S4E01 - Mark Hayes From Breakwater Strategy on How The Elevated IRO is Navigating The Future of IR

For IROs, it is more important than ever to understand strategic trajectory, market position, and risk management for their companies. In today’s episode, Mark Fasken sits down with Mark Hayes, Partner and Head of Capital Markets Advisory at Breakwater Strategy, to discuss the evolving role of the elevated IRO, the significance of collaboration across functions for effective IR, and how IR can use impact intelligence to customize approaches and gather relevant insights for decision-making and valuation.

Listen to the full episode to learn more about:

  • Defining the Elevated IRO
  • The 6 essential skills of an Elevated IRO
  • Identifying skill gaps and opportunities
  • An introduction to impact intelligence and its impact and use cases
  • Next steps for Elevated IROs

About Our Guest

Mark Hayes is Partner and Head of Capital Markets Advisory, Investor and Geopolitical Intelligence at Breakwater Strategy, a strategic communications and insights agency that advises their clients on how to navigate change, crises, and complexities.

Episode Transcript

Mark Fasken: This is Winning IR, a podcast exploring the diverse insights within the IR community. Join me, Mark Fasken, as I sit down with IROs and other IR stakeholders to discuss the winning strategies, tactics, and shifts in thinking that are redefining the profession. 

We talk a lot about elevating the function of investor relations, both on this podcast and in our work at Irwin, given the critical nature of the function and its ability to enable growth, it has never been more important for IROs to understand and communicate as frequently and strategically as possible.

Today's guest is Mark Hayes, Partner and Head of Capital Markets Advisory, Investor and Geopolitical Intelligence at Breakwater Strategy. Mark is a big proponent of the elevated IRO and an active and engaged leader in the IR community. Mark has extensive experience as a strategic advisor to public and private companies throughout his career, advising them on business and geopolitical strategies, investor relations, mergers and acquisitions, shareholder activism, short seller defense, and capital market transactions.

I had a great discussion with him in this episode on the transformational landscape of IR and I'm excited to share it with all of you

Defining the Elevated IRO: Skills for Success.

Mark Fasken: Mark, I wanted to set the stage for this podcast with a bit of a definition. You speak to the term of the elevated IRO. It's sort of a phrase maybe you've coined. Can you explain to the audience what the definition of an elevated IRO is in terms of the skill sets that are required to be elevated?

Mark Hayes: Sure. 

The Six Essential Skills of an Elevated IRO

Mark Hayes: I think there are six. The first is really the ability to work at the board level with the executives in the C suite and other business leaders around crafting that anticipatory vision that will be communicated to investors. Over the trailing nine months or so, we've had an opportunity to engage globally with leading institutional investors, and they've increasingly talked about the importance of understanding that not only does the company know where the puck is going, but they're positioned effectively to compete and win in that space. And that matters, as you know, longer term, because when a buy-sider or a sell-sider is developing their model, they can have different confidence over the long-term in the prospects of the company. They're just going to be adjusting that model in a way that will elevate valuation. 

Strategic Trajectory

I think the second is around strategic trajectory, really being able to work again with the board, the C suite, and other business leaders to really craft that one to three year view for where the company is going and to be able to describe what are the fundamental shifts that investors are expecting to see? And the way in which that's going to inform the overall investor engagement program.

Market Positioning

The third, I think both strategically and operationally is really being able to understand the market position of the company. And help business leaders actively engage in both real-time as well as more strategic conversations about where the company is positioned, whether that's in terms of end markets, geographically. In terms of divestitures acquisitions and the composition of the portfolio. 

Capital Structure

The fourth is around capital structure and in 2024, it's going to be increasingly important that the elevated IRO really has an opportunity to bring into that conversation key questions around. You know, we're rolling off of some of our long debt. It's resetting at a higher interest rate. How do we want to communicate that? What's the trade between short paper and long paper? How do we really want to do that? And where do we want to think about our investment focus with some of our free cash flow? 

Execution Elegance

The fifth is really around execution excellence. And that's really about the program. When I think about the IRO and one of the reasons I call the IRO “elevated”, and we actually called mid last year for the IRO to be accelerated into the Chief Investor Relations Officer. And I've seen a couple of those in the fall, which was terrific. This is one of the most key roles at an organization, and I think underappreciated if not at the C suite. In the context of the execution excellence, that really has several components. There's an execution component clearly, but how do you do that? You really need a strategic mindset, a deep understanding of the business. A deep finance background, but increasingly also strategic communications, marketing, product. And then as you look forward. An increasing orientation around enterprise risk management, the geopolitical context, and trade as well as disinformation, which is going to be an accelerating trend in 2024. 

Accelerated Reinvention

And then finally, I think a focus on accelerated reinvention. And for me, as with any profession, we have our myths and folklore in IR as well. And I think really looking at the program and asking yourself, this may have worked a couple of years ago. What's the thinking around why? Is the operating environment different? As you know, we're in a period of increasing dynamism and what would I do differently? One example of that is something we've recently started to do, which is craft a solution around the big picture for investor days. So not starting with strategy, starting with that anticipatory vision for investors. You're not going to be able to do that unless you actually have deep expertise and foresight. And that's going to be critical as part of an elevated IRO's ability to bring value to the company. So I think those would be kind of roughly the skill sets that the elevated IRO, who's participating in a much more accelerated and dynamic environment, needs to have in order to compete and win for stakeholder attention going forward.

Identifying Skill Gaps and Opportunities

Mark Fasken: That's a great structure and really sets things out for the rest of this conversation, kind of a follow up question on that, when you think about some of those six skills. So the board level vision, the strategic trajectory, market position, capital structure, execution excellence, and that sort of anticipatory vision, are there one or two of those skills that you see are most often lacking or where you see there is the greatest opportunity with the teams that you speak to and engage with?

Mark Hayes: It's a great question. I would say that the one that's going to be of most value as an elevated IRO in a business context is going to be squarely in the strategic trajectory. There are so many big choices that public companies have to make in front of them. About strategy, about capital allocation to support that strategy, about talent, about geographic footprint about markets, that's really going to be a place for the elevated IRO I think it's going to need to lean in. And then the question is, what are the tools and capabilities in terms of the IR program itself, I think that idea of accelerated reinvention is something that's going to be critical for somebody to be highly successful over time, where they're looking at what's happening inside the program, and asking themselves, are there things from adjacent functions that might make sense? Would you actually bring in a marketing segmentation to overlay your targeting segmentation? Would you do something different digitally in order to appeal to retail investors? Would you personalize materials for people who are on your prospect list, who are long only that you can't reach for one reason or another? And does that mean you have a digital and social program? All of those things may be new, but I think that notion of accelerated reinvention is going to be critical to the success of the elevated IRO, and the way in which business leaders view the success and impact of that program.

Mark Fasken: You're preaching to the choir on accelerated reinvention and sort of trying new things. It's definitely something that comes up a lot on this podcast in terms of new ways of doing things. And, you know, I think there's a lot of things in, not just IR, but across many departments where it's sort of, this is the way we've done it for a long time, but there's certainly a lot of opportunity for improvement and change.

Introducing Impact Intelligence

Mark Fasken: And so you also talked about this idea of impact intelligence. So how do you define impact intelligence, and how that's different from what IROs are doing today, with maybe a more traditional survey with buy side investors. 

Mark Hayes: It's a great question. When I think about those significant six that we talked about before that anticipatory vision, strategic trajectory and the like, the question in my mind is, what is the set of information and intelligence that an elevated IRO needs to have when they walk into a conversation about the vision of the company? When they walk into a conversation about the strategic trajectory, when they walk into a conversation of the Enterprise Risk Committee, that's talking about how to mitigate the downside risk from let's say shipping disruption, but also the marginal impact of doing that. What kind of information do you need to walk in to inform a capital allocation decision in the short and long term? So impact intelligence fundamentally is structured around the idea that the world is changing and that the analytical models that the elevated IRO needs to have need to evolve from what I would consider to be traditional perception solutions.

So in that context, the traditional perception solutions are, you know, what I would consider to be largely in the almost like a flip phone, you can make a call, but they have a limited utility. What we set out to build was really more like an iPhone 15, where you have a platform, and there are a number of other areas that you can essentially download in order to make that phone substantially more functional and customized in the context of what you're trying to achieve. So very specifically, that, that's, I'll lay that in three dimensions. I think in your business, in our business, clients are typically looking to understand three areas. The first really is, who's the team and what are they going to do? What's the process that I'm going to go through and then based on the process that I go through, how are you going to activate that in order to elevate my value?

So, in that context, when you think about the process dimension, traditional perception providers, or vendors in some cases, are going to be providing roughly the same process that impact intelligence would provide. The question really revolves around the strategic perspective as well as the activation components of that.

So in terms of impact intelligence, impact intelligence starts off with an assumption that there are no questions that you should ask client to client. What you should do is assemble a cross disciplinary team of experts who have deep business expertise. Deep geopolitical expertise, deep economic expertise, strategic communications, underpinned certainly by deep IR expertise in order to really understand what is the nature of the set of questions that will allow the company to have a full and deep understanding of the way in which the buy side views the company.

So a hundred percent of that is new, because each company is highly context dependent and that, but in order to understand the context that you're operating in, you need people who understand what that is, and then can craft a line of inquiry that participates in that context. The second important dimension of that is really about activation.

When I think about some of the work I've done over time, if you're in the boardroom and you say to a CEO, "Hey, look, you know, we have a series of findings here. We've got activist risk. We've got, you're not a terribly good communicator. We need to buy back some shares. And we really need some help around the digital engagement with our retail investor base, which is 40 percent of our shares" or whatever. The question then is you actually need somebody who actually has a series of outcomes from impact intelligence. It can be activated with global scale, with deep expertise across a number of disciplines, so that the elevated IRO can bring an integrated solution to the table. I've seen time and time again where elevated IROs do not have the capabilities to broadly solve organizational problems. They can solve IR problems, but in many cases, impact intelligence will surface a problem that is actually not in an IR space. It's in a broader business context. So the ability to bring solutions to the company. Based on the outcomes from impact intelligence, it is going to be critically important for them to elevate their role within the organization, play a role in that anticipatory vision in that strategic trajectory, and certainly on things operationally related in terms of market position.

Mark Fasken: I want to sort of summarize that because I mean, I think there are a lot of great points. And so the first thing that you mentioned, the difference, as you think about impact intelligence is that it's more contextual, right? Like it's more focused on that particular company. You're looking and saying, okay, well, you're a logistics provider. So the type of questions we're going to ask investors are going to be very different from a company who's in the consumer goods sector. 

Mark Hayes: Can I give you an example of that? I think that's a really important point. Thank you for if you, there's a, there's a company today that exists in a sector. And so this is exactly as you just described. Almost everybody in that space has bought back shares and levered up to what's a two and a half, three times. This particular company has money on the balance sheet and has actually not bought back shares, not at the level of the competitive set. So if you looked at that in, in an aggregate context and said, into kind of traditional perceptions that "Oh yeah, you know what, 89 percent of investors think today is Thursday and you should buy back shares". That's interesting. But if you peel back the onion on that, what you would actually find is that that company has a very different set of legal, regulatory, risk management considerations where they want to keep a little powder dry, and make sure that to the extent that the economic environment in their particular end markets is still evolving for 2024. They want to make sure that they're okay. If you ask the question, you know, how should the company deploy capital? Well, okay. If people are going to look at the competitive side, well, everybody's buying back shares, why don't you guys lever up and buy back shares?

What you really want to do is put the buy-sider in the CEO's seat with the duality of decision making. I can do that, but I have downside risk. So to your point, every situation for a company has to be bespoke, because every company has to be hyper contextualized to really make sure that if you're at, I work with somebody who great line who said you get answers to the questions you ask, we're focused on making sure that it's the right question, so that you get the not the right answer, but the answer that's informative to your business process.

Mark Fasken: Well, it sounds like in addition to that, along with having the right question, also it sounds like ensuring that the people you're asking that question have the right context and the right information, so that they can answer that question in an educated way, right? Like you talked about putting them in the CEO seat so you can say, I'm going to ask you this question, but let me, let me give you a little bit of context on the situation first. So that you can have the most educated answer possible. 

Mark Hayes: That's so spot on, Mark. I'll give you one other example that I saw the other day. So, if you ask an investor, should the company invest more in generative AI? Is there an investor who's not going to say, oh, yeah, that, you know, generative AI seems like it's got application, and we think you ought to think about investing more. If you think about that question, though, in the duality, and I'm actually putting something out today for the fourth quarter to frame the quarter around the notion of duality for public companies in the specific earning cycle. The question for a public company is not, should I invest more in generative AI? Who has a margin target they're trying to hit. It's one of my portfolio of options, how much does that option, how much should I be investing in that option? And that's why I think having the set of people design the questions and really understand a business operating context allows them to ask that question differently. So to your point, the contextual question is much more about, "Hey, look, you know, I've signed up for, a 7 percent margin target and in the context of that, my portfolio of technology investment is a billion. I can certainly invest more in generative AI. That means I'm going to spend less on cybersecurity. So as an investor, join me in the duality of decision making. I can certainly spend more. But what would your reaction be, Mr./Mrs. Investor, if we had a cyber security challenge, and that became a brand risk and then we had a diminishing cash flow over time?" So I think to your point, it's a much more sophisticated way than traditional perception to understand, first of all, to frame the discussion, conduct the discussion, and then have business actionable information that comes at the back end in that contextual context.

Mark Fasken: It also seems to me as though a lot of companies leverage perception studies and definitely get a lot of value out of them. But there's definitely also been discussion around getting executive level buy in, making sure that the executives are engaged. It seems to me as though taking that more tailored approach and really working with the executive team to understand that question set and that option set, is probably a really great way to get more buy in at the front end. So that when you get all those answers and you get all the information together and you talk about the ability to execute, it's going to be a lot smoother because everybody's potentially been a little bit more engaged through the whole process, rather than coming to your executives and saying investors want us to do a share buyback and they're like, well, we're not doing that, because we're trying to keep some money in the bank and it's somewhat useless at that point.

Mark Hayes: Yeah, I think that's right. I was in business for a number of years before I became an investor relations professional. And one of the things that I think that has really given me the opportunity to do is see the way that boards operate and businesses operate from the inside. And I think what you just described is if I say to a CEO or a CFO, I'd like to do a traditional perception study, they're likely to say, I'm in touch with investors enough at conferences and one on ones, non deal roadshows, where I think I have a pretty refined sense of the way in which investors view the company. And I think I'm going to pass on this because I'm not necessarily seeing that incremental upside. If the reframing of that is that, in fact, we really have an opportunity to have a set of impact intelligence that can be brought back to the company, influence our strategic trajectory, our market positioning, and our operating cadence in a way that will elevate valuation. I don't know any CEO who would say no, thank you to that. So I think a lot of it is going to be about, is it intelligence that's meaningful and impactful and being able to have that conversation with the executive team in order to move forward on that. 

Reframing Perception Studies with Impact Intelligence

Mark Fasken: Great. And so you already covered a little bit of this next question, but I'm curious whether you have any other examples. So as we've sort of covered here, perception studies can offer a lot of meaningful insights and hard data. But you've talked about on this podcast, but also in, in some articles and blog posts that you've written, which by the way, for anybody who's listening, you should definitely follow Mark on LinkedIn, he puts out some great stuff. So there's definitely value there, but you've talked about how the current model is somewhat centered on narrow standardized question sets. Do you have any other examples of common questions that an IRO that's on listening to this now would see in a perception study? And how do you think that could be re-examined or restructured?

Mark Hayes: Sure. So, when I think about a traditional perception approach, there are three things that are happening. To your point, there are a set of standard questions that are being asked. So there's a point of comparison, period over period, and then to, some benchmark in the background.

On the benchmark dimension, I think the most important question to ask is, how relevant are benchmarks in a period of really substantial dynamism? So if somebody, if a CEO sees that, my company is evaluated relative to benchmark before the pandemic, or before generative AI, in terms of both supply chain or in terms of investment technology, I'm not sure that I care.

So I, I think that's the first part of it, which is when you said before about why is it sometimes the executives are reluctant to invest in perception? I think it's because there's, in some cases, a disconnect between the way in which seasoned business executives view the world and the way in which some of the solutions being put in front of them are trying to answer questions that are just not top of mind.

I think if a CEO went to a board and said, well, you know, I want to talk to you about the performance of my company before the pandemic, five, six years ago, and it's better. I mean, nobody would do that. So kind of comparing to benchmarks, I don't think it's terribly relevant. We all have a benchmark, it's called our valuation. And so the question is less about how am I showing up to peers? You can see that in the economic models or relative to intrinsic value today. Is it really relevant what that was three years ago against a basket of nominal companies? Not really. I mean, I wouldn't think so. I'm not trying to solve for how am I related to somebody else? What I'm trying to solve for is, in the competition for capital, am I doing the best job that I can to attract incremental investment from current shareholders, attract new shareholders. And ultimately, I certainly want to be valued at my intrinsic level and realize my full values of the company.

But what I shouldn't be doing is taking solace in the fact that, period over period, I'm doing better than my old benchmark if my stock hasn't moved. So I think there's a real, I think there's a connection point that's important. I think one of the questions that people frequently ask, you know, What, what is your view of the strategy? And, that, and I think the perspective on that is, it's open ended and you get some really open ended responses. I think in many cases there are three dynamics at play. The first is that, that context is important. What strategy are we talking about? What is the nature of the strategy? Are we talking about the business strategy? Talking about the technology strategy? I think most people would assume we're talking about the business strategy, but are there nuances that we want to talk about with the business strategy? So as an example, there were a number of larger companies that had investor days in December. And when you looked at the way that investors reacted to those, some of those were not at the strategy level at the treetops, like, "Oh, Hey, how do you think the investor day was able to effectively communicate the strategy?" It was much more about "I really appreciated the way in which this particular dimension of the business was described because of my valuation model, I'm doing the sum of the parts and I needed to have more exposure to the expected economic potential of that unit, to allow me as an investor to have more confidence in that stock over time." And so I think again, I think there's a lot of asking those types of questions may feel good, but I think what you really need to do is think about what's the way you would ask that in a way that would elicit the information you're looking for to make a business strategy or operating decision.

Mark Fasken: So on that note. When we think of that specific question, what do you think of the strategy? How would you reframe that in the context of impact intelligence and the elevated IRO? And maybe we can take an example of a company in a certain sector or we, you know, we can just sort of make up a scenario if you will.

Mark Hayes: Yeah. So, I mean, I think you'd probably start off with actually a couple of predecessor questions. I think one of the things that I've seen happen in the past that I think is challenging is, let's not assume that particularly a prospective investor understands what the strategy is, somebody says, yeah I'm willing to do a call, but, so I think first, first question is, how familiar are you with the strategy and what are the, and what components do you believe constitute the strategy?

That'll give you a degree of context for the credibility that you should assign that perspective, or it gives you an opportunity to redirect the conversation to say, you know what, that's terrific. Those are three of the four components, but one of the things I'd really want to give you a little bit more color on before we advance the conversation is this.

So I think making sure that somebody has the right context in which they're answering that question is going to be critical and setting them up for success. Because when you think about down the process. What happens if you get to the to the readout and the CEO says, wow, I'm really surprised this person didn't have a more favorable view of the company, they've told me at conferences that they think that strategic pillar number four is the most important thing we're doing. That person is looking at what a hundred, 150 names every year invested in 30 or 40, they are likely to have missed some of that nuance. So I think that is the first thing is creating the contextual context for somebody to answer that question.

Then I think that what's important is, really, nobody values a company at ‘what's your strategy’. So I think I would probably break that company apart and really - let’s make up a company, to your point, a company that has a global footprint. Has earnings that are distributed in terms of EBITDA in, let's say two or three different, meaningful geographies in different continents and has a range of different end markets that are reasonably economically volatile.

How do you think this, what do you think about the strategy? What I really want to know is, are you giving me a risk discount in my valuation because my strategy actually has geographic characteristics that they think are unattractive relative to my peers. That's really one of the questions from a valuation perspective, right?

So, you know, oh boy, I'm making this up. You know, I'm a company that has exposure in a geography that somebody thinks is unattractive. I actually want to know more about that than I do at a treetop level. Yeah, the strategy is great. They talked about it on the call. Sounds good. What I really want them to say is, you know what? When I look at the company's top line and bottom line, I'm concerned that 27% of the revenues are in geographies that appear to me to be geopolitically sensitive. I'm concerned that the EBITDA percentage in those countries is more like 40%. So when I think about my confidence in the future cash flows from those geographies, I'm assigning a lower multiple to that than to the domestic dimension of the business or whatever.

I can do something about that. What could I do? I mean, I can, I could say to myself, okay, on my upcoming call, I'm going to say I'm actually going to, I'm not going to withdraw from those markets, but my next dollar is going to be in a market that investors think is more stable or what I'm going to do is I'm going to go out and I have colleagues that do this type of work, not at Breakwater, but colleagues globally.

I'm going to send somebody on the ground to do an on the ground risk assessment so that I can talk about that in an investor day and say, you know what your view of that country and the evolution of the security situation there is this. Our view is this. And we recently had people on the ground to really assess that.

So I think that I think what I'm trying to describe there and is that it's about the framing of the question in the business context and an evaluation context to uncover intelligence that will inform business decision making, allow the elevated IRO to communicate more impactfully to elevate valuation, but also has that important activation element.

So that if the information comes back that yeah, you know, your competitor is trading at 20 times because they're all based in the US and you're trading at 14 times. Cause you have global exposure, that by the way, it was a great idea in 2018, not viewed as favorably today. How do we mitigate that? We have a range of choices. And then the question is who helps activate around that? People who have a strategy background, but also people that have an extended international network that can bring incremental intelligence to the table and help the company frame and communicate around the degree of risk.

And in some cases, I think at least that I've seen over time, people assign risk because they're busy. They just don't know rather than assigning because they've been able to do deep work. That's not a criticism. People are busy. And so in absence of other information from the company, you're going to assign it a relative risk.

And so that discount then impacts the multiple. So that was a little bit long, but hopefully that gave you a little bit of color on that. 

Practical Examples of Impact Intelligence in Action

Mark Fasken: Yeah, no, it really illustrates the point perfectly. And I think that the last point is really well made of, perhaps it's not laziness or, or whatever it is. I mean, as you said, there's a lot of investors that are covering so many companies, they don't have the time to do that digging, and so it, it really comes upon then the elevated IRO to do that work, to make sure that they're asking those very specific questions so that they can then say, okay, I really understand what the issue is here. I can then pull in colleagues who can help me solve it and. Put together a strategy or communication plan to address some of these concerns, whether it's geopolitical or whatever it is. So I think that really captures the essence of what we're talking about here. So thank you for that. 

Mark Hayes: Can I share one other example on that that I think is really interesting? I was talking to somebody the other day, and this was the nature of the challenge. The company was investing in a new geography that had lower marginal potential than their existing business. So said simply, if they, I'm making these numbers up, but if it was a 10 percent margin, and this new geography will be more like a, let's call it, you know, six or seven, those aren't the numbers, but that's the point. I think the question then is like, what's the right way to effectively communicate around that because your initial reaction to investors is wow, you're putting money in the dumpster fire and setting it, setting on fire. Are you kidding me? Like why wouldn't you invest in a higher margin opportunity? 

The answer is because the company is incredibly thoughtful, has a long range perspective about their sector. They're making a series of responsible investments to diversify what they consider to be some risks that are contextually specific to the way that their business is structured today. And they're thinking about the long term. So that's a great example of where you know, you'd really want impact intelligence to really not ask the question.

If you ask the question this way "Hey, so do you think the company should invest in lower margin businesses?", Well, I mean, I think we all know the answer there. If you structure the question around for a company that has unbelievably strong enterprise risk management protocols and approaches, and has thought deeply about this issue in this context, would you be supportive of incremental investments in modestly lower margin businesses today that create underlying stability for the company over time? And what do you think? And somebody's like, well, that's the best manager team on the street. Of course, we're going to invest with these guys, right? So, I think a lot of that just is really, that impact intelligence idea, I think is a big idea, and is hopefully going to help companies really reframe both the value of the next generation of perception, but also allow the elevated IRO to participate in the conversations and bring that next generation of value to them. 

Mark Fasken: So, just wrapping everything up, I mean, as an IR professional, there's a lot of new concepts in this episode. And I mean, I had asked you ahead of this call to think about some examples, because I think it is really helpful to illustrate really, what you're talking about as you think about this new approach to perception studies and impact intelligence what would you say is one of the first steps, or any recommendations you have to listeners in terms of content or places that they can go and learn that can just help them to further improve?

Mark Hayes: First of all, I just wanted to say thank you, Mark, and thank you for that. I value the opportunity to be part of our collective community enormously. So, to your point earlier, if anybody wants to reach out to me, you know, it's mark@breakwaterstrategy.com or they can reach out to me on LinkedIn.

I would, first of all, impact intelligence is something that we're going to continue to co create with the community. So if somebody says, Mark, boy, that's great, but if you did this, it would really help me as an elevated IRO. I would love that feedback from folks who have an opportunity to listen to this today.

Next Steps for Elevated IROs in 2024

I think the next step going into '24 as an elevated IRO, I think there are two. I think one of the things that's keeping me up at night is disinformation, and the way in which an elevated IRO needs to proactively think about the possibility and downside risk from a valuation perspective and a market perspective of disinformation. We recently saw, you know, the SEC hack around the Bitcoin ETF, right? So the trend is accelerating with greater magnitude. And I think that's going to be important. One of the things that I would really encourage people to think about, earlier in my career, I had an opportunity to work in a number of cross-disciplinary roles. And I think one of the real opportunities that the elevated IRO has is to think about what we at Breakwater kind of call the four vector approach, right? So really thinking less about function and more about company. And about how the company is showing up collectively across a number of different dimensions, whether that's the investor, that's the regulator or legislator, that's the end client or that's society.

And so one of the questions that I think could be really powerful is, if you just sat down with the CCO and the CMO and said, here's my plan for 2024. I'd love to understand what your plan is. If we had a collective view as strategic communicators about how we're going to engage with the collective external world behind these walls, what would we do together?

I was talking to somebody the other day who I think is a monstrously talented IRO. And we were talking about the way in which they're starting to begin to pivot. The thought leadership platform in the communication shop for the CEO on key dimensions that emerged from some impact intelligence.

So it's really interesting to see how the convergence of those two functions is now creating external value for the company. And you're able to harness that collective infrastructure to really elevate the value.

Mark Fasken: That's great. Thank you, Mark. It's a great way to summarize the episode and wrap things up. Really appreciate you taking the time to do this. That's another episode of Winning IR. Thanks again to 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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How The Elevated IRO is Navigating The Future of IR with Mark Hayes from Breakwater Strategy
Best Practices

S4E01 - Mark Hayes From Breakwater Strategy on How The Elevated IRO is Navigating The Future of IR

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Kiley Rawlins from Ulta Beauty on How to Effectively Prepare For and Manage Shareholder Activism

S3E10 - Kiley Rawlins from Ulta Beauty on How to Effectively Prepare For and Manage Shareholder Activism

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David Calusdian from Sharon Merrill on Effective Communication for IROs and Executives
Best Practices

S3E9 - David Calusdian from Sharon Merrill on Effective Communication for IROs and Executives

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Jonathan Paterson from Harbor Access on Investor Targeting & Outreach Strategies for Small-Mid-Cap Companies

S3E8 - Jonathan Paterson from Harbor Access on Investor Targeting & Outreach Strategies for Small-Mid-Cap Companies

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S3E5 - Patricia Cruz from Etsy on Building a Next-Generation IR Career

S3E5 - Patricia Cruz from Etsy on Building a Next-Generation IR Career

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

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

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S2E3 - Adam Borgatti from Aecon on How to Expand Your Scope of Responsibility as an IRO

S3E3 - Adam Borgatti from Aecon on How to Expand Your Scope of Responsibility as an IRO

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Moira Conlon from Financial Profiles on Balancing Long-Term Value with Short-Term Success When Communicating With Investors
Best Practices

S3E2 - Moira Conlon from Financial Profiles on Balancing Long-Term Value with Short-Term Success When Communicating With Investors

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Winning IR - Jordyn Eskijian from H&R Block on Aligning Purpose and Performance Through ESG

S2E10 - Jordyn Eskijian from H&R Block on Aligning Purpose and Performance Through ESG

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Luke Wyse from Triumph Financial on The First 90 Days in a New IR Role

S2E9 - Luke Wyse from Triumph Financial on The First 90 Days in a New IR Role

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Megan McGrath from Cushman & Wakefield on How To Build Better Relationships With the Sell-Side
Best Practices

S2E8 - Megan McGrath from Cushman & Wakefield on How To Build Better Relationships With the Sell-Side

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Rodney Nelson from Twilio on the Importance of Deeply Understanding Your Shareholder Base
Best Practices

S2E4 - Rodney Nelson from Twilio on the Importance of Deeply Understanding Your Shareholder Base

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Winning IR - Rebecca Gardy From Campbell Soup Company on The IRO Blueprint For Leading Through Influence
Best Practices

S2E1 - Rebecca Gardy From Campbell Soup Company on The IRO Blueprint For Leading Through Influence

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Winning IR: Building a Strong Support System: The Power of Community in Investor Relations With Matt Brusch, NIRI

S1E10 - Building a Strong Support System: The Power of Community in Investor Relations with Matt Brusch, NIRI

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S1E09: Bridging the Gap Between IR & PR to Build Attractive Investor Brands with Fabiane Goldstein
Best Practices

S1E09: Bridging the Gap Between IR & PR to Build Attractive Investor Brands with Fabiane Goldstein, Grayling

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 Winning IR: Involving Multiple Stakeholders in Investor Relations with Jeremy Cohen, Alight Solutions
Best Practices

S1E08 - The Whole Picture: Involving Multiple Stakeholders in Investor Relations with Jeremy Cohen at Alight Solutions

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Winning IR: Creative Tactics for Standing Out and Engaging Investors with Alyssa Barry & Caroline Sawamoto, irlabs
Best Practices

S1E07 - IR Innovators: Creative Tactics for Standing Out and Engaging Investors with Alyssa Barry & Caroline Sawamoto, irlabs

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Winning IR: IR on the Cutting Edge: Navigating Investor Relations in Emerging Industries With Leah Gibson, Cybin
Best Practices

S1E06 - IR on the Cutting Edge: Navigating Investor Relations in Emerging Industries With Leah Gibson, Cybin

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Winning IR: Catapulting Your Career: The Habits of High-Performing IROs

S1E05 - Catapult Your Career: The Habits of High-Performing IROs with Smooch Repovich Rosenberg

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Winning IR: Building a Strong Foundation: Creating an In-House Investor Relations Department from the Ground Up with Brooks Rennie, Byline Bank
IR Departments

S1E04 - Building a Strong Foundation: Creating an In-House Investor Relations Department from the Ground Up with Brooks Rennie, Byline Bank

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Winning IR: Winning the Battle for the Boardroom - Navigating the Do's and Don'ts of Proxy Fights with Michael Verrechia, Morrow Sodali

S1E02 - Winning the Battle for the Boardroom - Navigating the Do's and Don'ts of Proxy Fights with Michael Verrechia, Morrow Sodali

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Winning IR: The Most Frequently Asked Questions About ESG with Victoria Sivrais, Clermont Partners

S1E01 - The Most Frequently Asked Questions About ESG with Victoria Sivrais, Clermont Partners

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