Five minutes with Owen Price, a Senior Investor Relations Manager, who made the move from investment banking to investor relations
I was recently asked whether Brexit had any effect on the UK investor relations (IR) job market. From a recruitment perspective, we have yet to see any clients cancelling their plans as a result of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit; equally we have not experienced a significant uplift in recruitment needs despite the communications challenges that lie ahead and the need for organisations to communicate the changes presented by Britain’s exit from the EU.
Compared to the financial crisis of 2007/08, we’ve seen confidence remain high as investor relations officers continue to look for new job opportunities, whereas during the financial crisis the vast majority of the market stopped looking for a job almost overnight, preferring instead to focus on job security with their existing organisation.
Overall, 2017 was a very busy year for us and in the first few weeks of 2018 we’ve already experienced a 50% increase from clients for new searches compared to the same period last year. With the new wave of regulatory changes and its impact on listed companies yet to be fully understood, it is an exciting time for the IR industry.
To provide an insight into a possible career in investor relations, I sat down with Owen Price, Senior Investor Relations at CYBG to discuss his interesting transition from investment banking to investor relations.
Tell us about your background and current role
I worked in investment banking as a generalist corporate broker for almost ten years and was ready to leave behind the punishing hours and the constant demands for output from clients and MDs. Working in investment banking had provided me with a strong work ethic, a good grounding in analysing businesses, and great names for my CV (Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank).
I am a Senior Manager in the Investor Relations team at CYBG plc, the owner of Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank. I support the Head of Investor Relations in ensuring that there is an effective flow of information between investors and CYBG’s executive team. On the one hand this means drafting CYBG’s results announcements and presentations, fielding questions from analysts, and supporting management on investor roadshows, but it is equally important to ensure that management are kept abreast of how the market views the company and how this drives our share price performance.
What were the challenges you had to overcome when transitioning into investor relations?
It took me almost a year to land the role I wanted in investor relations as there were two weaknesses in my skillset that I had to overcome: firstly, as a generalist I did not have the detailed knowledge of any particular sector and secondly, I had no experience of working in a investor relations role. So while I had detailed knowledge of the equity markets and UK listed corporates’ regulatory obligations, hiring me wasn’t necessarily a ‘no brainer’.
During my job search I applied for various roles and came very close to being hired for a number of them. The common feedback was that while I was a strong candidate with a skillset closely aligned to that which the jobs required, I had no investor relations experience. This was frustrating as the majority of my clients were IR directors whom I advised on all facets of investor relations on a daily basis, so I believed I had good experience for the roles I was applying for.
What was it that got you this role?
I think the key factor for me was finding a Head of IR and Finance Director who were not set on hiring an investor relations professional with day-to-day experience of the role. Instead, they were open to hiring a more rounded individual with a strong CV that they thought could learn the job and be an asset to the bank in the long term, even if that were outside the communications team.
How have you adapted your approach from investment banking to IR?
My experience of the ‘transition’ from investment banking to investor relations was closely aligned to my expectations: I had firm views on what the goals of an investor relations function should be, what success looked like, and I was very familiar with the nuts and bolts of the job. In short, prospective employers’ concerns about my lack of IR experience proved largely unfounded.
Being asked for one’s opinion is a rarity in an industry as hierarchical as investment banking, so when the Chief Executive in my new role asked me what I thought his script for the results should cover, less than a fortnight into the job, I was a little taken aback. Overall, the challenge of working closely with experienced executives in a collegiate environment has proved extremely rewarding, and one I am very pleased to have taken on.
The toughest element of my transition was undoubtedly getting up to speed on the company and industry. Retail banking has its own language, rich in jargon and acronyms, which seemed impenetrable at first. Not being a fluent speaker on Day 1 meant that conversations with executives, analysts and investors were challenging at the best of times.
Can you share some tips for others looking to make the move?
Only to think very clearly about your motivations for doing so: the relationship between employer and employer works best when it is symbiotic and the only way to achieve that is for both parties to be clear about what they hope to get out of it at the outset.
Investor relations is becoming increasingly important to listed corporates as disclosure obligations become more complex (MAR), regulatory pressure on the sell-side is reducing the support they offer corporates (MiFID II), and investors’ expectations of the level of service they will receive is becoming more demanding. As a result, listed companies should consider adding to the depth and quality of the resource they make available to their investor relations team, which makes it’s a fascinating place to be and a very good time for high quality candidates to be looking.
Special thanks to Owen Price, CYBG, for taking part in VMAGROUP’s new Q&A blog series that will be providing valuable insights into the communications profession from the experts themselves.
Written by Tom Morgan-Harris