Dec 06, 2016

The IRO as CCIO (Chief Competitive Intelligence Officer)

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As the pace of transformation across almost every sector continues at an unprecedented rate, the prerequisite to make sense of developments and gain perspective on what’s next has never been more important.

Investor relations departments, positioned among the most strategically important flows of information, have a unique opportunity to execute this imperative role by focusing competitive intelligence gathering with an eye to its effectiveness, efficiency and strategic impact.

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Certainly, IROs have always been denizens of the capital markets competitive intelligence, due to intelligence portals such as Bloomberg and ThomsonOne as well as the 13-F data so smartly served by firms like Ipreo.

Greg Secord, vice president of investor relations at Ontario-based software company OpenText Corp, takes a collaborative approach to competitive intelligence that extends the company’s reach and understanding and keeps him on top of trends he might not otherwise be aware of when talking with analysts and investors.

Strategic impact is why Secord argues IR is the natural home for competitive intelligence. Within his four-person group, he has one analyst responsible for monitoring the news stream across the Bloomberg terminal on behalf of the entire company. Because this responsibility resides within IR, his group can do more than just distribute data. By continuously monitoring what competitors are telling investors and how the financial markets perceive competitive positioning across the industry, his group is in a unique position to add strategic context. ‘We are so tied in to corporate strategy, we can identify if something changes that may be close to our strategy or may be completely different,’ he says. While it may be a subtle difference, Secord argues that the ability to add context is ‘important at the highest level ‒ that’s how you take the noise out.’

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Thinking outside the (Bloomberg) box:

Monitoring social media such as Twitter or StockTwits may rank as a low priority with most IR teams, it is a source closely monitored by marketing departments, particularly in consumer-oriented industries.

Estelle Métayer, principal and founder of competitive and strategic intelligence firm Competia, thinks IROs ignoring social media may be inadvertently creating vulnerabilities. ‘The Fidelitys and BlackRocks of this world are very vocal online,’ she points out. ‘Who is listening to that in a company?’ Digitally savvy directors will be monitoring it themselves and expecting the company to be on top of social media chatter, she argues. ‘IR could play a really great role here…providing intelligence to the board that would be new and striking. I’m not talking about sharing individual tweets, but [rather] the analysis on sentiment, and which parts of the world favor your company or not.’

Métayer says that insight could be useful, especially in preparing for the annual shareholder meeting, where a social media discussion might provide an early warning on hot-button topics that otherwise might catch management by surprise. When monitoring shareholder sentiment, ‘Twitter is useful and Facebook is picking up rapidly,’ she adds.

Call it competitive intelligence, market intelligence, media monitoring or something else, a successful intelligence gathering function shares a few common characteristics that translate into effectiveness, efficiency and strategic importance. Read our full whitepaper to explore the evolving role of IR in competitive intelligence and how some industry thought-leaders across are taking it on as part of the IR mandate.

Author Bradley H. Smith is Director of Marketing, Investor Relations and Compliance Services at PR Newswire and Vintage.

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