STAMFORD, Conn. -- As companies report their latest quarterly
earnings this month, the gift of gab is just not cutting it anymore.
Companies used to let PR people tell their stories to Wall
But as investors become more sophisticated, companies are finding
they need employees who can deal with them on an equal footing:
Investor relations professionals.
Put another way, blarney may be good -- but financial training is
Responding to the demand for more specialized corporate
communicators, the University of Connecticut recently offered its
first course on investor relations at its campus in Stamford, home
such corporate giants as Xerox, Pitney Bowes and Champion
The 10-session certificate program covered everything from how
investors price a firm's stock to the legal requirements for
"You're dealing with institutional investors who own large blocks
of stock through mutual funds and money managers, and they have a
great deal of savvy," said Charles Wessendorf, manager of investor
relations for Xerox.
"If you don't have the credibility to deal with these people, that
reflects badly on the company," he said.
UConn joined about a half dozen universities offering certificate
programs or graduate courses in investor relations, including
College in Waltham, Mass.; Fairleigh Dickinson, in Madison, N.J.;
the University of California at Irvine.
Investor relations, or IR as it is known in corporate-speak, has
been a corporate function for years, but it is only over the last
decade or so that is has come into its own as a profession.
Companies used to have their public relations or communications
staff handle the investor relations function. But today, most
companies have at least one full-time IR person, and some have
departments devoted to communicating with investors.
Investor relations specialists, who once merely had to be
articulate, today increasingly hold MBAs or at least have a strong
background in finance. Most report directly to the company's chief
financial officer and act as the primary company spokesperson to
investors and the news media during all-important earnings seasons.
"This really came about when the market in the mid- to late-'80s
became institutionalized," said Louis M. Thompson, president and
chief executive officer of the National Investor Relations
a professional association based in Vienna, Va. …