The following speeches were delivered by Interim Chair John Watson and Director General Jonathan Geldart at the IoD AGM 2020.
Interim Chair's Remarks
Good afternoon everyone. As the interim chair of the Institute of Directors, I’d like to welcome you all to this annual general meeting.
Before we turn to the formal business of the meeting, I’ll give you a brief update, before the Director General Jonathan Geldart and the Senior Independent Council Member Jean Church provide the same.
I’d like to start by thanking my predecessor as Chair, Charlotte Valeur, who stood down a couple of months ago. Charlotte did a tremendous amount of good work on behalf of the IoD during her time as chair and we wish her all the best for the future.
We also saw Kirsty Lloyd-Jukes leave the Board during the last year and I would like to thank her for the work she did during her time at the Institute.
We welcomed Jon as our new Director General at the end of 2019 and he has worked tirelessly to fulfil the goals of the Institute in circumstances none of us would have expected.
This time last year, we spoke about the need to build a financially stable future for the Institute after we reported a £4.2m loss for 2018. That was the Board’s focus for 2019 and I am pleased to report that last year’s surplus of £752,000 shows how much progress was made.
Looking back on 2019, the Institute’s Professional Development provision grew for the fifth consecutive year. Over 400 programmes were delivered to over 5,000 delegates, in the UK and abroad in 22 different countries. Revenue from hospitality also grew, with total revenue earning activities increasing by 11.7%.
The IoD’s Centre for Corporate Governance was successfully launched at an event in July 2020. The Centre is investigating is stakeholder governance, sustainability in governance and the impact of emerging technologies on governance, a clear example of where the Institute can cement its leading position in this sphere.
The IoD’s Chartered Director community continued to grow with a record number of applications made during the year and it was pleasing to see the continued progress that our International branches made during 2019 including the first Chinese national to go through the Chartered Director programme.
Overall membership, however, declined over the course of 2019. The work that is underway to reform the IoD and bring us closer to our membership, which Jon Geldart will talk about soon, is an important part of our long term plan to help firstly stop then reverse that decline while maintaining a strong financial footing.
I understand how difficult these changes have been but I truly believe that the hardship will have been worth it to help build a successful future for the Institute.
Building an IoD that stands out and stands up for our members with the UK and devolved governments is a hugely important part of our work and the team did a great job in this respect.
But subsequent to the year end, the impact of global pandemic has affected all our plans. The Board moved swiftly to take action to ensure started to deal with a difficult and rapidly changing situation.
Firstly, this is a global health emergency and we acted to ensure we were able to implement our work in a safe and sustainable way for staff and volunteers. Next, we looked at impact it could have on plans for 2020 and 2021.
No business or organisation is immune to the impacts of Covid-19. Our revenues, like so many others, have been seriously affected and that has meant taking some difficult decisions.
But we never lost sight of the need to support our members.
An online hub, gathering key information, guidance, and peer support, was launched in a matter of days and our Professional Development team quickly moved courses online to help directors meet this challenge. And we successfully made the case to Government for business support and temporary changes to the UK’s corporate governance and insolvency rules.
We continue to push the Government to do everything they can especially for SMEs who have been badly hit by the economic uncertainty.
Last year, the Board spoke of the need to continue reforming and reshaping the IoD. We made excellent progress in empowering our local networks by developing a new, streamlined operating model that will enable the IoD to better service members wherever they are.
As we implemented these changes, IoD staff and volunteers from across our networks came together, a great example of the positive collaboration we need to succeed. This was underpinned by the continued support from the National, Regional and branch chairs for the work you were all doing have in the midst of unprecedented challenges. I cannot thank you enough for the work you all did.
The global economy faces great uncertainty but we must never lose sight that we exist to support our members.
As your Interim Chair, my focus will be on guiding us through the next few critical months to ensure that our new Chair has every opportunity to lead us into a sustainable, long term future.
I will now hand over to Jonathan Geldart who will provide an overview of where we today and the strategic review
Director General's Remarks
This is my first AGM as Director-General of the IoD. When I joined at the end of last year, I knew we faced some tough decisions but I was excited by the challenge that lay ahead. I don’t think anyone, however, could have predicted the kind of situation we have faced since then.
Covid-19 presents significant personal and professional challenges for us and our members. Unfortunately we still have some way to go before we are through this. That said, we as an organisation responded quickly both in terms of acting to limit the damage it could do to the Institute’s plans and speaking up on behalf of our members with Government.
Our overarching aim at the start of the last financial year was to improve the efficiency and financial health of the organisation and as our Interim Chair has said, we made significant progress and were on course to build on that progress before Covid-19 struck.
Last year’s Director of the Year Awards series, running throughout our regions and nations was a great success, drawing together the best directors from across the UK. While clearly events have taken on a different form this year, our teams have been swift in adapting, putting on a whole host of useful, engaging webinars.
In 2019, the IoD’s professional development grew for the fifth year running. Over five thousand delegates attended our programmes in twenty two different countries, building on our international brand even further. Meanwhile, we saw a record number of applications for Chartered Directorship.
Our work to provide members with influence continued apace. With over a hundred meetings with key ministers and civil servants and thousands of media hits, the policy team secured notable wins on issues from international trade to late payments. 2020 has also seen the establishment of the IoD Centre for Corporate Governance, underscoring our key position in the governance debate.
We also helped our members with the day-to-day challenges of doing business, with our Advisory services dealing with thousands of requests during the year. This came alongside a special project focussed on Brexit readiness, which reached hundreds of thousands of directors across the country.
Despite the effects of the pandemic, our teams have continued to work hard on behalf of members. Our Professional Development team rapidly responded by launching virtual, accredited courses. Staff and volunteers across our network quickly moved events online, providing a much-needed sense of community at a difficult time. And our policy team have fought our members’ corner, securing support and legal protections for directors.
All this valuable work has to be underpinned by a financially sustainable organisation focused on achieving our strategic aims. We have decentralised to better reflect the make-up of our membership and we have further reduced our cost base to enable us to be able to invest in the best way to increase membership for the long term.
The IoD has a strong brand with global recognition. It helps set the standard for business leaders worldwide. But in recent years, our membership told us we needed to simplify, to become more digital, better reflect the nations and regions.
The IoD I want to lead is a professional organisation that stands out from others. One that is truly reflective of our members needs and provides practical support to enable them to be better directors. One that stands up for them with the UK and devolved governments and isn’t afraid to take them on to do the right thing.
I believe we have a unique opportunity with the changes we are making to be that organisation. I won’t pretend it will be easy but I do know that having seen the effort and dedication over the last year from everyone, I am confident we can achieve that aim.
Under the themes of ‘Connect Develop and Influence’, we will make the IoD more relevant and valuable to members
To deliver on our objectives, we are getting closer to our membership, and we will do this at a branch level. Our Branches are being empowered to provide the services that will truly benefit their members, underpinned by a ‘Member First’ philosophy. This new model will deliver a service for our membership that better reflects their needs today and tomorrow.
That is an important point because a decline in membership will at some point translate into a decline in influence unless we act.
Over the last 12 months, staff and members have volunteered their time have been working as one team, to hone and strengthen our sense of purpose and member proposition. I cannot thank them enough for their efforts.
I recognise that we didn’t get everything right but we listened to your worries and hopefully we’ve improved in terms of involving members in the process and communicating the changes but we will aim to keep doing more
I believe firmly that the IoD’s mission is to create better directors and better directors will be needed more than ever as we rebuild our economy.
Despite the very real challenges posed by Covid-19, I remain confident that the changes we are making will help us build an IoD with a long term, sustainable future, grow our membership and support directors as we have done for more than a century.