Sallie Mae believes education and life-long learning, in all forms, help people achieve great things. As the leader in private student lending, Sallie Mae provides financing and know-how to help make college happen and offer products and resources to help customers make new goals and experiences, beyond college, possible.
Brian Cronin is Vice President and Head of Investor Relations for Sallie Mae. In this role, he serves as the company’s liaison with equity and fixed income investors, security analysts, and the investment community, and he is responsible for providing them with insight into the company’s business strategies, financial condition, and operations.
After joining Sallie Mae in 2010, Brian worked on the marketing analytics and product development teams that launched and enhanced the Smart Option Student Loan®, Sallie Mae’s primary product. He assumed his investor relations responsibilities prior to the company’s successful transition in May 2014 into a stand-alone consumer banking business.
Brian has more than 20 years of financial services experience, including marketing, product development, and finance roles at MBNA America and JP Morgan Chase. He has degrees from Purdue University and the North Bennett Street School.
We spoke with Brian to get his insights on challenges facing IROs and the skills needed to be successful.
What are your top priorities and biggest challenges?
“Student Lending is always a hot topic politically, especially in an election year. Even though private student loans are a small piece of the overall student loan landscape, we spend a good deal of time helping investors and others understand the important role Sallie Mae plays in helping students and families finance their higher education.”
How long have you been in your role and how have you seen the role evolve in the past couple of years?
“I have been with Sallie Mae for 10 years and have been the Head of Investor Relations for the past 6 years. I took the role prior to the company spin in 2014. Since the spin, we are 3 times larger and my role has evolved and expanded with the growth. I have become more heavily involved in strategic and business development decisions over time.”
What is one important initiative that you have championed or experience that you’ve had as an IRO?
“As I mentioned, we spun the company in 2014. This was like an IPO. Since then we have established a dividend and share buyback program. We have raised unsecured debt and issued over $7 billion in ABS. I have been heavily involved in the investor efforts of these programs.”
What resources do you rely on to stay up to date on the capital markets?
“I have a great team that supports me. My public relations/corporate communications group is great at keeping me informed of things going on in the news. My government relations team is great keeping me informed what is going on in Washington. I rely heavily on many of the tools Nasdaq provides. The Equity Surveillance team is great. I also use Nasdaq IR Insight and Bloomberg daily.”
What advice do you have for the next generation of IRO?
“First, love the company you represent. There will be good days to celebrate, but there will be hard days when you must pick up the pieces. You must believe in the work you are doing. Secondly. Make the job personable. Return phone calls quickly and treat every investor equally. Lastly, surround yourself with a supportive team. This is a hard job. You must have a good support team at work and at home. You will spend a lot of time on the road, so having a good support system is important.”
What are the benefits you have seen from being a Nasdaq IR Solutions client? As a Nasdaq IR Solutions client, would you consider providing a testimonial or quote on the topic? If so, we would like to ask you about your experience:
“Nasdaq is a very important partner for me. I rely on their Surveillance team daily. We used their team for analysis when we initiated our dividend and buyback. Recently we used their services for a Perception Study, which was great. Next year we will begin using their Investor Targeting help. As you can see, they play an important role in my success.”