The Future of IR: The Disruption Opportunity

IRC Domain 7: Strategic Counsel and Collaboration

Summary by Liz Kluge

Speaker: Gary A. LaBranche, FASAE, CAE, President & CEO, National Investor Relations Institute
Moderator: Lisa Ciota, Principal, Lead-IR Advisors, Inc.


As part of NIRI’s 50th anniversary celebration, the Think Tank on the Future of Investor Relations was conceived to answer the question, “What do NIRI professionals around the country aspire to be in the future?” The research revealed that the most desired aspirational future for Investor Relations practitioners is to become trusted strategic advisors (TSAs) within their organizations. The belief is that you must be a TSA to best serve your company and effectively use your experience and knowledge. The Think Tank report provides a structural tool, competency assessments and a roadmap to achieving this goal. However, given the diversity of business experience, company sector and circumstances – as well as age and point of view – it’s up to each individual to determine his or her own unique pathway to TSA status.

Key challenges to becoming a TSA include:

  • What made IR professionals successful thus far won’t hold – the rules have changed.
  • Approximately one-third of NIRI national members work in rotational IR roles; in many companies, IR is not seen as a long-term career path.
  • Sell-side analysts are intensely competing for IRO positions given their deep analytical and modeling experience, and dwindling sell-side career opportunities.
  • Longstanding paradigms could impact one’s ability to become a TSA. For example, certain generations consider IR to be merely a gatekeeper function.

Questions IR practitioners must ask themselves to determine if they can become a TSA:

  • Are you self-aware? Have you done a thorough, honest evaluation of your skill set?
  • Have you built the necessary relationships throughout the organization?
  • Do you have corporate strategic planning experience?
  • Have you demonstrated situational judgment through projects or teams that have provided you with critical visibility within your organization?
  • ESG – do you have any experience? What role can you play in these areas?
  • Do you have the necessary soft skills – executive presence, facilitation and consensus building?
  • Ultimately, do you think first as an IRO or as a senior executive of your company?

In 2020, the Think Tank plans to focus on artificial intelligence, which is expected to radically change the IRO’s role in the next five to 10 years. Near-term plans also include the launch of a Developmental Leaders Roundtable, which will outline pathways to NIRI’s Senior Roundtable for NIRI members with three to 10 years of experience, and include a focus on soft skills.