It was with some trepidation that the conference committee decided to revert to an in-person conference after the challenges of the last year. So, it was enormously gratifying to see over 130 registered, only 10% down on pre-Covid numbers. We had lined up an excellent selection of speakers to reward the delegates and so it proved!
Our President, Paul Davies of James Cowper Kreston provided a summary of the TMA’s work since the start of the pandemic and his vision of bringing the UK Chapter closer to TMA Global. The year has included networking events with TMA Chapters in Toronto, Chicago, New York and France. Co-hosts for the day were Peter Brewer of Clarke Willmott and Charles Loake from our Corporate Partner John Pye & Sons Ltd.
Charles introduced the day and then we were straight our first speaker, a former Lord Mayor of London Alderman Sir David Wootton. He gave an engaging history of the City of London noting the capital ‘C’ and its unique place both in the UK but in the financial world. He was keen to stress that the contribution of the broad financial services sector is well spread across the UK –Scotland, Northern Ireland and several other cities all having substantial levels of staff. But that the City is a champion for the industry both within the UK and globally. He also mentioned the industry body driving many of these initiatives https://www.thecityuk.com/about-us/
He also elaborated on its role as a local authority, a historical legacy that adds to its unique position and which enables it to contribute well beyond its geographical borders.
We then had a switch of focus to Nic Evans who gave us an inspirational story of her journey to make her way as a coach in the male dominated world of rugby coaching. Her leadership approach encouraged collaboration, inclusiveness, and communication. But not shirking from honest and direct feedback to players. Her three years coaching the Kings Cross Steelers has so far been the highlight of her career (notwithstanding an illustrious career playing for Wasps and Wales). The world’s first gay-inclusive rugby union club went unbeaten in her last season earning promotion as well. The story of which has been captured in a documentary showing on Amazon prime https://www.amazon.co.uk/Steelers-Worlds-First-Rugby-Club/dp/B092C28G8Z
She is now a lecturer at St Mary’s University but has not given up ambitions to coach at a senior level. Her engaging and clear approach to management and leadership suggest that it’s only a matter of time before that happens.
After a coffee break kindly sponsored by Freshfields where delegates rediscovered networking beyond the virtual, we heard from Nick Taylor of Gordon Brothers who gave us an engaging analysis of how the circular economy is revolutionising the retail sector and the four growing retail trends that are driving this change. We looked at how consumers buying habits have been steadily shifting to more sustainable ethically sourced products as conscious consumerism and climate change become front of mind. We were treated to some new buzzwords in the industry – consumers moving from ‘ownership’ to ‘usership’ particularly in the luxury fashion sector, but it’s not just the fashion sector seeing a rise in rental. High-street retailers such as John Lewis, Selfridges and Ikea are also getting into the rental market, leading to a growth in ‘slow fashion’. These trends are widespread but how quickly they capture market share is still not clear, but it is obvious that all brands are working hard to ensure that their sustainable, environmentally sensitive credentials are genuine and obvious – the world of social media is quick to spot insincerity and mount effective boycott campaigns.
The final session before lunch kept us fully engaged as Tayyibah Arif of Dechert LLP guided the panel through the challenges and opportunities facing women seeking to advance in their careers. Leonora Daniel from Credit Suisse, Francesca Scaravelli from KKR and Rebecca Dixon from King Street shared their experiences; the value of role models – ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’ and sponsors – both male and female had all played a part in advancing their careers and all were happy to look to do the same with their junior colleagues. Tayyibah questioned how the return-to-work post Covid would impact on attitudes, especially as the added flexibility it has provided particularly to women with children or elderly care responsibilities. All the panel agreed that the progress made through the pandemic had provided both challenges and opportunities and it was important that employers recognised the changed employment landscape. Leonora encouraged individuals to have honest and open dialogues with their teams to find mutually acceptable arrangements. This would lead to a happier more motivated workforce.
Lunch provided a further opportunity to discuss the issues raised and look forward to the afternoon session, whilst enjoying the excellent food that the Royal College of Physicians always provide, and kindly sponsored by Gordon Brothers.
After lunch our UK President Paul Davies of James Cowper Kreston, announced the shortlist and winner of the Next Gen award:
- Natasha Harbinson – Interpath Advisory
- Lisa Handley – Kroll
- Christos Oikonomakis – Interpath Advisory
- Dan Stathis – Kirkland & Ellis
- Laurence Walsh – Interpath Advisory
The winner for 2021 is Christos Oikonomakis – Interpath Advisory.
Well done to all who applied and to a worthy winner!
We then heard from the Global leadership team of TMA, Derek Meek, Matthew English and Scott Stuart. Scott was at his enthusiastic and passionate best in reviewing how TMA had pivoted to maintain the relevance and profile of TMA through the disruption of the pandemic. He was particularly keen to record the efforts of the UK chapter where an amazing 56 webinars had been held since March 2020 attended by over 8,500 members and guests. He was also keen to praise the UK annual conference as continuing the tradition of producing unique and inspirational conferences.
Metis Partners sponsored the iPad mini prize drawer won by Darren Tayburn – Alteri Partners LLP.
We then were introduced to Sian Gabbidon, winner of the BBC TV’s ‘The Apprentice’ in 2018 with her fashion brand. She treated the audience to a fascinating explanation of how she had grown her business from an idea to its current size with her latest achievement which is the stocking of her branded lounge wear SianMarie Lounge in Asda. She explained how the use of Instagram and ‘influencers’ had enabled her to dramatically increase her reach and scale in a way not possible via traditional methods. Winning the Apprentice had enabled her to take the business on a game changing growth path, helped by the £250,000 prize money and just as importantly the support and mentoring that Lord Alan Sugar provided – and continues to provide to her. An impressive woman who is clearly far from finished building the business. Her passion, creativity and considered risk taking were clear to see and the demand for delegate selfies after her talk broke all previous records!
After a further break it was encouraging to see so many delegates return to the lecture theatre to hear Tim Rumney Chair and CEO of Best Western Hotels. He gave an entertaining talk on his career from his first job in a hotel in Grange over Sands to his current role. He then went on to explain how he had seen first hand the impact on the hotel industry through the pandemic. The drop in occupancy levels, the inevitable and painful decisions on staff and identifying ways to survive. He explained how one of the staff had heard the health minister wondering if hotels could provide accommodation for health workers on a Sunday morning chat show and had posted out marketing material that afternoon beating others in their response. Tim had turned the garden at the hotel in Wilmslow into a beach with a delivery of sand capturing the ‘staycation’ market. His key message was that any threat to a business will also provide opportunities. But that clear communication to staff was essential so all understood their role in changed environment. He also explained that staffing remains a challenge for the industry – many hospitality workers have left the UK and may not return and that the industry has an image problem that it needs to address to encourage more individuals to consider it as a career option. We wish him well as the industry works through its recovery.
We then heard from Stuart Tootal, former commander of 3 Para. He led the battel group into Helman Province in Afghanistan in 2006. A mission that had been intended as a peace keeping exercise, but which ended up as a full-scale series of battles with the Taliban. Undermanned and under resourced the situation demanded rapid changes to plans. Will de Laszlo of Agathos posed the questions to Stuart and how the command-and-control structure and methods employed in such challenging circumstances could be used in a business context. In common with similar themes from earlier speakers, the need to communicate strategy clearly and concisely and then empower staff to make the necessary frontline decisions resonated with the audience. After his roles in the Army Stuart has sought to implement these disciplines in the business environment notably at Barclays. He observed that his previous status as a senior officer had led to some staff being less willing to challenge him than he was used to in the Army and so although the military processes were relevant some degree of adjustment was necessary to get the best out of it.
With the promise of a drinks reception to finish the conference, Charlotte May of Manolete Partners LLP, who were sponsoring the reception, gave an impressively rapid update on legal changes caused by the pandemic.
Finally, Paul Davies closed the conference, reflecting on an excellent event, thanking the sponsors, the delegates and most importantly Nyree and Kelly for their tireless efforts to make this conference such a brilliant event to attend.
Photos from our excellent photographer and Board member, Adrian Doble.
Thank you to all those that contributed tomake the day such a success
John Pye & Sons Ltd
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Hilco Valuation Services
Mann & Associates PAC
Manolete Partners Plc
Peter Stevens - SME Capital
Tim Rumney (PDF)
Will de Laszlo and Stuart Tootal (PDF)
Nick Taylor (PDF)