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Director General's opening address at IoD Open House

12 Mar 2018

stephen martinDirector General of the IoD, Stephen Martin, gave a speech to hundreds of IoD members and other business leaders, as the organisation's flagship Open House event got under way.

"Over the next three days, this building will host an amazing range of events, from keynote speeches from ministers and big business names to practical workshops, all with the aim of energising, informing and developing business leaders.

"I have to begin this morning by addressing the news you will have seen about the departure from the IoD last week of the Chairman and two other non-executives.

"As members of the IoD, I am sure you will have been alarmed to read of the allegations against senior members of the board. It would be inappropriate for me to discuss the matter in detail, but I do have a few thoughts to share with you.

"Like all companies across the country, the IoD has a duty to its staff to investigate when serious allegations are made.  We could not shy away from this duty, particularly given that over a dozen staff came forward with allegations. This showed real courage and strength from these employees. 

The subsequent investigation was full and fair.  An investigation in which everyone had the opportunity to be "heard, including those accused of wrongdoing. We had expert guidance and this process was conducted to the highest standards by an independent firm.

"That we have experienced a governance challenge will in the long-run make us stronger, and better able to advise others based on this experience.

"We will learn from this. And we will change as an organisation. I promise you that this will result in a better Institute of Directors.

"I was a member of the IoD myself for 16 years before becoming Director General. I still see myself as a member and I passionately care about the Institute’s future. I chose to take the position of DG because I believe in the organisation’s mission to promote good corporate governance.

"Despite the events of the last few days, I still very much believe in this mission. If anything, I now believe it even more. 
 
"The IoD’s commitment to developing business leaders is what Open House is all about. We’ve thrown open our doors to both established board members and those aspiring to become directors. So while most of you are IoD members, you will also meet a variety of people with a stake in how British business is managed and governed. The next three days are about hearing and exchanging ideas. 

"We will be addressing the big issues of the day and, this morning, we will be hearing from both the Prime Minister of Malta and Brexit Minister, Robin Walker, who will be giving their views on the progress of the negotiations for the UK’s departure from the EU.

"But we’ll also be looking ahead, with sessions on how and where British business can increase trade around the world. 

"There are plenty of practical sessions for your business: from how to prepare for the new Data Protection Regulations, to how to approach mergers and strategic alliances, or improve your cyber security.

"We’re also giving you the opportunity to step back, and look at your business in a different way, discussing how to promote good mental health at work and further understand emotional intelligence. And these are just the sessions on day one!

"Your needs will all be slightly different.  We’ve tried to put on a wide range of events, so you can choose what matters to you and your organisation. 

"We didn’t want this to be a normal business conference where you sit in one big hall all day, we wanted to make use of this wonderful building and give you the opportunity to move around, meet people and pick sessions that are relevant to you. 

"We could not be meeting at a more important time. The world around us is changing and many of the things we had come to see as fixed are, in fact, fragile.The economy is changing, shopping habits are shifting, working patterns are being re-invented. Society, too, is being altered.  At one end, people are living, and being healthier for longer, with big consequences for both work and spending on retirement. 

"At the other, while millennials are not the lazy stereotype often presented, they do have different ideas from previous generations as workers and as consumers. And on the global scale, trade wars are now back on the agenda, just as Britain attempts to go it alone. 

"You are here today because you want to do everything you can to make sure your firm keeps up with these shifts, so that you are ready to adapt and take advantage of the opportunities that, always, come along with change. There will be upheaval over the next few years.  I doubt many of us can remember a time when politics was more unstable.

"The thing that gives me faith is you, the members.   After a year in the job I am yet to meet a defeatist in the IoD’s ranks.  Concerned - sometimes,  uncertain - of course, but you still feel upbeat for your companies. 

"You expect both revenue and employment at your organisations to continue to be strong, and you are looking at new export markets.  While business is confronted with many challenges, you are the example of how to face them down, and succeed.

"It can’t be repeated often enough that the members are what makes the IoD an organisation worth fighting for.  The office of Director General is not the IoD, this building is not the IoD - you are the IoD.

"I know this place will be filled with energy, excitement and the buzz of new ideas and connections for the next three days.

"Thank you, everyone, for coming and thank you to all of the members in particular, and I hope you all have a wonderful Open House!"

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Euan Holmes, Press Officer

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