CFOs from four REITs discussed the different paths people take to reach the CFO role, what the C-suite looks for in a successful investor relations program, and advice for professionals aspiring to become CFOs during a panel at Nareit’s 2021 REIT Investor Relations Symposium.
Nareit partnered with the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) for the fourth year to host the annual event, held one day prior to REITweek: 2021 Investor Conference. Mark Langer, executive vice president and CFO at Urban Edge Properties (NYSE: UE), moderated the panel, and he was joined by:
• Laura Clark, CFO, Rexford Industrial Realty, Inc. (NYSE: REXR)
• Michelle Ngo, SVP, CFO & Treasurer, Kilroy Realty Corporation (NYSE: KRC)
• Barbara Pak, EVP, CFO, Essex Property Trust (NYSE: ESS)
Langer began by asking the speakers what skill set they believe is important for an IR professional. Pak said they need to be good with people, have a strategic mindset, strong analytical skills, and good with numbers.
According to Ngo, the best way to develop that strategic mindset is knowing the nuts and bolts of your business. “Knowing the drivers, monitoring and extrapolating trends, keeping a pulse on macro-drivers and M&A activities” are all crucial to succeeding in IR.
The panel also discussed the importance of transparency in an IR program.
“As an IR professional, our job is to provide transparency, but in a user-friendly format,” said Clark. She cautioned against providing investors with an overabundance of unanalyzed information. “Sometimes, too much transparency can be cumbersome if investors cannot understand it. You have to communicate the takeaways effectively.”
Pak agreed with the importance of curating information and added that the information important to investors changes. “The pandemic changed the way we think about disclosures. Things that were not important suddenly were very important and material.” She mentioned investors are now requesting ESG disclosures, something that rarely happened before COVID-19.
Langer agreed, “My first email today was an ESG question from an investor. A few years ago, that never would have happened.”
All three of the panelists began their careers in IR and now serve as their company’s CFO and when asked what advice they would give to young professionals hoping to follow that career path, Clark said, “Always stay curious and ask yourself, ‘what are we missing?’ and ‘what could we be doing differently?’.”