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East Midlands

Regional Chair Summer 2019 Update

09 Aug 2019

Regional Chair Summer Update IoD East Midlands

Awards, changes and the climate

Garry Smith,Regional Chairman, IoD East Midlands

Welcome to the Summer issue of the IoD East Midlands membership magazine.

As you will see elsewhere in this issue, we held our annual Director of the Year awards at Winstanley House, Leicester, in June, and what a superb occasion it was. Well-run, efficiently marshalled by our compere, BBC East Midlands’ Anne Davies, and handled superbly by the venue team, it was a great event, one that showcased the very best of business life in the region. I got the chance to talk to the winners afterwards and all were clearly delighted by their awards – as one put it, ‘it’s an external validation of everything I’ve been trying to do.’ 

Winners were drawn from across the business spectrum and reflected the diversity of business life in the East Midlands, where innovative SMEs and start-ups rub shoulders with established global players.

Congratulations to all involved, and I look forward to following their progress when they represent the East Midlands at the National IoD awards in the Autumn.

Being able to attend the awards lunch was a rare treat for me in recent weeks, as much of my time has been taken up with meetings in London with national IoD officers. As I’m sure you are aware, the IoD is undergoing some major changes in its operations and structure, and as a member of the IoD Council I’ve been tasked with ensuring that the members’ views and needs are taken into account. It has been great to work alongside the new IoD Board, which contains a number of new faces, all of an impressively high calibre.

Going forward, changes in the IoD’s structure will see far greater autonomy over finances, recruitment of members and retention given to the regions, and this is something I think will be a huge boost to the East Midlands in particular. It is also a huge compliment to our regional office that East Midlands is in the vanguard of this new approach.

 While members may not see or feel major changes immediately, it will allow us to deliver more focused support, director development programmes and events, and make our messages more personal and better crafted to regional requirements. All-in-all, I believe the changes being made now will ensure the IoD, its services and its structures will be ideally placed to support the 21st Century business community. 

So what of life outside the IoD? The good news is the issue of Brexit has ceased to dominate the headlines... only to be replaced by the Conservative Party leadership contest... of which the main bone of contention is how to handle ... Brexit... 

What a tangled web. It is a huge surprise in many ways that, given the political inertia at the top, the economy hasn’t seen a complete collapse. But while business confidence is at a very low ebb, and investment is down, this is not trickling through to the broader economy, certainly in terms of employment. Indeed, one thing that the Brexit morass has highlighted is the astonishing strength of the British economy and its business sector: if we can survive this, we really can survive anything! 

Whichever one of Messrs Johnson or Hunt becomes the next Prime Minister, clearly the first issue in their in-tray will be Brexit and that new deadline, October 31. While both men are talking tough and keeping ‘no deal’ on the table, I cannot see that getting past the House of Commons, and in many ways it seems an empty threat. I have learned a new phrase, however: ‘proroguing Parliament’. I’m always a little wary of any phrase that seems to centre on the word ‘rogue’ but apart from that, the glib way the candidates are suggesting Parliament can be suspended does seem to play fast and loose with democratic conventions and seems to cast a poor light on our parliamentary procedures. 

Personally, I see a more likely outcome as both sides offering minor tweaks that they can then sell to their own side as ‘nothing has changed’ while at the same time claiming major concessions. Politics is, after all, the art of the possible. 

As I mentioned earlier, despite Brexit, the economy appears quite robust. Bad news for the auto sector was lifted a little by Jaguar Land Rover’s recent decision to invest heavily in its UK plants, and IoD events across the region have brought me into contact with regional business leaders eager to tell me how well their own plans for growth are going; the digital, hi-tech and biotech sectors appear to be doing particularly well. 

One other sector to keep an eye on revolves around the climate change issue. It’s clear that the business sector has a huge role to play in ensuring that the UK becomes carbon neutral, if we are to play our part in mitigating against further global warming. That means a huge shift in the way we operate, the materials we use and the energy that powers us. Certainly, it is an area I’d like to see the IoD get more involved with: I’m sure there are lots of businesses in this region that are operating in this sphere and can tell other members how they can change their practices to lessen impact on the environment. 

Some people may wonder whether this is an area the IoD should be getting involved with, but I’d point out that in our Royal Charter it says the IoD should ensure directors operate ‘for the benefit of society.”

 If tackling climate change isn’t a benefit to society, I don’t know what is.

To read the IoD East Midlands Summer 2019 Magazine:

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