Data & Analytics Insights

IFR: the first 50 years

Mahmoud Khliefat

Head of Corporate Finance & Primary Capital Markets

The remarkable story of a specialist financial journal that became a bible for generations of investment bankers across half a century. Its secret? Not speculation or sensation… but consistency, accuracy and journalistic integrity.   

In the Spring of 1974, Christian Hemain, the London correspondent of a French financial newspaper, signed his name at the bottom of a new journal, which he called “Agefi Bondletter”.

What it lacked in brand power (particularly among its bemused Anglo-Saxon readers) it more than made up for in content and style. This new publication reported on Eurobonds before they came to market in great detail and even greater accuracy.

The grassroots popularity of the newsletter was almost instant, and within a few years, the newly independent journal had adopted the name that would become a mainstay of the global capital markets into the next century: IFR, the International Financing Review.

The early editions, dictated on to an electric typewriter, signed, sealed and taken to the Continent in a Mercedes, reported turnover on Euroclear in the region of $150 million. Fifty years later, the figure is nearer $20 trillion. And yet, despite the huge growth in size and complexity of the world’s capital markets, the ethos and approach of IFR have not changed. Then, as now, IFR provides detailed and trustworthy intelligence and information that investment bankers and other market participants rely on to structure, price and transact. From the very start, and consistently throughout half a century, IFR offered more than just news. Its editorial commitment to accuracy meant that its reports constituted actionable insights.

For such a focused financial journal to have survived for so long is unusual enough. But to survive with the same essential value proposition suggests it is fulfilling a fundamental need in any market striving for efficiency: that of the dissemination of reliable accurate information, on which critical pricing, allocation and investment decisions can be based.

Consistency doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves, but how few resist the temptations of novelty that give rise to endless cycles of booms, busts, crises, regulation, deregulation or their equivalent in the media world: bias, hype, click-bait and sensation. Through all this, IFR has never lost sight of its raison d’être and value to its readers, all under-pinned by editorial standards and an unwavering commitment to accuracy.

Beyond the daily reporting on deals and market activity, IFR has also been at the forefront of ensuring that the financial success of the industry could be harnessed for the broader good. For nearly three decades, IFR has partnered with Save the Children, for whose good cause it has raised more than £32m allowing swift and effective response to crises that affect children across the world.

Naturally, IFR has evolved with the times, both in terms of its coverage and reach, and of course new digital formats. Barclays’ EMEA chairman of capital markets recalls one of his tasks as an intern at Citigroup photocopying IFR for circulation. Today, IFR delivers its content over the web, through Workspace and via feeds. Future industry-leaders may one day nostalgically recall the first time a super-AI suggested IFR to them as an unimpeachable source of insight.

While the drive to innovate and ensure IFR’s delivery remains relevant to users and their workflows, the staying power of IFR is more a testament to its voice, its conscience and its founding principles: those of expert and honest journalism. As the current editor, Matthew Davies, says, “The journalism is the journalism. That won’t change.”

As IFR celebrates a truly remarkable milestone, today’s team, including its expert editorial staff and all the dedicated professionals involved in its success, are mindful of the legacy of which they are the current stewards. It is thanks to their effort and commitment that we can look forward to another 50 years of that iconic yellow cover, to another 50 years of equipping our readers with insights to make smarter decisions for a brighter tomorrow.

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