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Investor Relations Specialist

What They Do

Insider Info

Companies have reputations to maintain, and IR professionals try to help them do it. They are image builders. If a company has a tarnished reputation, the IR specialist hopes to make it better.

The IR specialist is hired by companies to pass along information about the company to the investors and to the media, keeping them abreast of good and bad news. They do this by creating annual reports, writing press releases, and communicating news about the company's profits.

In a way, IR specialists are the bridge in and the bridge out of a company. The company gatekeeper is the IR specialist.

According to the National Investor Relations Institute, investor relations was born as a way to communicate with investors, with the Wall Street firms who served them and with the financial press. IR specialists also need to convey back to management the interests and concerns of the people who buy stock.

Building and maintaining positive relationships is very important to the success of a company, says Jay Gould. He is the director of IR at a financial services company in Chicago. Through these relationships, company management is made aware of what investors expect of them and also what their competition is doing.

Alex Singal is an IR director in Nashville. She says those interested in the field should be articulate. You need to retell the company story over and over, she says. You need to sell the company to people thinking of investing in it.

Math skills are also valuable, says Mary Blair, a member of an investor relations institute. But it doesn't always help just to be good in math and communications, although it would give you a head start. You must also become familiar with the buzzwords of the industry you are working in. For example, Gould knows "bank talk."

Gould says the Internet has provided many shortcuts to daily research that are essential to being an IR professional. For example, it's easier to search online publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, for your company's name. The Internet edition is also published the night before the print edition. This gives Gould a head start if he sees his company mentioned anywhere.

Speaking of the Internet, more companies are going public -- that is, issuing stock the public can buy. This event is called an initial public offering, or IPO. Once a company completes an IPO, it has a much greater need to communicate with the outside world. And IR specialists are the people to do that.

Most IR specialists work in a small department within a corporation. The corporation can be a bank, a restaurant or a technology company, for example.

As director of his department, Gould manages three IR specialists and one administrative assistant. However, he says, his is a large corporation. Usually, you will find just one person working in an IR department.

IR specialists spend time with management in meetings and also travel extensively. Gould and Singal spend about 25 to 30 percent of their time traveling. Each of them admits to long hours, but they're paid well, too. The day normally starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 7 p.m.

Not only are they compensated with salary, but also with stock and bonuses, which can be half of their compensation, says Gould. The reason for giving out stock is that the company wants you to think like a shareholder, he says.

Besides this, an IR person must have thick skin and energy, says Gould. That's because you are dealing with an industry made of powerful people with big egos and with an industry that doesn't say good night.

Although much of what an IR professional does is considered public relations, IR specialists loathe this term, says Gould. The job of IR is more than just image building. It is closely related to investments and the economy.

However, since the profession just began to come into its own about 20 years ago, IR specialists are still lumped with public relations professionals.

At a Glance

Be the info link between shareholders and management

  • Communication skills will be your main asset in this field
  • You need thick skin and lots of energy
  • Courses in finance and public relations are important