S3E05 - Patricia Cruz from Etsy on Building a Next-Generation IR Career

In this episode of Winning IR, Mark Fasken and Patricia Cruz, Senior Manager, Investor Relations at Etsy, Inc, talk about her experience transitioning into an in-house role from a previous consulting career, and what it takes to be a next-generation IRO. Patricia shares her best advice for finding the path that will bring you the most success in your IR career, getting exposure and building your network, and ensuring you build the right skills to be successful in the long-term. 

Listen to the full episode to learn more about:

  • In-house vs. consulting - what’s the difference, and how to make the transition.
  • What you should know before getting into IR
  • The best networking resources for a new IRO
  • Patricia’s best advice for finding success early in your career

About Our Guest:

Patricia brings over 8 years of experience in the Investor Relations field in both in-house and as a consultant working closing with C-suite in developing and managing equity and fixed income IR and financial programs for mid-cap LatAm companies listed in their local and U.S markets. During her agency years, she covered various sectors (ranging from airports and airlines, construction, retail, food & beverages, among others) throughout Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Peru. Prior to transitioning to the IR world, she served 5 years conducting market risk; financial analyses for foreign investments at the Central Bank of Honduras and credit analyses at HSBC. Patricia has a Masters in Investor Relations from Fordham University, as well as an MBA and BS in Finance from Universidad Tecnologica Centroamericana.

About Our Guest

Patricia serves as Senior Manager, Investor Relations at Etsy, Inc. where she helps build and execute the company's IR program. She is also part of the National Investor Relations Institute Board of Directors and recently served as VP of Programs in NIRI’s NextGen Committee.

Episode Transcript

In-house vs. consulting - what's the difference? 

Mark Fasken: So, Patty, I wanted to start with a question and sort of start at the beginning. For someone who's looking to get into IR, there seem to be two obvious paths, both of which you have some experience in. One path is going in house, the other is going the consulting route. In your experience, what's the difference between these two roles?

And where would you recommend somebody start? 

Patricia Cruz: Well, first of all, thanks for having me, Mark. I'm super excited to be here. That's a really good question. Those are the two paths that I believe a person looking into IR has. Starting with IR advisory, I would say advisory teams, they work as an extension of the IR teams in house.

And they help design effective investor relations programs based on the company's goals, their needs, and even their budget. Cause you'll know IR teams usually have really small budgets. They support the company in capturing the market's attention, and maintain visibility amongst the sector that they belong to, their region and global competition.

And, although their services may vary based on the size of the agency and their specialty, you know, their niche market expertise, et cetera, they do have some common services, and they can include market intelligence, strategy and communications advisory, investor engagement, and special situations and transactions, for instance, M&As, corporate crisis, change, et cetera.

In house IR, those are teams within the public company. They tend to be a little bit small team space. It all depends on the market size. And they do the same as an advisory will do, but you know, it's all done inside. To answer to your second question, like, where would you start first, I think a way to look at it is, the pros and cons of in house versus advisory IR. In advisory, I would say it's a great school to learn about IR.

That's where I started, and that's where I recommend everybody to start, because you have access to various industries, geographies, market caps, IR team sizes, et cetera. And so you, it's a really great school. You get to learn about everything holistically, you know, each day, it's literally a new adventure because you have access to all sorts of IR challenges and crisis, like I said, and oftentimes because budget is less of a restriction, you have better access to research and other tools. I would say that the downside of agency is that, although they do their best to be integrated with their clients marketing efforts, they are still at the mercy of how well the client facilitates between the agency and the various parts of the operation in order to get all the information that they need.

To to help build the IR program. Right. In house, the pros, I would say they have greater access to the executive and senior management and operations. They are part of the team that's actually running the business, you know, you're just not talking about it. You, you can influence what the decisions about the strategy, entire corporate it's, it's being done because your, your input is valuable for management because you are representing also the investors out there.

You are the one that is bringing the information, you know, what is the investing community is looking for and what are they asking for their company, as the shareholders that they are? You get a to dive deeper into and specialize in one industry. You get to collaborate easier with other teams and ensure that the communication strategies are constituent across all channels.

And I guess the downside would be limited growth opportunities, because given the size of the team, you can have not that many people. 

Mark Fasken: VP and then maybe you go to like CFO if you're lucky one day, right, 

Patricia Cruz: right, right. The good thing, though, is that you learn so much about the business that you can do horizontal moves almost like anywhere. You become like an expert on your, on your own company. And so you become super valuable. And if you don't want to stay in IR, then you can do something else and maybe then later come back, which I've seen it all 

Mark Fasken: That seems actually like another benefit from a consulting perspective, right?

Is that you're going to get exposure to a number of different industries. And so if you don't really know which industry clicks with you, that is probably one way to find an industry or even a particular company or client that you really click with that, you really like the company. That's probably a good way to also figure out maybe what your next move is 

Patricia Cruz: For sure.

It gives you a clear idea of what you want, or maybe, oh, you know what? That's something I wouldn't want to do. Right. And IR teams are different sizes. Like I said, some teams are, are run by the CFO and you have the CFO on the road, and they're the ones doing everything. And others, they have a full team of maybe two, if you're lucky, four or five.

And, you get to see all those different dynamics and, it's, I think it's one of the best roles in a company, to be honest. 

Mark Fasken: Not biased at all, not biased at all podcast. We're not biased here. So you covered and that's a great answer. And you covered some, some awesome points. I love that you went with the pros and cons, because that is true.

And in either role, as we talk about the consulting role. There's a number of benefits that you outline there. You talk about better access to tools and research. Lots of variety, sort of working with different companies, and different industries, and different team structures. I mean, it seems like it's a little bit of a trial by fire type situation.

And so if that's something you like, then you could view that as a benefit, right? It's like you're going to get thrown in, and you're going to learn a lot in a pretty short period of time. I mean, I've had conversations with a few people who are coming from, you know, buy side or sell side, think we're getting to IR.

And, you know, they sometimes struggle to get an in house role, because they don't have that in house IR experience and so they've gone the consulting route and that seems to be a good, a good jumping off point. Any other benefits to starting in the consulting role that we haven't touched on yet? 

Patricia Cruz: I think it humbles you, you know, it's interesting that you mentioned that a lot of the people in Wall Street that want to make a transition into IR, which is happening often, just because Wall Street is shrinking, right? And so they have no, they go, okay, let me try to do IR. And what they don't realize is that IR is not only knowing the numbers.

When IR is a cross disciplinary function that requires communications, marketing, yes, the finance, you know, but legal and governance, and you cannot only have checked one box check. You really have to have all of those boxes checked and so when, when you try to get into IR, especially when you go into an agency, You think you're ready when you know all of those boxes, and quickly you realize that, oh, I cannot actually perform what they want, what they need because I'm lacking, you know, maybe the communications.

I know the numbers really well, but I don't know how to tell it into a story that is comprehensive and easy to everybody, no matter the level of sophistication that an investor might have. And the fast pace as well in the agency. So it does humble you in the sense that you need to start working really closely with your peers, and learn from the account managers and oftentimes you have to take a step back, and be number two in an account, when you were probably thinking, I'll be, I'll be number one, since I'm, I'm really good at, you know, where I was starting. And that's what, that's what happens, I think oftentimes, and, not that I had the, that mentality, but that's, from my experience, I kind of have to take a step back when I switch roles because I, I was a, a risk analyst and, I had to learn being a number two and seeing, okay, this is a different, this is a different monster here and yeah, just know the numbers is not enough.

Mark Fasken: But I think that that actually the point that you just made there as well is, is helpful in that. I don't think we're trying to go this direction of this episode is like you have to go into an advisory role first or anything, but you know, it's trying to help people understand perhaps what is the path of least resistance.

And what's the path that's going to set you up for success. And that point on the advisory firms having typically multiple team members that you can lean on if you don't have the experience, versus to your point, the small IR team where you may walk in and there's one other person there. They could be extremely experienced, but they may not have the time to train you up, and provide you with all the support that you're going to need.

Patricia Cruz: Yeah, you need to be able to learn really fast also because you, you have, you know, let's say you're working on a MNA, you have three days maybe to learn everything and to come up with a plan, execute it, and then you're off to the next crisis, right? Next client. So that's another good benefit there. 

Mark Fasken: You learn stress management. So, so now sort of following a little bit in terms of your career and, and these transitions. So, I mean, you started in, in the, the agency world, it seems like that was pretty formative time for you and you learned a lot in, in that time of time period.

Making the transition from consulting to in-house

Mark Fasken: But now you're in house at Etsy. How did you make that transition and was it a transition that you always knew you wanted to make? 

Patricia Cruz: Yes. I knew that at some point in my career I wanted to move in house. I wanted to work for a company where I could help build an IR program, execute it, and be long enough there to be able to see the fruits of my work, because at an agency, you know, you move on to the next account, or on to the next, our program or crisis. And then that's it. So I, I did want it to do that. It took me some time. I think I did agency for about five years. I wanted to make sure that I had the experience and the knowledge to be able to provide value to my team in house.

Because not all companies have the luxury to have an agency on a retainer basis. So they really rely on you as part of the team to give advice and value and bring value, add value. 

I started seeing which industries I liked. And then I did a lot of network, although, yeah, you, you do the traditional, you know, job search and hunt and whatnot, but the IR community is small, and you will find out fast enough that everybody knows everybody, and if you network well enough. You will be able to find the right fit.

That was really important for me to find a team that felt right in terms of culture as well, because I was thinking about this longterm. It's not like, Oh, I want to, you know, just, just change because for the heck of it. So I started looking into what are the industries that I like, what is the size of the team that will be the most appropriate for me?

If it's a big team, like I want to say a team of four or five, do I want that because I probably will have a smaller role, right? Or do I want a smaller team where I'm going to have to wear multiple hats? It's probably going to be a little bit more stressful, that's another thing that I, that I considered.

Mark Fasken: Speaking of the, the networking piece of it, jumping ahead of question, if you don't mind, any recommendation around best places to network or find, you know, a mentor that, that next role. Like, I mean, I know you're a member of, of NIRI, as am I, shoutout to NIRI, and you're also part of the, the nearing next gen program.

The best networking resources for a new IRO

Mark Fasken: So maybe you can tell us a little bit about just like the places you would recommend the networking. And, and, maybe talk a little bit about NIRI next gen. Cause I, I think that's a great place to get started and meet people who are newer to the field. 

Patricia Cruz: Yeah. So NIRI is the National Investor Relations Institute, and Next gen started about I want to say about seven years ago, when you would go to this, networking events, at least I would go to this networking events, and I would also I would see like a lot of more senior people there.

And so oftentimes, people at that time, my my age at that time, and and other younger professionals, maybe were feeling a little bit out of place. And NIRI New York chapter decided to come up with this program where it would come up with courses and and events where this new up and coming generation would come and connect and also, merge those young professionals with senior ones and have a mentorship program.

So, if someone wants to start looking into IR, I would recommend NIRI as a great start. There are a lot of great programs and courses and knowing people. I find that the IR community is really open to share their expertise, their thoughts and ideas, like I am often connecting with younger professionals that reach out to me because they want to learn about IR and they're asking these questions.

How do I get started? And I did the same thing. And they're, they're really open. The IR community is extremely open to just help you out, and why not take advantage of that reach out to all those all those IR teams and and you know the advantage is that all the IR websites have everybody's information, and so it's easy to reach to contact them. That's one thing.

They also have the IRC which is the investor relations charter if you feel that you already have a little bit of knowledge, even if it's only textbook, you can do it. And that will also help you or resume to try to get into a role into IR. There are other places as well. There's some universities that had come up with IR programs, but most of it, I would say network. Don't be afraid to just reach out to IR teams. We, I do it myself, and my team at my current job, we reach out to other companies teams, and we just share experiences and thoughts and you can always get better.

Mark Fasken: And you know, I, I'll just second that and say, I mean, you know, I'm, I'm personally also pretty involved in NIRI and I totally agree with you that everybody is very open. I think also a lot of the leaders in the NIRI community, when you look at people who are like NIRI fellows and things, they also seem to be, they're very open to mentoring people who are earlier in their career.

And all the chapter events and NIRI annual and everything, they all, they're all great. I also want to just mention that for anybody who's listening, that's not in New York or not in the US. Many countries have these similar types of organizations. Like in the UK, you've got the IR Investor Relations Society.

In Canada, you've got Canadian Investor Relations Institute. They're all over the world. So it seems to me as though, wherever there's a good concentration of public companies, There's a, there's an IR association, which I think is super helpful. And so talking about some of the skills and sort of things that you're building on and, you know, through IRC and networking and university programs, in your experience is sort of now, you know, you're, you're pretty experienced in the role.

The most important skills to have as you enter into the field of IR

Mark Fasken: What are some of the skills you think are most important to have as you enter into the field of IR? 

Patricia Cruz: That's a good question. Like I mentioned before, IR is multidisciplinary and you can't just have one of them. I would bucket it into three categories in terms of knowledge, right? The first would be finance, accounting, and overall capital markets.

Then I would say communications and marketing skills, both oral and written. And the third one would be the legal part of it, and securities regulation and corporate governance. And the other part would be the soft skills, problem solving, being detail oriented, having interpersonal skills, having a good sense of collaboration, and learning how to listen.

That's a big one. For some reason, a lot of people struggle with this one and in IR, you need to learn how to listen to one, the investors to answer, really listen, what's the question because, they can say it in several different ways and you don't want to say something that you're not supposed to.

And at the same time, you're working with very high executives, you're working with your C suite, you're working with a board. So you want to be able to know exactly what is it that they need from you and be able to deliver. You want to be able to be a person that they want to consider to be on the table when big decisions are being made. But that will only happen if you learn how to listen. I've seen people struggle with that. It sounds super simple, but I, I find that, that happens often, more often than what, than not.

And then, you know, some really technical skills just in what would say learn Bloomberg, other PR platforms, financial analysis, modeling, and if you don't know how to do it, then go and reach out to Mark at. 

Mark Fasken: The plug. Yeah, that's good. Yeah, no, I, I mean, I, I think those are great points and, and I totally agree with you.

It seems to me as though the big thing, and you sort of mentioned this earlier, it seems though a lot of people sometimes feel that IR is either super analytical and really focused on the metrics or it's very focused on interpersonal like communication and press releases. And I think like it's, it's both, it's all of these things, which is why people have to your point to be multidisciplinary, you have to be able to go into an interview or whatever and show like, I know the numbers I can do modeling. I can talk to investors. I can talk to you. I can ask good questions. You know, I can distill all this information. I think it's it. It's, uh, it's tricky, right? I don't think anybody's saying you have to have them all, but.

Patricia Cruz: For sure. I mean, nobody will be an expert on everything. And I think to, to go back to one of your earlier questions of what is it that I did when I transitioned into IR, it was really due as an analysis. Okay. Self analysis. What are my strengths and what are my weaknesses? And boy, I had a lot of weaknesses, right?

And a lot of things that I didn't know how to do. Yes, I knew the numbers, but I was never, you know, I never had a role, where I needed to worry about writing numbers into a story, or, you know, just communicating them and knowing how to interpret all that stuff. So know what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?

And then go and check. Where can you learn from those? And it's it's a. It's a constant learning process, right.

What you should know before getting into IR

Mark Fasken: Is there anything that you wish you knew before getting into IR? Like one thing you're like, I wish I knew that before I got into this role. 

Patricia Cruz: Oh, that's a good one. I would say, that there's a lot of women in these roles. So I thought that gap between men and women, and how they are, just everything from compensation to treated to etc. I thought that gap was gonna be closer, like closed up and it isn't. And so I mean that does that doesn't change Whether or not I, I, I wanted to pursue a career in IR, but I guess I, I probably would have been less passive in how I was showing up in certain accounts or meetings.

I would have been a little bit more, let me lean in, and really ask for a seat at the table, which I would recommend. To people starting in IR, whether women or not, it's people, it's a world where people have strong opinions. So don't be afraid to ask what you want. Nobody's going to come and ask you, Oh, do you want this?

Do you need this? No one will. So don't be afraid to just ask for it.

The worst thing, what they're going to say, no, that's it. But you can win so much more. I don't know if that was if you were expecting that. 

Mark Fasken: I think it's great. No, no, I think that's good. And I mean, I think it's, it's always important to call out where, where there's those gaps. And so, I mean, it's, it's, you know, it's, it's good to highlight where those may exist.

Patricia's best advice for finding success early in your IR career

Mark Fasken: And, you may have answered this question already, but it's my final one, um, which is one recommendation on how to be successful for somebody who may be listening to this episode and is interviewing for IR roles or maybe trying to get into IR.

Patricia Cruz: I would say learn how to influence people. And people skills are important, not only because you are working with investors, but because you really rely on everybody in the company, other teams, whether it's product marketing, whatever, you name it, you can't do your job without their help. So you need to be able to be someone that gets the job done, but at the same time, doesn't piss everybody off.

Because otherwise, then people won't want to work with you, and then you'll be stuck in the sense of that you won't be able to get your work done. Right? And also you want to be able to influence the board and the E. T. because sometimes, the investor perspective might highly different be different from what they are thinking, or they want to do things and, especially when you have a, an executive team where they don't want to be that transparent and IR is transparency. So I would say that. 

Mark Fasken: The real talk on these last few questions.

I love it.

Patricia Cruz: I don't know if anybody has the courage to say it, but here I am saying it. 

Mark Fasken: Fantastic. Patty, that was my last question. So this has been amazing. Really appreciate your time. Thank you so much. 

Patricia Cruz: Thank you 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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