By Emily Blum
Financial Communications is one of the fastest-growing communications specializations, yet many are unfamiliar with its important communication function. At its core, its goal is to communicate a company’s or organization’s valuation and financial story to members of the investment community and the public in general. Many hear the words “finance” or “investors” and immediately become overwhelmed and shy away from anything stemming from these concepts. However, as society continues to develop and sectors converge into one, the need for transparency between financial professionals and the public has only gained importance.
To keep up with this trend, the S.I. Newhouse School of Communication has developed the Financial and Investor Communications Emphasis (FICE) Program to prepare students for the dynamic work environment that they will soon be entering. As one of the students currently in the program, I was fortunate enough to attend the program’s annual benchmark trip earlier this month. Even though it was virtual, my fellow students and I were still able to hear from various leading financial communications companies and network with talented professionals within the field. After two successful days, I was able to reflect on this trip and the impact that it will have on my future career. This was such an enriching experience and I have provided some of the key takeaways from the trip below.
1. Take Advantage of Every Opportunity That you are Given
Most of the companies that spoke to us had at least one Newhouse alum who led the discussion. This does not take into account the many other alumni who work at these companies, a fact that was reinforced by almost all of the head of human resources on the calls. Each made it a point to explain the extremely qualified and experienced talent that comes from Newhouse. This made me realize two things. The first being that, as Newhouse students, we are more than capable of delivering high-quality work and excelling at whatever we decide to pursue. Secondly, it also stressed the importance of networking. I am sure we are all more than aware of the Syracuse and Newhouse networks that exist, so it is up to us to utilize them. It also made me realize that the professors and other professionals that we have access to every day are unmatched. Every departments’ professors and staff members are the best of the best and they can be a very valuable tool in navigating the industry and just great people to have in your corner. This is something that must not be overlooked.
2. Key Trends Impacting Financial Communications
Just like any other industry, financial communications has been greatly impacted by the events of this past year. This has led ESG to grow into the important role that it currently plays. ESG stands for environmental, social and corporate governance. While it shares many of the same concepts as corporate social responsibility, it takes all of those factors and measures the sustainability and social impact of an investment in a company or business. Therefore, it focuses on “non-financial” performance indicators to help determine the financial performance of the company. This is then of course taken into consideration when it comes time for investors to make the buy/sell decision regarding the company’s stock.
These indicators include how companies have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and racial equality movements that took place over the summer. In terms of the pandemic, many companies have turned to financial communications for help with communicating the company’s outlook to the employees. This includes everything from explaining expected return dates to the office, communicating with furloughed employees and then sharing this information with the financial community and key stakeholders. As society has shifted to this “new normal”, financial communications have also shifted to meet these new demands.
Another indicator relates to the current racial climate. Even before the racial injustices that took place over the summer, many companies had already taken the initiative to create robust diversity and inclusion programs. However, now the focus shifts towards how a company communicates these efforts. A company can lay out an extensive diversity and inclusion plan but if there are no actions to implement it into daily life, it really does not mean much. AXIS Capital, one of the companies that spoke with us, explained that ESG is a balance between moving the needle towards both the company’s goals and the activities currently impacting society. If there is no correlation between the two, the true value behind it is lost. This aspect of financial communications is not going anywhere, so it is important that whatever is communicated with the public is transparent, meaningful and, most importantly, authentic to stick in investors’ minds.
3. Various Avenues Within Financial Communications
I also learned that the opportunities within the financial communications industry are endless. The field of financial communications encompasses everything from investor relations to business journalism and everything in between. There are so many different areas to tap into and this was showcased through the many different companies that my peers and I were able to hear from. We went from hearing from Liz Claman of The Claman Countdown on Fox News Business to learning about private equities with TPG Capital. This dynamic provides a very welcoming environment for students to enter when looking for post-graduation opportunities. Personally, this is something that immediately drew me to the career because I want to work in a space that deals with something new every day. Each company explained a different perspective of the profession which left me excited for what is yet to come!
4. Tips When Tackling the Job Search
As with any networking event, one topic that was constantly brought up revolved around navigating the job search process. Something that I found to be extremely interesting was hearing from the junior-level staff to gain insight into their experiences and how they landed their first jobs out of graduation. With the current work from home environment, it was reassuring to hear that they were not only successful in finding a job but that the on-boarding process was not overlooked. If anything, they explained that it was actually enhanced to ensure that they felt part of the team even if it was through a computer screen.
One major piece of advice given was to stay abreast of the news and happenings within society. This is something that is ingrained in us all from day one at Newhouse, so I was not surprised to hear this from the companies that we “visited.” From a financial communications standpoint, it is important to stay informed on current financial happenings and their relation to the trends currently impacting society as well. For example, understanding the impact that the pandemic has had on the stock market or how the current state of the market has forced private companies to re-think the traditional routes to becoming a public company. Of course, it also important to keep up to date with news about the company’s clients and the type of work that they are currently pursuing to give yourself an edge during interviews. Doing so allows your communication and media skills to shine through at all stages of the job search process.
5. Believe in Yourself
Hearing from these companies solidified that this is a career path that I want to pursue. As I enter my last semester of college, I find myself overwhelmed with what the future has in store for me. We are all facing unprecedented challenges and levels of change which only adds to the pressure that any senior normally feels. However, this trip provided me with an opportunity to focus on ways to allow myself to stick out during this process. All of the individuals who spoke reinforced that, at the end of the day, being confident in yourself will take you the distance. Yes, the technical skills are important; but, it is these personal skills that will set you apart from others. Having a sense of confidence and positivity will be seen throughout the interview process and allow for a much more comfortable process overall. The same goes for working hard and putting your best foot forward with whatever you are undertaking. Some of the best advice I received from this trip came from Liz Claman of Fox News Business. She explained that once you get to the top and where you dreamed of being, you’ll quickly realize that it is not always full of the best. Instead, you will see those who believed in themselves. This is important to keep in mind with whatever goal you are tackling. If you can master this, everything else will fall into place. This left me feeling confident in myself, my future goals and eager to take on my last semester of college!
If you have any questions about financial communications, the FICE Program or anything else that I have touched on please do not hesitate to reach out to me! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on LinkedIn!