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Interview with Mark Oliphant
This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Oliphant, the Head of Communications at The International Stock Exchange (known as TISE – for those wondering, like I was, it’s pronounced like ‘ties’!).
TISE is based on the Channel Island of Guernsey with offices in Jersey and the Isle of Man but operates globally, making it a fascinating case study to hear about.
What is TISE?
Mark explains to me that TISE is an equity market for trading companies and investment vehicles both locally (in the Channel Islands and British Crown Dependencies) but also to the UK and further afield.
Mark explains that “predominantly the exchange at the moment is a debt market. We’re one of the leading stock exchanges in Europe for listing debt securities.”
In short, TISE, among other things, provides a way for organisations looking to raise money via bonds and loan notes to list these on the exchange.
Having a listing, Mark explained, is often a prerequisite when connecting with investors based in Europe who look for the “good governance and transparency that comes with a listing.”
Bonds and loan notes “is where the exchange has the majority of the business at the moment…but there is a push as part of the marketing around it not only to market the exchange for debt listing but also to grow that equity piece we’ve got…particularly small and medium-sized companies.”
Understanding the market
“The way we’re set up at the exchange is as two individual companies. One is the regulatory side of the exchange…the other is the commercial side of the business such as marketing and promotion.
“If you take the Netflix example (one of the firms with bonds listed with TISE)…they will sign off where they want to list their bonds, but they will do that in conjunction with a series of advisors.”
These advisors, Mark explains, could be lawyers, accountants, tax advisors and investment banks. These are typically based in London or further afield – much of TISE’s listings come via London in some way.
Listings are ultimately brought to market by a TISE listing member; locally (Channel Islands) law firms and administrators.
What becomes clear when speaking to Mark is that TISE has a relatively long list of target audience types and it’s a list that reaches from the firm’s home in Guernsey across the globe.
“We also have local regulators [and] local governments that we need to take into account with all of our communications.
“From a commercial perspective, we’re looking at influencing the trading members who bring the business directly to us to make sure that they’re acting as ambassadors on our behalf.”
Competing in the debt securities market
Mark also told me about who TISE is competing against in the debt securities market. “Our competitors will historically have been the Cayman Stock Exchange or the Bermuda Stock Exchange…but we’re also competing with the larger exchanges such as Euronext Dublin and Luxembourg Stock Exchange.
“Whilst there is a knowledge in the market about the exchange and people will come to you automatically to some degree, you’re also trying to win market share from competitors.”
How does TISE compete in the market? Mark explains that the stock exchange has regular member engagement initiatives; dialogue with members and intermediaries.
There’s also business development meetings and calls, industry events, networking and project-specific research.
“This year what we’ve done is work with Accenture to carry out a strategic review…where we undertook questionnaires of our members and onshore intermediaries as well as people who don’t know us.
“There was a market analysis section where we were looking at the market and services and the geographies…and broader ideas for where we may go in the future.”
Mark also stressed the importance of the value of the work TISE does: “cost is important…but it’s the perceived value from that and within that the importance of service delivery.”
Mark told me about TISE’s recent sponsorship of the cricket first test between England and Pakistan at Old Trafford over the summer. It was a brand initiative that seems to have been enabled by the COVID-19 pandemic and the opening of an opportunity because of less competition for the sponsorship slot than normal times would have seen.
Aside from brand campaigns, “we do a lot of bespoke meetings…that’s time-intensive but also very valuable to be speaking to important decision-makers in the listing process.
“We found that people have been very keen to speak and understand what’s happening in the market.”
“What we focus on at the moment is thought leadership, whether that’s through our own website, social media, our own newsletter or third-party media.”
Thought leadership, as is clear from speaking to Mark, is an important part of the organisation’s brand.
Aside from the everyday communications, Mark has been with the organisation during two rebrands over the course of a few years.
The organisation started life as the Channel Islands Stock Exchange before rebranding to the Channel Islands Securities Exchange in 2015. This ‘rebrand’ was “less around the name change and more around the brand,” Mark explains.
“We wanted to reflect the nature of the business that we actually have at the exchange…we needed to reflect the change in the culture of the organisation…we held internal stakeholder sessions about understanding the value and culture we aspired to put in place.”
After the initial rebrand, the organisation eventually renamed to TISE, less of a wholesale rebrand, more of a rename, as Mark explained to me.
Advice for people in communications
We ended the interview, as I often do, with a question about what advice Mark would give to people entering the industry.
“Having a reason behind doing what you’re doing” was Mark’s primary piece of advice; it’s clear that understanding the context behind what you do is so important.
Mark also provided another piece of advice; “some of the best training sessions that I’ve done is actually speaking to other people who are doing the same sessions and hearing their experiences.”
Speaking to your industry peers can often lead to ‘ah-ha’ moments, and Mark stressed the importance of speaking to others.
Thanks again to Mark for taking part in the interview!