In a changing world, telling your story remains a constant

After being a Board member of the NEVIR for the maximum term of six years, our Managing Director Uneke Dekkers passes the baton. Continue reading her views on developments in Investor Relations in a changing world.

Sadly, this will be my last blog as a Board member of the NEVIR. After having served the maximum term of six years, I will stand down at the upcoming General Meeting on 24 June. I started my career at CFF Communications some twenty years ago, when the agency, NEVIR and Investor Relations as a profession were in its early years.

And although change is a constant in our profession, it feels like the changes I have seen during my tenure as a board member have been more far-reaching than ever before, with the rise of index investors, the introduction of new legislation such as MiFID II, the new Dutch corporate governance code, the discussion about the desirability of quarterly updates and pressure from society and investors on companies to be more transparent about and take more responsibility for their societal impact. Of course we still see shareholders that are mostly interested in dividend and stock price appreciation, but many have become increasingly vocal about a company’s record when it comes to societal contributions, ethical behaviour, moderation in executive remuneration and diverse workforces and boardrooms. A good example of this is the rebukes of management at the most recent round of AGM’s by withholding discharge over the year 2018. Fortunately for these companies, this is largely of symbolic value. Nevertheless, this development suggests that shareholders are asserting their role and responsibility as a firm’s owner.

A report by Willis Tower Watson concludes that some of the largest asset managers are still figuring out the best way to play their role as stewards of their investments. While the conclusion of this development remains to be seen, many of us are familiar with how activist investors play their public roles. They often chase different objectives – compared to the asset managers with a longer term perspective – and do so much more vocally, supported by well-timed appearances in the media. And whether we like it or not, in all circumstances it is the role of boards and IROs to engage with all of them and tell their stories.

And telling their stories remains top priority for all Investor Relations professionals. Listening, taking advice and feedback and developing a story that does right to the company and resonates with the audience. The biggest change in all of this is that the Investor Relations department is no longer an island within the company. Although still very much a specialism and a true profession, even more so than twenty years ago, the interaction with all the other disciplines within the company has grown tremendously. Whether companies put their shareholders as number one, or adopt a multi-stakeholder approach, the necessity to convince a diverse group of stakeholders of your strategy and commit them to your company is certainly one thing that is here to stay. And even though I am saying goodbye in the capacity as a board member, I look forward to continue discussing the challenges we face in doing so in many more NEVIR events to come!

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