S3E4 - Andrea Daley from Dentsply Sirona on Navigating IR Amidst Executive Transitions

IR is a busy and sometimes chaotic role at any public company. IR teams carry the weight of relationships that can impact a company's performance in the public markets, and managing, maintaining, and growing those relationships requires constant care. The role becomes even more critical when a company dominates the headlines.

In today’s episode, Mark Fasken sits down with Andrea Daley, Vice President of Investor Relations at Dentsply Sirona. In 2022, just one year into Andrea’s tenure in her first IR role, the company faced numerous executive transitions and challenging situations in the markets and the press. Andrea and Mark discuss her experience leading IR through that time, her best advice to IROs finding themselves in a similar situation, and how facing those challenges built a stronger and more resilient IR function. 

Listen to the full episode to learn more about:

  • Communicating executive departures
  • Which partners and internal groups to leverage for support
  • Working with an interim executive team and how to transition the new executive team into the company.
  • Managing relationships with the investment community
  • The power of the IR community during challenging times
  • How tough times build stronger teams

About Our Guest

Andrea Daley is the Vice President of Investor Relations at Dentsply Sirona, the world's largest manufacturer of professional dental products and technologies. Before joining Dentsply Sirona in 2021, Andrea spent nearly 20 years in finance roles at healthcare companies, including 15 years at Cardinal Health.

Episode Transcript

Communicating Executive Departures

Mark Fasken: So, Andrea, this may be one of the most action-packed, drama-filled episodes that we've ever done. I'm just kidding, but it is a good story. So, to give a little bit of history on the story, I mean, you joined Densply Sirona in May of 2021. You're about a year in, starting to get your wits about you, and the EVP and CFO resign, the CEO leaves the company, and an ongoing investigation into certain reporting matters gets kicked off.

A lot to handle 12 months into a new role. So I guess the first question is, how did you go about communicating the departure of the CEO and CFO and the investigation out to the investment community?

Andrea Daley: Yeah. Well, first, Mark, thanks for having me on today's episode. Really excited to be part of the podcast. I've been in the listener mode and so it's fun to participate now in, in the speaker mode. Regarding the initial announcement, and one thing I should mention just around my background, I've been in a whole variety of finance roles in healthcare my entire career, going on 20 years now, but I was only about a year into the IR function.

So many things were new to me. And like you said, I was just at this point where I felt like I was really hitting a stride of the key activities that we were doing in IR. And this was certainly a unique one. And we went about communicating it via the normal channels, as we had to, with the Form 8K to the SEC and a press release that went with that.

I think one thing that was helpful in the circumstances was that it didn't all happen at the same time. It was in close timing, but it was separate. And I think we did have some tools that we were able to leverage in terms of how these things get communicated.

We're not the only company who has ever had a change in a CEO and CFO. There were some unique circumstances, but there were still some aspects of that in terms of how you communicate and how you're required to communicate that were essentially guardrails for us. So, all of those things, I think, really were helpful.

I will say once we announce these things, there is very quickly, I think, a market reaction and folks very interested and eager to speak with you as an organization. And so that was a really key aspect that my team had to react to very quickly. News travels very quickly once you put it out there.

And so, I would say within five minutes or so, we've got folks reaching out, "Hey, can I catch you real quick?" And, with high volume, we had to figure out a method of the madness. And so, we set up these callback schedules as part of that. And I think that was really helpful for us to quickly get a structure to say, "Hey, we will call you at this time," and to just set up 15-minute increments.

Whether it was 10 or 20, certainly all of our sell siders pretty much wanted to connect, some of our large holders wanted to also connect. Again, happened in fairly short order. And within an hour or two, we were pretty much done with that. But there was a flurry of activity that happened.

So, after doing that the first time with our CFO announcement, we were very well prepared for that for the second announcement. And I think having some of that additional structure in terms of how we were going to handle inbound was very helpful for us. 

What Partners and Groups Do You Engage for Support?

Mark Fasken: That's great. And so, in addition to that, what were some of the sort of partners or groups that you pulled in to sort of help in that communication, and what were some of the steps you took when you talk about the callback schedule and everything? But like, how did you decide on what you were going to say and how you were going to position it?

Andrea Daley: Mhm. Yeah. And I think I think these types of announcements are really important to be prepared for. And so, certainly, we had a well-prepared set of talking points, Q&A document as we think about what would investor questions be, and try to make sure we've got a very good set of concise talking points.

Again, these callbacks were very quick. So we needed to be really concise in what we said, and we needed to make sure that we were consistent in what we said. And so, I think things like that are very helpful to be prepared for on the front end. The other thing that I think is really important is the tight partnership inside the organization with our public relations and communications team.

With our legal team, we kind of work hand in hand with those teams all the time, our SEC reporting team, because of the AK filings. But I would say with the PR and communications team and the legal team in particular, we thought about, this message not only goes externally but it's also impactful inside the organization.

And so, how do we think about the messaging that we share outside and inside the organization? How does the cascade and the timeline of all of that work? And then what are the respective documents, like the talking points? Q&A documents, certainly our internal team was thinking about things like, you know, we're going to need to host a town hall for employees.

And so there were other facets to it where we each kind of wore our own hat, but we wanted to make sure there was consistency. And we're very thoughtful in the cascade of communication. 

Working With an Interim Executive Team

Mark Fasken: And so after the departure of the CEO and CFO, there were interim replacements for both of those roles. And so, how did you work with them? What was the focus from an IR perspective when you had those interim executives in place? Because it seems like it's probably somewhat difficult when you have these interim executives.

And so, how did you get the most out of that time? I mean, they're only in there for a few months.

Andrea Daley: Yeah. I mean, they were with us for about six months, and I think we were fortunate with the interim leaders that we had for two reasons in terms of acceleration. One was that the interim CEO was a member of our board and so had familiarity with the organization.

And the other was that our interim CEO and CFO had been a working team in the past for a public company in med tech. And I think that was tremendously helpful, as it is with any new CEO or CFO, is that experience that they already bring in terms of engaging with investors, familiarity with how quarterly earnings call works, the preparations that go into that.

And then, on the back end of that, how you communicate and talk with investors, the different types of investors. All of that I think, was tremendously helpful that they had very strong working rapport already with each other, but then we're able to come into the organization, and partner with functions like mine in IR, and quickly be prepared for an earnings call.

So, you know, they joined us and then within a matter of weeks, we were actually doing the first earnings call. So that was something that, that certainly took some extra preparation to make sure that everybody was comfortable and that the company would be able to articulate earnings and show up well in, in that call.

Managing Investment Community Relationships

Mark Fasken: And so you also had to sort of mentioned that when you had this interim CEO and CFO from an IR perspective, they were pretty internally focused. Right. So I think it seems to me as though, but correct me if I'm wrong, it was really about like, let's keep the lights on. Let's keep talking to investors.

Let's keep the relationships strong, but we're not necessarily going out on road shows and trying to identify new investors at that time. Is that correct?

Andrea Daley: Yeah, we had started some of that work in my first year or so in the role. And it was interesting because when I started in the IR function here, it was 2021. And so there was still a lot of investor events that were still getting back to normal, right? In terms of, is this going to be virtual? Is this going to be in person? What do these engagements look like? Are investors letting folks come into their offices, or are they doing everything virtually?

So there was still, I would say, a fair amount in that first year where things still looked a bit different through this process. So we were just, I was planning in 2022 to really start to ramp and think about the deeper engagement, going in person, doing investor roadshows in certain geographies.

And so obviously we pivoted that because it certainly made sense with an interim leadership team that, you know, because of the temporary nature of the role, they weren't going to be building strong relationships with investors over the long term. And so, I think we were a bit more on the side of a more traditional process following an earnings call, where we wanted to talk about the earnings results, and our C suite was very present in that.

I would say sell-side relationships were largely maintained by the IR team. We knew that the sell-side analysts and their teams prior, and we engaged with them throughout the transitions. And so we were the point of commonality and consistency through that. So, historically prior to and now with our new leadership team.

 Sell-side analysts, our buy-siders, and even targets are all very interested in getting to know the leadership team. But I think, given the temporary nature, it was a little bit more on an as-request basis. 

Mark Fasken: So, do you find that that changed the role of IR within the company because you became sort of the front line?

Did the relationships change over time? 

Andrea Daley: Yeah, I mean, not entirely. I think it was important for IR to be fairly consistent and, we weren't going to not engage with sell-siders or buy-siders; we wanted to be that representative.

We certainly continue that to the extent that we could, we continue to plan where we could. I think we had to be, it was more difficult to be as proactive as we would in a typical year, because of the timing of things. And so, I would say we were a bit more reactive, or we would plan for things in more short order versus this year I was, we were working on the calendar right from the start of the year, looking at a 12-month period. There it was, we were really looking kind of quarter to quarter, taking requests and calls as needed. 

Onboarding a New Executive Team

Mark Fasken: That's great. And so you get through the six-month period. Fortunately, you, you find a new full-time CEO and CFO to come on board. Things are maybe starting to get a little bit back to normal. How did you onboard the new management team, the new CEO and CFO? Was it the same process that you followed with the interim team members?

What did you learn through that process in terms of how you can quickly onboard the CEO and CFO as it relates to the IR program?

Andrea Daley: Yeah. I think there were some learnings in terms of preparedness for an earning cycle with a new leadership team. That we did carry forward from when we had our interim leaders to when we got the new permanent CEO CFO in place. So I think that was tremendously helpful. How much time do we need?

What is available to share with them? We were able to do a lot of that. I think, repeat that process of onboarding and that part was helpful. It was quite different, though in terms of how we wanted to go out and introduce the new CEO and CFO, who joined us in fairly short order.

So there was about a two-week or so period of time in between. So we did do each one individually, but we followed a more formal process of introducing them to the investment community. We certainly had some additional activities that followed with the new leadership team that we didn't necessarily do with the interim team.

How the IR Program Changes After the Interim Period

Mark Fasken: Super helpful. And now that you've got that, that full time management team in, how has the IR program changed? Like, how is it different from that maybe interim period or even before your, your previous team had had left the positions? 

Andrea Daley: Yeah, I would say, it's been really nice to be able to be proactive, and really think about, the outreach that we can do with our program. Now that we've had a couple of quarters of our earning cycle, I think we've got that rapport with the leaders. We understand the preparedness that we go through. We've really been able to work to optimize our process, and that's been positive, but we've, we've done a lot in the way of investor engagement and events. And that, I mentioned that when I first joined the organization in 2021, much of events and things were still in this kind of hybrid or virtual setting or just getting back to in person setting.

We missed a lot of those in 2022. So 2023 this year was really an opportunity for us to get out on the road with our new leaders and try a whole host of different formats to do that. Yeah. And that has really been positive for us. For instance, we've hosted tours here in our headquarters, where we have a clinical academy.

I think that's been really positive for investors. Small groups of investors to come into our offices. We've gone directly to them. We've participated in many conferences in different geographies, had a great opportunity to partner with a lot of our sell-side analysts this year. And really reach investor targets and tell our story with a new leadership team in a way that has allowed us to think about how we can continue to diversify our shareholder base. 

War Time vs Peace Time Investor Relations

Mark Fasken: Well, that sort of leads to my next question, which is, we talked about this on a previous call. We were saying it was almost like you were doing this wartime investor relations, right? Like everything was on fire, but I'm sure there's a lot of difficult conversations and long nights. And so now you're transitioning back into maybe like normal times, peacetime investor relations, if you will, what's that change in light? What's different? I mean, you mentioned, you now have the opportunity to do more creative things and try different formats and do more marketing. Are there other things that you find are different or learnings that you would share?

Andrea Daley: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, for me personally, I always operate better in a proactive versus reactive manner. I will say that having gone through that period of time, I think we really formulated stronger bonds as a team and are pretty resilient now.

We can react, and we can react quickly and, even if it's something we haven't encountered before, we know that there's a means to get through that. And so I think, even just thinking about some of the different types of supporting resources that we have.

If we need to react quickly to something. I feel much more confident in what those are. And so I think that's a positive and a learning and a skill that's built out of that. But I love the opportunity to think and build things proactively to have some degree, there's never full predictability and I are every single day could be something different, but, overall, being able to set a calendar for a 12-month period, even to pencil it in, I think is tremendously helpful, and it just allows us the opportunity to, like you said, think creatively, what else, where should we go deeper? Where should we tell our story better? So I love the opportunity to really think about, it's not just a rinse and repeat, but it's like this continuous improvement and or what else?

And when you're in that peacetime, I think you can see those things a lot more clearly, or you just have the bandwidth, the capacity to be able to take on some of those things. 

The Power of Community During Tough Times

Mark Fasken: Yeah, I think that's a great point. And I mean, I think that that a lot of people who are listening to this podcast, many of the people are sort of newer to IR.

I mean, it's, it's pretty crazy that you went through this whole situation with really a year of investor relations experience under your belt. A lot of what your experience was sort of for the first time, right? Like you said, like your first earnings call and obviously having your first sort of interim CEO and CFO.

And so, what were some of the resources that you leaned on to figure out how to navigate this situation? Because I think that a lot of people in the IR community, it's like, there isn't necessarily a university course on investor relations. I mean, you've got certification programs and stuff, but what were some of the people and resources you leaned on to figure some of these things out?

Andrea Daley: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I do think, we talked about announcing a C suite change, there are other organizations that have done it. I think one of the things that's been tremendously helpful to me, not just in that year but overall in my time at IR, is just the network of other IR professionals and the importance of building that and being able to see other examples of how a company did something like introduce a new CEO or CFO. And in fact, now that we have that experience, I've shared that with other IROs who are going through a transition, and they'll call and say, Hey, we're getting ready to plan, and we're thinking about onboarding our new CFO.

We already announced our CFO leaving. What were the types of tactics and things that you did to introduce a new C-suite member to the investment community. So I think it's so helpful to think about these scenarios and then be able to share ideas and what worked and what didn't work.

So NIRI's been a great resource for that. We've also participated, you know, over the last few years, and things like Rivel has the intelligence council, I think being able to look at examples or quickly pull things down, I think, has been tremendously helpful. And then, we, in that period of time, have even had external partners.

So when we think about PR crisis communication type stuff, there are, advisory firms out there that do that, that live in crisis day in and day out. And so I think, just have a playbook for how some of those things work. And then internally, we have folks that had similar experiences.

I have a person on my team who did IR in another organization and had gone through a C-suite change. So, every time you may go through this, it may look a little bit different, but at the same time, there are some things that can be, Learned from, past experiences, and leveraged. I think all of those things, externally and internally were helpful.

How Managing Tough Situations Builds Stronger Teams

Mark Fasken: Awesome. And because of this podcast, you may be getting some emails or NIRI on how to navigate this type of situation now. So I guess for my last question, I mean, there's so much, I'm sure there's a lot that you learned from going through this process, as you mentioned about IR and how to introduce executives to the rest of the community and how do you just figure some of these things out and be proactive?

What is your biggest takeaway from this experience?

Andrea Daley: Yeah, it's hard to pinpoint, I think, just one biggest takeaway. But one thing I've definitely reflected on, and I think there are so many applications to this, is just the importance sometimes of showing up.

I think there were periods of time when that was difficult because it's nice to have all the answers, but the reality is, in IR, sometimes you either don't have all the answers or you can't share all of the answers. And that's really important to understand and, but to be able to listen to feedback, to be able to provide clarity, to be able to show up in a consistent way as, as much as possible.

And, the example for us of even the sell-side relationships through that whole period of time. I mean, we have 13 covering analysts. So it was a lot of people, but I think the importance of maintaining a relationship, even if you don't have an update for somebody, just that just show up , I think is so critically important.

And there's, like I said, a lot of even broader application of that. And then I think the other thing that I feel really positive about now is being able to surround yourself with good partners and teams in times where you need to react quickly or it's uncharted. And perhaps you've seen a sliver of that situation or have an experience and someone else does.

And I think about kind of the triangle in our organization between PR communications, our legal function, and IR. It's so important to have those internal partners that you work really well with, as well as where you have advisory or external partners just to be able to surround yourself with really good people so that you can get to the best possible result quickly. And so, I think all of that was really positive. I think of, I kind of describe it as we were in the trenches together. And so, it really, I think, fostered strong and trusting relationships amongst us. 

Mark Fasken: That's great, Andrea. This has been so helpful. It's a super interesting story.

Lots of useful insights. So thank you for your time. 

Andrea Daley: Thanks so much for having me, Mark.

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About Winning IR

Winning IR is a podcast exploring the diverse insights within the investor relations community. Join host Mark Fasken as he discusses the winning strategies, tactics, and shifts in thinking with innovative investor relations professionals who are redefining the profession.

Each episode features a different challenge, innovation, or perspective on the ever-evolving role of IR, giving you real, actionable insight you’ll be able to use to build a better investor relations program. 

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