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Fiona O’Nolan
Associate Director

A new way to develop your IR skillset

Robert Dann and Fiona O’Nolan reflect on a fruitful first year of the Society’s Mentoring Programme, and ask mentors and mentees to share their experiences.

Robert Dann is head of marketing and operations at The IR Society.

As we announced in the winter 2020/21 edition of Informed, our pilot of the IR Society Mentoring Programme, which has been designed in partnership with IR consultancy, Equitory, has been running since March and concludes this month. In this section we hear from three mentees and mentors, who share their individual experiences. The Mentoring Programme started in January with people interested in becoming mentors or mentees registering their interest and completing a short questionnaire to assist with the process of matching appropriate mentors and mentee pairs. The matching process took place throughout February and March and used criteria such as prior experience, areas of interest and specific goals to allow us to create suitable matches. Once the matches were made, the mentors were introduced to their mentees and the process began in earnest.

The programme comprised an introductory meeting, to confirm that the pair were compatible and to outline an individual development plan for the mentee, followed by a series of monthly meetings to monitor progress and came to an end at the end of September.

The Society will now gather feedback from all of the participants and use this to develop the programme for its first full year in 2022!

The articles on the following two pages give first-hand observations on the pilot programme and we would like to thank the authors for taking the time to share their experiences.

Whilst the pilot programme was open primarily to IR Society members working in in-house IR roles, we are delighted to announce that for the 2022 programme, all IR Society members are eligible to register as both mentors and mentees. If you would like to take part in the 2022 Mentoring Programme, please email with your name and contact details and we will keep you informed about when the application forms will be sent out. We expect the 2022 programme to follow a similar timetable to the pilot programme.

Finally, we would like to thank the team at Equitory for their help and support in running the pilot programme and look forward to working with them again in 2022!

The importance of human connection

Ronke Fadipe is corporate finance and investor relations manager at Moneysupermarket Group.

When I started my first IR role in February 2020, I was excited to transfer the skills gained from my time in investment banking and professional services, while also learning new skills and expanding my network as part of the new role. I was especially looking forward to joining the IR Society and building relationships with counterparts at other corporates.

Then, as we all know, the pandemic hit, and after only few weeks in the office, I, along with millions of others, moved exclusively to working at home almost overnight. As many IR professionals know, IR teams are notoriously small and working remotely has made having a supportive network even more important.

That’s why I jumped at the chance to take part in the inaugural IR Society mentoring programme, which launched earlier this year. But in all honesty, I did so with some trepidation. I’ve participated in mentorship in the past both as a mentee and mentor, and from these experiences I was well aware that they don’t always work out as planned. Sometimes both parties aren’t equally invested, other commitments can be prioritised and you can run out of content to discuss quite quickly.

That being said, I resolved to keep an open mind this time round. I was delighted to be matched with a mentor with extensive IR experience along with a similar background to me at a Big 4 firm and in the City.

An authentic connection
We met virtually for the first time in March this year and since then have met every few weeks. We covered a range of topics from the practical, day-to-day aspects of IR: investor conferences, annual report disclosures, results presentations. As well as more big picture areas like how to elevate and expand my role. Our sessions have been all-encompassing and we’re never short of topics to discuss. It’s been invaluable getting an external perspective on the challenges I’ve faced in IR and it’s allowed me to think deeper about how I take my career to the next level.

I’ve really enjoyed having a sounding board for all IR questions that aren’t so easy to find answers to (for example “When do you think you’ll do in-person roadshows?” or “How many times did you meet a new prospect before you introduced them to management?”).

I’ve attended lots of virtual IR events and webinars but the mentoring programme has been the first time I’ve built authentic connection with another IR professional. I’m looking forward to our first in-person meeting (hopefully by the time this article is published!) and I would like to thank my mentor for investing her time and expertise in the programme, it’s been a real pleasure getting to know her. Participating virtually has been a great way to develop our relationship and I’m confident it will last as we emerge into the new working world.

The past 18 months has brought professional and personal challenges, and for many it has re-emphasised the importance of human connection. As the inaugural mentoring programme draws to a close, I would highly recommend it to others seeking to grow their network, uncover fresh insight and develop their careers.

“ Participating virtually has been a great way to develop our relationship and I’m confident it will last as we emerge into the new working world ”

“Luck is where opportunity meets preparation”

Craig Marks is vice president, investor relations at Ipsen.

Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living – if you do it well, I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” You might think that was one of those quotes you see on LinkedIn, but it was in fact Denzel Washington, who provided the only other quote I’ve referenced for an Informed article, “Explain it to me like I’m a six-year-old”. There’s a theme here.

I’ve never had a formal mentor or taken part in any mentoring programme, so in trying to fully understand what it would look like, I felt like a goat trying to understand the concept of Norway; I really couldn’t get any grasp on it. It’s clear that nothing in life is worthwhile without taking risks, but when I was kindly asked by the team at the IR Society to join the new mentoring programme, I had no idea of how beneficial it was going to be, for the mentee or the mentor. What experience would matter? What format would this take? What could I offer? This was a first for the IR Society and we were all taking a big step into the unknown.

Independent advice
The team did an astonishing job to pull together the programme, their energy and thought meaning that everyone was fully briefed, that the programme had real structure and clarity and that people were matched in a meticulous and solicitous way. I teamed up with Gemma Terry at Pearson. Gemma is very adept at IR but has spent a relatively limited time in the profession. She was very keen to develop her skills and to use her clear talents to progress, but just wanted the benefit of some independent steers and tips. We catch up for an hour every month.

The outcome for me has been clear and obvious. Gemma, hopefully, gets the benefit of my experience. By delving into my 15 years in IR, I can help Gemma but I also help myself. The insight these sessions have given me are supported by the opportunity to finally step back, reflect and examine what’s gone right and what’s gone wrong. It’s amazing what little time we ever have to do this. Not only have I reflected to improve the IR operations at Ipsen; I’ve taken much of the best practice at Pearson, the tricks, the approaches and the curiosity to improve. The mentoring programme has been fabulous for the both of us and I’m grateful to Gemma and to the IR Society.

We’ll all have a development plan until we retire, but whether you’re in IR for the long or even the short haul, you can always benefit from some independent advice, from others’ experiences and different perspectives. So, when golden opportunities come up, experiences, advice, hard work and someone cheering you on will always be much more important than luck. “I say luck is when an opportunity comes along, and you’re prepared for it.” And that was from you know who.

Building an IR network

Charlotte Ayres is IR coordinator at Serco Group plc.

The application process was straightforward – a form to complete with aims of what I hoped to achieve from the scheme. In my case this was support around building a better work-life balance (as the lines had become blurred), career progress advice and expanding my IR network. I was matched with a head of IR who was a working mother, working four days a week like myself. We had a virtual ‘get to know each other’ coffee and set out some objectives. Catch-ups were scheduled every fortnight for the duration of the scheme and my mentorship was underway.

Learning from experiences
From my personal experience the IR role is hugely varied, but internally there are few, if any peers. I found it refreshing to talk to someone from outside my company and learn from their experiences. Although there were no hard and fast solutions, I found small and realistic steps to improve my work-life balance. I received some valuable career advice and could discuss career ideas and areas for growth and progression, thinking about my existing skills and where there were gaps in my skill-set that would require further learning or training. Hearing about someone else’s IR career choices and challenges helped me to think about and explore my own.

Expanded network
The final objective was networking. I am part of a small team so I was keen to grow my personal IR network and learn from the experience of others outside of Serco. Away from the office due to lockdown, at times I had felt a little lonely and solitary. I was still relatively new, having only started my role the year before, and COVID had stopped opportunities to connect with anyone in a similar IR role. Without meeting others at events, it was daunting to know where to start in the virtual world. My mentor thankfully had contacts and plenty of tips for growing my network. As my mentorship programme drew to an end, some email introductions were sent to a few others in similar roles to mine, and a small group was formed. We now catch up on a regular basis to exchange ideas and advice. I find it so helpful to get a view from another’s own personal experience. So far this has been virtual, but I look forward to meeting them soon in person, for coffee, lunch or a glass of wine. I may have had nothing to lose – but gained advice, support and whole new network from this scheme.