Professional IR qualification in SA

Have your say, should Investor Relations require a professional qualification?

Poll options follow.

In a 2019 survey conducted by Nel & Van der Spuy, supported by the IR Society in South Africa and the JSE, 35% of participants (largely made up of IR professionals from 48 JSE-listed companies) indicated that they would like to attend an IR course or workshop with 60% noting that they would be willing to pursue a formal IR qualification. This is hardly surprising as most IR professionals can attest to the fact that they have had to build up their skills largely through practical experience with some having the benefit of learning the trade under the mentorship of an experienced IRO.

Compared to the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) in the United States that offers the IRC (Investor Relations Charter) credential (a 4-hour exam consisting of 200 questions) and the UK IR Society that offers both a certificate and diploma in Investor Relations, the closest we have to a formal IR qualification in the South African context are short (typically one day) courses offered by the JSE. It is worth noting that where NIRI was founded in 1969 and the UK IR Society 1980, the Investor Relations Society of South Africa (IRSSA) was only established in late 2016.

Using the IR Competency Framework issued by NIRI as backdrop, a case can be made for a professional IR qualification in South Africa given the lack of many of these competencies (which include but are not limited to IR strategy formulation, corporate messaging development and investor marketing and outreach) in business related degrees currently offered. Professional qualifications in general are all regulated by some professional body, with members allowed to use a designation such as CA(SA) and require a minimum level of competence and experience which must be renewed on a regular basis through continuous professional development (CPD) activities. Finally, such qualifications generally place a high premium on ethics – on a personal, business and professional level - which is paramount in the field of investor relations where one is tasked with the fair and equal dissemination of information to stakeholders.

Nwabisa Piki – seasoned IR professional with 14 years’ experience and currently serving as Head of Investor Relations for Barloworld (former companies includes Old Mutual South Africa, Telkom, Sasol and Absa): “It is important that some formal certification and a level of a recognised competency exists for any profession, and in South Africa it would benefit the investor relations profession greatly if there is a common understanding of best practice and the crucial regulatory aspects of the role, which apply to our own Listings Requirements. This would help raise the importance of IR for corporates.”

Institutions like the IRSSA and the JSE can potentially play an important role as professional bodies endorsing a professional IR qualification, but much more research is needed before a business case can be made for academic institutions to consider adding yet another academic qualification to their existing academic offering. An alternative to a full-blown IR qualification may be an IR elective as part of business degrees as interim solution or offering piecemeal credits for short courses that accumulate towards a larger qualification.

Please complete the following six short questions at this link to help us learn more about your needs and what the IRSSA can do.