Thursday, August 16, 2012

My morning at the New York Stock Exchange: The culmination of my summer internship at Gregory FCA and learning to be an IRO

Posted by Joe Hassett
STREET SMARTS: One of our summer
junior associates, Rob Kay, at the NYSE
Rob Kay was one of our junior associates this summer who worked closely with me. We went to the New York Stock Exchange this week, and I asked him to pen some thoughts on his experience at the NYSE and Gregory FCA. Here's what he shared.



The visitor gallery of the New York Stock Exchange has been closed for a little over a decade. Outside of it, dozens of tourists take pictures of the Corinthian columns, the giant United States flag, and the rest of the beautiful fa├žade of the world's largest stock exchange. Security both inside and out rigorously watch the building, which has an index encompassing 61 percent of the total market capitalization of all publicly traded companies around the globe. Being inside a place of such significance, I had to remind myself of why I was there, and how I reached that point.

When I first started at Gregory FCA, I viewed my internship as a little bit of an uphill battle. I was joining a highly successful, multi-tier PR firm on the investor relations side. Upon beginning my internship, I quickly found out that I didn't have much time for hesitancy, because there was too much to do and little to no room for error. I sat in on a client preparing for an earnings report, edited and prepared a conference call, and worked extensively on a 13F report, all in my first week.

In IR, everything must be done with a sense of urgency, and the smallest of errors can prove fatal for the client and the IRO who made the mistake. Institutions and investors, along with the organizations that overlook financial statements, require the information presented to be exact. Consequently, the organization plays a pivotal role in investor relations, along with a domain expertise in each field associated with a client.

Much of the work in investor relations tends to be behind the scenes. If you think about the responsibilities of a normal intern, transparency isn't usually viewed as a good thing. However, in the case of an IR intern, it happens to be the name of the game. As my team leader once compared IROs to baseball umpires, IROs are only recognized when they mess up. It's not easy, considering they assume the role of facilitators, accountants, liaisons, and more.

Clients have very specific needs and expect things to be done in a timely manner. That's the nature of both the PR and IR industries. However, this past week I was lucky that one of our clients' needs was to prepare them for their first Investor Day (a time when a company can explain in detail who it is and where it is headed). The location of their Investor Day? The New York Stock Exchange, the IR equivalent to what St. Andrews is to golf, the White House is to politicians, or what Disney World is for Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks.

Once we finally made it through the two security check points, it began to sink in where I was standing. The pictures and videos on the wall showed the history of one of the world's most important landmarks. We were escorted to the floor of the main dining hall to see how the presenting room would be set up for our client's event.

Eventually, we were brought down to the floor, where computer screens and TV monitors replaced my preconceived notion of a stock exchange -- a chaotic place with traders screaming and yelling at one another. I walked by the live set of "Squawk on the Street," saw another client's name flash across the giant stock ticker, and watched as billions of dollars were traded right before my eyes. It was overwhelming at first, and surely an image that I won't soon forget.

To say I learned a lot this summer would be a gross understatement. Simply put, there needs to be a Rosetta Stone: IR Edition. There are days when I feel like I've absorbed a semester's worth of finance or economics. I have learned about how to work for clients, become a reliable business professional, and most importantly, lessons in adulthood. As I get ready to graduate from college, I will have the experience of this summer as a tremendous resource. I have Gregory FCA to thank for all of those things.
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