Rising Star 2011: where is Allaire Lyons today?
With proxy season in full swing, Corporate Secretary is launching a new series of articles that will focus on a particular category or other aspect of our annual Corporate Governance Awards, to be presented in great style at a gala awards dinner this fall. As we accept nominations for the ninth Corporate Governance awards we hope to inform readers with stories of the kinds of achievements our judges are looking for in each of the 14 award categories, and inspire them with tales of what past winners have gone on to accomplish.
Corporate Secretary recently interviewed Monique Allaire Lyons, winner of the Rising Star award in 2011 for her role, as director of investor relations, in a proxy solicitation campaign by AVEO Pharmaceuticals. At the time, AVEO was engaging its shareholders on the extension of its options pool and matters regarding some board members and new candidates for its senior management team. After the award, Lyons spent two more years at AVEO, and then joined Pure Communications as vice president of investor relations and financial communications. Last September, she started her own company, THRUST IR, serving clients ranging from $200 million to about $1 billion in market cap and at various stages of development within the biotechnology industry.
Corporate Secretary: What opportunities did you have to expand your skills and responsibility at AVEO after winning the Rising Star award?
Monique Allaire Lyons: One that probably had the greatest impact on my career since then was branching out from the narrow understanding that people have of IR – of its being a wholly communications-driven function. This was nice because it recognized that a big portion of the job is to ensure SEC compliance and that we have good governing policies that are being adhered to. That recognition for me was not just doing communications well, but doing it under good corporate practice and compliance, which helped me to expand my career and position myself going forward.
CS: What were some ways that it manifested at AVEO?
AL: At AVEO, it got me a seat at the table, which is kind of unheard of in the IR industry. It’s often a function that has a seat at the management level but not often sits at the executive level. Around that time AVEO started to embrace both the importance of the role and my ability to function in it, That seat at the table is something I’ve been able to secure since then at every company I’ve been at. And now, in the position I’m in today, where I own and run my own company, and regularly meet with boards of directors, there’s a credibility that comes with that, that in fact also stems from the responsibility of being legally compliant.
CS: How did your position at Pure build on your responsibilities at AVEO?
AL: It was largely driven by what I was able to execute at AVEO. In part, I was hired at Pure to help build out their investor relations function. Prior to that, the company had been very focused on corporate communications and public and media relations, and was really exceptional in that. It enabled me to work with the founder and CEO of Pure, to build the whole functional area for Pure. One of the biggest differences between being in-house and being a consultant is when you’re in-house, you’re an inch wide and a mile deep in your knowledge base. You’re just focused on your company. As a consultant, you have to be a mile deep and a mile wide. You have to know everything about all of your clients, and that reached 40 or so clients that I was helping. So there’s a real expansion there – being able to juggle a lot of things at once and being able to go from a diagnostic company to a biotech company to a phase-three company really quickly, and a lot of that was what I learned at AVEO.
CS: How did you decide to start THRUST IR?
AL: Pure offered fully integrated services – IR, PR, digital communications, and design and creative work. But as I was thinking about my career, I decided it would be a good time to branch out to dedicate myself 100 percent to investor relations. That enables me to be even more enhanced at what I do, where I’m not weighing in unnecessarily on things that are outside my expertise. THRUST is just IR and financing advisory services.
I started THRUST in September 2015. [Being able to build a client base at THRUST] stems from the 12 years I spent prior to that, dedicated to understanding Wall Street, to partnering well with legal firms of all different sizes and really becoming integrated with how they work. For example, with financing, being a person who sits at the table during an IPO for my clients. I was at all the meetings, I helped write many of the legal documents or weighed in on those. That experience has translated really well to my clients at THRUST. We have a word-of-mouth client base. While we make sure people know who we are, all of our clients have approached us and sought out our services.
CS: Do you think there need to be more vehicles like the Rising Star award to open up opportunities for younger corporate governance professionals in their companies and the industry?
AL: It was an honor to get it. I was surprised and delighted and I’m very happy that I had the team around me for that award. There are a lot of rising stars out there, people who are very new to their career, and who are five to seven years in who [can benefit]. It’s amazing how that little bit of recognition just propels them forward. I think that’s what it did for me. It’s such an opportunity to do that for people, and nominating them is a critical first step.
Corporate Secretary is now accepting nominations for the ninth annual Corporate Governance Awards. If you would like to nominate your company or a client you work with in any of the 14 categories, please click here.