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'Inside Track' - latest update from our President

Peter Flinn, President, Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Peter Flinn
Peter Flinn

Welcome to the latest edition of "Inside Track", providing regular updates on the Institution's Trustee Board activities.

This is my first edition of Inside Track since taking over the presidency towards the end of May. It’s based mainly on the Trustee Board meeting held on 15th June but with one or two additional points. As before, the aim is to give you a brief summary of events in our Institution.

Trustee Board membership

This was the first meeting of the 2021/22 board following the recent elections so we welcomed Bridget Eickhoff as the newly-elected ‘ordinary’ trustee. The board agreed to offer the ‘casual vacancy’ for a Vice- President to Dr Richard Judge, who is currently an elected fellow member of Council and who will take on the role of chair of PEP Limited. Roy Allan was welcomed, currently as an observer of the board, to work on the subject of behaviours and values.

President’s introduction

This being a new Institution year, I made an introductory address covering:

  • Membership of the Trustee Board itself and our various boards and committees;
  • Reminders about governance principles and the role of trustees;
  • Suggested priorities for the year, 10 in total, including the starting of the new CEO, developing a stronger voice externally, celebrating the 175th anniversary and agreeing a plan for the Birdcage Walk buildings;
  • The inter-relationship of Trustee Board and Council;
  • A reminder about the broader role of the Institution in developing engineers, promoting mechanical engineering and thereby improving the world.

Progress vs. Business Plan

We reviewed progress versus the Business Plan, which contains 18 objectives for the year from January to December 2021. Most of the objectives are ‘on track’ the exceptions being:

  • Roll-out of new MPDS system – some post-roll-out problems
  • Free Reserves & financial resilience - see below
  • Physical events
  • Values and behaviours work

Financial performance

Details are available up to the end of Period 4 2021. At this point, the Institution was well ahead of business plan due to cost savings in the charity, PEP being ahead of a pessimistic budget and investment gains. Subscription income was very close to plan. A 4+8 Full Year Forecast has also been completed which shows, excluding investment gains, close to budget performance at an operating level but a (£107k) movement on Free Reserves due to capital expenditure.

Membership trends

Based on the confirmed member election figures to end April 2021 and the application pipeline, it is anticipated that the 2021 outcomes should be in line with the Business Plan targets.

Membership survey

We now have the results from the market research firm MSS of the recent survey of the Institution’s membership. A survey of this type has been undertaken every 5 years since 1996. On this occasion, the survey received 1,536 telephone and 4,188 on-line inputs from members. The overall conclusion was that there are significant positive shifts for IMechE from the last surveys in 2015 and the more detailed findings support the direction being taken by the Institution.

Defined-Benefit pension scheme

The trustees of this closed pension scheme and their advisers Barnett Waddingham reported on the formal triennial valuation of this scheme and proposed a new funding arrangement, starting 1st January 2022, to cover the scheme’s current under-funding and its running expenses. The scheme currently has 232 members and expects to be paying benefits until approximately 2080. The trustees of the Institution agreed subsequently to the new funding plan which requires total contributions of £0.5m p.a. to the scheme for the next 3 years.

Implementation Group

Dr Kerry Mashford presented an overview from the concluding stages of the work of the Implementation Group which was charged in 2019 with putting into effect the recommendations of the Governance, Finance and Code of Conduct reviews completed in mid-2019. It was agreed that the Group will publish their final report, including a c.20-page summary report and a table of the 96 recommendations, their status and their traceability back to the original review reports. Completed drafts will be available to the Trustee Board by the end of the month with the intention of publishing in early July.

Induction

As part of our programme of good governance practice, Jill Halford of BDO LLP, our auditors, provided a comprehensive reminder of the role of trustees in organisations like ours. Her presentation also summarised the situation across the UK charities sector in the current Covid-dominated environment.

Diversity & Inclusion

The July edition of Professional Engineer will have a headline article from Isobel Pollock-Hulf about our D&I strategy. I would like to reinforce this article by repeating our aim to ensure we are ‘visibly more inclusive to all’. In particular, we are working at the moment with a number of groups whose members are under-represented in the engineering profession. The world needs more engineers and part of our role of promoting mechanical engineering is to reach out to and encourage these groups.

Feedback

Well, I hope you found the above to be of interest. As always, your feedback is welcome. You can reach me on president@imeche.org, or if you have some specific feedback on the topics above please use insidetrack@imeche.org.

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Peter Flinn MA MBA CEng FIMechE
President

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