thoroughly understand potential investor concerns before any major IR activities. Tiffany and her team prepare by identifying the concerns of their top investors—whether related to governance, financials, or succession planning. They engage with executives, legal teams, board members, and other major investors to address these issues. So, when these topics arise, the role of IR is not just to explain their position—the key stakeholders are already aligned, having shared the journey together.

Increasing organizational awareness for better IR storytelling

Collaborating closely with FP&A, the CFO, Accounting, and Sales—this provides IR with deeper insights into key company developments and strategies that investors value. It also allows IR to highlight potential investor concerns, offer perspectives, and pose questions that internal teams might not consider.

Having visibility into things that are going on with the organization, outside of finance, that you may not realize are coming down the pipe that will have an impact on the results–those are things that people miss.”

- Kate Patterson, 8X8

Shivani echoed Kate's sentiment, emphasizing that her IR team listens to sales calls to gauge the pipeline's health. This practice helps them understand what appeals to customers, enhancing their storytelling with investors.

Expanding your peer set 

Peer analysis is a common exercise for IROs. For a company that touches so many industries, like Starbucks, Tiffany recommends broadening your scope. For instance, listening to bank earnings calls can reveal trends in consumer spending. Similarly, examining grocery store earnings might show whether people are eating in, while fast-food restaurant calls can indicate dining-out trends.

Understanding these patterns in related industries can provide deeper insights into consumer behaviors that could affect your company's performance.

AI for IR

In 2023, AI emerged as a controversial yet intriguing topic for IROs—with cautious optimism leading the way. This year, AI was a more common conversation topic as the industry pieced together appropriate use cases for it in IR. To ‘see around corners,' AI proves most effective in summarizing information—such as transcripts, investor and analyst histories, and preparing executive teams.

Moody’s Corporation's IR team, an early adopter, has been successfully using AI for over a year. Shivani and her team leverage AI within their secure internal tools to streamline daily tasks like summarizing transcripts, extracting key speaking points, and quickly referencing documents and statements.

Using data to create consistent messages 

For any company, changing company dynamics, CEO transitions, or emerging news can create a fractured narrative with the investment community.

“I always say that I am the voice of the company to the investment community, but I’m also the voice of the investment community back to the company.”

- Tiffany Willis, Starbucks

For innovative companies with passionate management teams, the narrative may gravitate towards the latest developments or team passions—but it's crucial to concentrate on what truly drives company performance. Tiffany and her team at Starbucks have excelled by "cutting out the noise" in their communications with investors. By referencing past data and speaking points, and comparing them to current performance, they create consistent messages that resonate strongly with their audience.

Thinking like an analyst to drive more credible company narratives

Before her IR career, Shirley was a sell-side analyst for over a decade, notably on Barclays’ #2 ranked Beverage, Household, and Personal Care products Team. She advises IROs to adopt an analyst's mindset—thinking broadly about their industry and market dynamics. She emphasizes the importance of identifying what constitutes a best-in-class strategy and management team, and crafting a narrative that highlights these strengths. This approach helps create a credible and executable plan for investors and analysts.

While internal teams often prioritize company opportunities, investors and analysts typically consider risks first. Thinking like an analyst when developing your plan can build confidence and lead to more favorable outcomes.

How relationships with analysts can increase accuracy

It’s no secret that analysts are busy—juggling models for up to 20 companies and handling multiple reports on the same day. This underscores the importance of building strong relationships with your analysts, and collaborating closely to understand your company's model and framework to ensure nothing is overlooked.

Once models are published, it's crucial to review them for potential issues, such as rising rates, and work with analysts to incorporate these factors. Maintaining an ongoing dialogue with analysts enables you to identify and correct errors, provide additional insights on company dynamics, and plan beyond the upcoming quarter.

You’re in an interesting place where you have to balance the battle between internal teams wanting to talk about how much opportunity there is at the company with investors trying to understand the risk of going after that opportunity. Putting together a credible plan with confidence and ability to execute it. If anything, if all goes our way, there could be an upside.” 

- Shirley Martin, American Eagle Outfitters

What’s next

NIRI Annual 2024 was, as always, an incredible opportunity to connect with the IR community. This past year has been full of innovations and developments in IR, and we’re eager for what lies ahead. We have several exciting developments planned before we reconnect at NIRI Annual 2025 in Boston, so keep an eye on our LinkedIn page to stay up-to-date with what’s next! 

Follow Irwin on LinkedIn

Stay connected so you never miss an important update from the Irwin team.

You may also like

Go back to all posts