A career in Investor Relations: Could it be for you?

Subtitle

Helpful and detailed insight from an Investor Relations Manager in a leading Private Equity Fund. 

Investor Relations

Georgie Banfield

Historically, Investor Relations has been viewed as a side-function within investment firms, with the role geared towards simply keeping the investors happy and the core business-focus being on the investing itself.  However, in recent years there has been a realisation that maintaining relationships with investors is fundamental to the successful running of the fund, because of course, without capital there is nothing to invest.  But investors are also becoming much more hands-on with the running of the funds and generally more demanding with the level of information they require.  As such, we are seeing a tremendous increase in hiring within Investor Relations across the Private Equity industry. 

We spoke to an Investor Relations Manager in a leading Private Equity fund to discuss all aspects of the role; from which backgrounds suit this career path, what the role looks like, how the nuances differ across funds, and how to successfully forge a long-term career in this field.  If you are curious about a career in Investor Relations and whether it might be something that would suit you, this interview provides excellent insight. 

What kinds of backgrounds do you see people moving into Investor Relations from and why do they tend to make the move?

Increasingly we see people from Big 4 and Investment Banking roles moving into Investor Relations. 

"...in recent years there has been a realisation that maintaining relationships with investors is fundamental to the successful running of the fund"

These are usually people who have had a change of heart over 3 or 4 years; they’ve had the technical training and realise a career in banking isn’t for them and now want to do something more commercial and client facing.  Indeed, some of the work can be quite similar – say you are working on something in fund raising or diligence for investors, actually you’re doing quite a lot of modelling analysis or pulling together responses as you would in a banking / accounting / consultancy-type role.  But at the same time you’re selling the product and selling the firm so you must have more of a commercial angle too.  You’re creating the messaging as well as representing the firm so it’s for people who want that commercial edge and perhaps be slightly more salesy but still maintain those technical skills. 

Then on the flip side I think there are people who want to step away from that technical aspect and maybe just want to go into distribution roles.  This is where you are a product expert or maybe an expert on a certain strategy and you go out and talk to the market about it.

What advice would you give to candidates looking to move into investor relations?

Be aware that in investor relations there is a huge spectrum of roles with different responsibilities.  For example, generally in a small firm you’ll do a bit of everything, and in a large firm you will tend to specialise.  Ask yourself, do you want to be a product specialist?  It really depends on each firm in terms of how they structure the team and the roles etc.  So do your research; that will give you a wide scope to figure out what you want to do and also find the right place for yourself. 

"Be aware that in investor relations there is a huge spectrum of roles with different responsibilities."

You mentioned the huge spectrum of roles within IR.  Can you elaborate please?

There are three buckets of roles within IR:

1) Investor services:  This is very much comparable to customer success-type roles.  Here you will be mainly responding to queries.  Big funds have a huge investor base and can ask all sorts of questions at any time.  These span from “what’s the latest investment you’ve done?” to “what tax returns do I need to file for my commitment”.  It’s very much more of the reactive side and maintaining relationships with investors to ensure they have everything they need.

2) Investor relations per se: This is where you will be attending AGM’s, giving regular updates, doing the investor reporting; essentially all the ongoing communication with investors.  The way I see it is that you are acting as that middle-man between the investor and investment team and passing on that info, building that relationship of trust and ensuring you’re doing what you promised you would do.

3) Fund raising:  This role is purely focussing on bringing capital into the fund.  Here you can be a salesperson – talking to investors and trying build new relationships or project management where you ensure the fund raise is progressing.  In this role you can be doing diligence for investors, they ask you lots of questions about the firm and the fund and you are the person responding to them and putting them through the onboarding process

"There are three buckets of roles within IR: 1) Investor Services... 2) Investor Relations per se...and 3) Fund Raising"

In some firms you will end up doing everything, especially a small fund or a growing fund – you’ll get stuck in and maybe do fundraising and project management but when you’ve finished your fund raise you’ll move into more of an investor services role for the next couple of years.  In larger firms you do end up specialising and having a more specific sets of responsibilities.  For example you’ll have someone who is fully dedicated to project management, someone who is completely focussed on the investor services side of things etc.  So it really depends on the approach the firm takes and also the size.

You work at a large global Private Equity fund.  What does your day-to-day look like?

My role is a combination of lots of cyclical things, for example working on the AGM’s and the LP advisory meetings, producing all kinds of meeting materials, quarterly reporting etc.  There’s a lot of material I work on regularly and I know when something is coming up so I can plan ahead.  On the other hand, I work on a lot of ad hoc stuff that comes up too, like investor communications – for example when our deal teams complete a transaction, I’ll write to our investors to make sure they get an update. 

"...every day is a little bit different"

There are all kinds of things that happen in our funds which I work on too so I’ll either pass that on internally or organise the broader communications.  So every day is a little bit different but I think IR has a lot of structure to it so you generally know what time in a year things are happening so you can plan ahead.  Of course the hours can be long when you’re working on a big project or the AGM, but on the whole you can plan ahead. 

How does Investor Relations compare to a role in IB or the Investing teams?

IR tends to be more predictable on an annual cycle compared to working in IB or in the deal teams – there is more structure and you can figure out your work life balance.  The most unpredictable time I would say is during fund raising.  If you are a distribution person there is a lot of travel involved – so thinking about working mums its hard, and historically you do see lots more men working here.  In a smaller firm you might have a placement agent that could help you with that.  On the whole it gives you a lot more scope to plan ahead and maintain the work life balance. 

What are the softer skills that are required for a career in IR?

You need to be open to having quite a broad role and having that ability to take on lots of tasks and being able to switch from one thing to the next easily.  Although some projects are quite long term you need to be able to tackle a few different things every day and be highly organised.

"We are an aggregate of information across the firm and the investors."

You also need to be agile and able to adapt to changing situations quickly.  For example, if you’re in an investor meeting and its not going the way you were hoping then you need to be quick on your feet and be able to adjust your sales pitch, alter your arguments and be well educated on the funds.  The IR team only works if everyone is communicating and letting each other know what’s going on.  We are an aggregate of information across the firm and the investors - we can have all the information about the firm, deals and strategy but unless we know what the investors are looking for, we can’t present it in the right way.  It’s very much like a communications role and we need to be able to update each other quickly, give feedback, and adapt.  Adaptability and communication stand out to me as the most important softer skills.

What attracted you personally to a career in IR?

For me it was the fact that the role combines the technical aspect of really needing to know everything about the strategy you are selling and the product you have, with that soft side of being client facing, representing the firm and being commercial.  I didn’t want to be an investment professional – basically I didn’t want to make the decisions, but I did want to talk about them!  You need to be naturally quite chatty and interested and it’s that middle ground between a “salsey” role and technical. 

What do you view the keys are to being successful and forging a long-term career within IR?

You have to be determined; you can’t be scared of failure.  10 investors will decline for every one that commits to your fund, and you have to be ready to accept that.  I think you have to be agile and creative – you always have to find solutions.  The market is changing, the way investors allocate is changing, the way regulation impacts you is changing, so you have to be open to embracing that change and being creative.  For example, you need to be able to ask yourself, if a LP’s allocation strategy changed how can we fit into that, how can we structure our funds to suit the market? 

"10 investors will decline for every one that commits to your fund, and you have to be ready to accept that."

So it’s not about repeating what you’ve done in the past it’s about how you adapt your product and your sales pitch to whatever is happening in the market.

What are the challenges and frustrations of working within IR?

The main frustration is we are not the investment team so whatever we are selling is dependent on the rest of the firm, so you’re not actually the main decision maker, you’re just representing.  Sometimes when you don’t agree with something or think a particular investment wasn’t great, there’s nothing you can do about it.  You can spin the story, you can create the narrative, you can come up with lots of things to do! 

And finally, what do you love about Investor Relations?

For me it’s the investor meetings – when you enter into the meeting and you’re really well prepared for a pitch, you really know the product and you’re really excited to sell it.  And likewise the big investor days – I always look forward to the AGM’s.

"On a regular day I end up speaking to people from all kinds of teams from all levels of seniority which doesn’t always happen in any other team in the firm"

On a more personal level, my position sits in the middle of everything, so I need to know everyone in all the teams so I’m very central and that’s what I really like.  On a regular day I end up speaking to people from all kinds of teams from all levels of seniority which doesn’t always happen in any other team in the firm.