Canadian Interview: Tom Enright

Tom Enright, the new president and CEO of the Canadian Investor Relations Institute, talked to PRWeek about the importance of IR in a downturn economy, particularly for Canadian companies, and what CIRI is doing to help raise the stature of the IR role within the corporate hierarchy.

Tom Enright is the new president and CEO of the Canadian Investor Relations Institute (CIRI). He recently retired as president and CEO of CNW Group, and previously spent 15 years at the Toronto Stock Exchange. He spoke to PRWeek about the importance of IR in a downturn economy, particularly for Canadian companies, and what CIRI is doing to help raise the stature of the IR role within the corporate hierarchy.

How should IR departments in Canada react to the current economy?

Now is not the time for silent or mediocre IR. Now is the time in corporate Canada for strong, professional IR programs. I say that for a number of reasons. The very first one is regardless of the chaos in the financial markets at the moment, if you take a step back, the one thing that has always been obvious and perfectly clear to me is given the relatively small size of the Canadian capital markets on a global stage, mediocre IR has never been an option for Canada. Because we are such small players, we have to be really good at this.

Yet there are public companies here that don't have strong IR programs.
We all have to do a better job — and I mean ourselves at CIRI, as well as the regulators, stock exchanges, and securities commissions — in making sure when companies are going public, they understand the benefit and power that IR brings to the table. I think part of the lack of appreciation is a lack of understanding. All of us involved in the capital markets have work to do to get the word out as to why IR is so important to them.

How will CIRI help increase the role of the IR professional?  
One of the ways is through good solid professional development. I am delighted by the fact that our annual conference held in June of this year had a 95% satisfaction rating from attendees, and we hold professional development sessions at the chapter level (Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia) also with similar satisfaction rates…We are also currently looking at accreditation. This is not something that has been a part of IR in Canada in the past, but we are reviewing it to see if it is the right time for us and if we're at a state where it makes sense for CIRI to pursue a level of accreditation.

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