THE BIG PITCH: What’s more crucial for an IR pro, communication skills or financial background?

DICK TOFEL - Dow Jones, New York

DICK TOFEL - Dow Jones, New York

DICK TOFEL - Dow Jones, New York

Both, of course. A world-class IR professional must have strong

financial and analytical skills, so that he or she can converse fluently

in constituents’ native tongue. And finance isn’t intuitive; it must be

learned, preferably before one starts in IR. Communications skills, on

the other hand, are somewhat intuitive. Put less gently, you either have

them or you don’t.

That doesn’t mean they can’t be refined and enhanced through training -

they certainly can be. And whenever and however you pick them up,

communications skills are no less essential for top-flight IR work. You

need them to discern themes, to convey messages clearly, to ’tell

stories’ and, most of all, to make sure your PR and IR messages work


JOANNE BROWN - Canadian Investor Relations Institute, Mississauga,


The IR function combines the disciplines of finance, communications and

marketing, so it’s an asset to have them both. Competent financial and

analytical skills are important. You need to know the jargon and

understand the models used to evaluate your company. If you have a

finance background but lack communication skills, you need to learn how

to be a better communicator.

Management that understands how the company is valued has distinct

advantages - it can focus on information that affects the valuation and

assess how business strategies will impact the valuation.

TED PINCUS - Financial Relations Board/BSMG, Chicago

My recipe would call for a permanent injection that trebles one’s

adrenaline supply, followed by a four-month NASA course in contending

with sleeplessness, followed by a haberdasher’s outfitting of a complete

suit of armor, including visor and lance. Absent these preferred

precautions, the intrepid aspirant should be fortified by one of these

two basic training programs: either a Journalism Degree, followed by two

years in the trenches as a junior investment analyst or money manager;

or an MBA, followed by two years of even tougher grounding as a junior

reporter for a business publication. Either combination should

sufficiently muddle one’s sanity .

JOE FISHER - Burson-Marsteller, New York

An IR officer with a finance background and without communications

skills is a bottle of fine maple syrup that cannot pour. Both are

necessary, because IR as practiced today is an integral part of PR. It

requires only a minimum of training in finance or communications to

provide investors with quarterly results. But only a talented IR officer

can anticipate questions and explain the story behind the numbers. Our

research indicates that the analyst community hungers for the clear

articulation of the connection between corporate strategy and present

reality. That is why a balance between financial understanding and

communications techniques is essential

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