NIRI Boston 2015-2016 Kickoff Event: The State of Investor Relations with NIRI President James Cudahy

NIRI Boston kicked off the 2015-2016 season in grand style with a program featuring a fireside chat with NIRI President and CEO Jim Cudahy moderated by NIRI Fellow and Honorary NIRI Boston Director Maureen Wolff. Topics of discussion included the IR certification program, NIRI’s recent visit to the SEC and the future of investor relations.

Jim began the night by urging IR professionals to keep an open mind and to use technology to their advantage. He insisted that IROs should think outside of the box and ask themselves “why do we do things a certain way” and “how can we make it better?” Jim advised IROs to challenge conventional wisdom and noted that it’s important to reflect on the changing paradigm that is presently encompassing IROs, most notably social media.

Jim used the Dollar Shave Club as an example of a company that thought outside of the box and used technology and social media to its advantage to challenge Gillette, the market leader in men’s razors. By thinking outside of the box, Dollar Shave Club was able to challenge Gillette and develop a subscription-based business model offering high-quality razor blades at a fraction of the cost of Gillette’s razors. They also successfully utilized social media as an advertising and messaging platform to reach millions of people. As a result of Dollar Shave Club’s success, Gillette had to adjust its model in order to better compete with similar subscription-based low cost razor companies. He noted that several other companies have been successful in challenging conventional ideas by using technology and social media to better compete, including Uber, Airbnb and Amazon.

Jim continued by mentioning that he believes that it’s the job of the IRO to continually ask the question “why” in order to drive results and accomplish certain goals. He mentioned that he’s taking the same approach and applying it to NIRI’s strategic priorities of community, advocacy, information and professional development. Specifically, within professional development, the NIRI Board of Directors recently gave final approval to launch a long-awaited IR certification program, the Investor Relations Charter (IRC), which is set to begin in March 2016. Jim noted that the exam will take approximately 4 hours to complete and will consist of 200 multiple choice questions based on 10 investor relations disciplines. He noted that the IR certification program is a big step for NIRI and for IROs because it will help to define the profession, establish a benchmark of confidence and create a clear path for those interested in a career in investor relations. More information about the IR certification program can be found on the NIRI website.

The night wrapped up with a fireside chat between Jim and Sharon Merrill President and Partner Maureen Wolff. When asked about what was discussed during NIRI’s recent visit to the SEC, Jim noted that the 13-F filing deadline was a key focus of the dialogue. He said that the SEC welcomed NIRI’s input, particularly concerning 13-F timely disclosure reform and that the next step is more regular engagement with the SEC. Jim also mentioned that he would soon be participating in an IR roadshow: a 4-city tour in Asia to build understanding and awareness among IR professionals to help implement IR best practices on a global basis. And last but not least, Jim was asked where he sees the IR profession 5 years from now. He kept the focus on NIRI and said he strongly believes that the IR certification program will fundamentally change the relationship that NIRI has with the IR community.

Many thanks to Matt Roache, Senior Associate at Sharon Merrill, for writing our September event summary and to Q4 Web Systems for serving as the event’s premier sponsor.