Christian Reuss, Head SIX Swiss Exchange, got the conference underway with his opening address, in which he talked about how SIX helps listed companies to deal with regulatory challenges and navigate industry trends.

Following an update from SIX Exchange Regulation (which also publishes all rules applicable from 2024 on its website), a panel discussion explored the question of how ESG ratings can influence investors’ decisions. The participants agreed that ESG ratings are now used by large-scale investors in particular as a criterion for deciding whether to even invest in a company. Standardised data plays a crucial role here, not least because corporate and sustainability reports are increasingly being analysed by automated means, especially with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).

The subsequent presentations on current geopolitical risks and macroeconomic developments provided detailed market analysis, before the St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences then introduced a study on the influence of ‘finfluencers’ in the DACH region, which comprises Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The study, conducted in collaboration with the Leipzig Graduate School of Management, IR club Schweiz and other partners, provided the first broadly supported scientific insights into what is still a largely unknown industry.

The panel on shareholder activism impressively demonstrated the diversity of potential criticism among shareholders and how they express it. This reality stands in stark contrast to the notion of a large, professional aggressor suddenly threatening a hostile takeover. These fascinating insights were followed by an equally interesting discussion on how artificial intelligence is shaping the future of investor relations. The opportunities and challenges identified in areas such as knowledge generation, content creation and problem-solving culminated in a clear message about AI: It’s time to start experimenting.

The two break-out sessions revisited issues that regularly form part of day-to-day operations in the area of IR: the question of how stock trading is evolving in the current fragmented world, as well as the broader issue of planning and implementing investor relations and measuring its success. The insightful one-day conference also provided plenty of opportunities for networking over lunch and during the breaks. Lorna Davie, President of IR club Schweiz, updated the attendees on the past and planned activities of her organisation, which represents the interests of the IR profession among listed companies in Switzerland.

In his engaging closing speech, IR headhunter Oskar Yasar highlighted the growing importance and recognition of investor relations managers. He underlined just how much their qualifications and skillsets have improved in recent decades, which has opened up entirely new career opportunities at the C-level. Similar sentiments were also expressed by Adrian Widmer, CFO of Sika, in an earlier conversation. Widmer believes that the field of IR is now much broader and deeper, and he particularly values the ability of IR managers to convey feedback from relevant stakeholders to the company.

The conference also provided the participants with ample opportunity to make new connections and share their knowledge and experiences. We look forward to welcoming our issuers again next year at the 18th Investor Relations Conference on 3 December 2024.

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