In this report, I would like to share with you some of the items discussed at our March Trustee Board meeting and a few other items which I felt would be of interest to our active member community.
By the time this newsletter reaches you, I am sure you will all have heard the really exciting news that we have now appointed a new CEO. Dr Alice Bunn, who joins us from the UK Space Agency, will be taking up her new role on the 5th July. She is superbly qualified for this role and won through a very competitive selection process to emerge as our candidate of choice. Over 300 candidates were considered for the role, with the selection process being handled by a specially appointed panel with the expert assistance of Saxton Bampfylde. At the outset, Saxton conducted several focus groups across a cross section of our membership to understand what members felt would be important characteristics for a CEO to take the Institution through the next stage of its journey. This has informed the selection process, which has been rigorous and led us to select Alice. I am sure you will join me in wishing her every success in her new role.
I would also like to share the good news that we have recently completed our 5-year licence review with the Engineering Council with flying colours. These days the review is a very thorough audit of the processes that control our professional registration activities and every credit to the team who handled the audit and emerged with no non-conformances being recorded – great result!
Over the last few months, I have spent a good deal of time making ‘virtual’ presidential visits to meet our regional committees around the world. This has been a very rewarding experience and has demonstrated very clearly the good will, passion and commitment our active members have for the Institution and our profession. Over 28% of our members are international and despite being thousands of miles away from our HQ, they carry the flag very proudly and do excellent work to promote and deliver our mission and vision in a manner appropriate to their own circumstances. The COVID-driven move to virtual methods of engagement has had a positive impact in bringing IMechE members around the world closer together and allowing us to be more inclusive. I hear stories of UK regions holding virtual technical lectures, that previously might have attracted an audience from their local area, now regularly having international participation. I have little doubt that this will continue and grow to the benefit of everyone and add more value to everyone’s experience of being a member.
As a final comment before I provide an update on the last board meeting, please could I ask that you do vote in the forthcoming elections. The packs are out now for Trustee Board and the Council elections; for the first time we have included more information about the candidates and they will also be promoted through our social media channels. Please do use your vote!
Over the last 18 months, a huge amount of effort has gone into determining how our Council should be configured and operate in the future. The Governance Review Report recommended a smaller, independent Council but this has not won acceptance. The ensuing debate has considered many aspects of what Council should be, its size and composition and how it should operate. It has proven difficult to reach a consensus and consequently it has taken time to consider all perspectives and I am very grateful to Andrew Ives and Ian Mash for the huge amount of work they have done to try and reach an acceptable compromise. This Trustee Board meeting considered new Terms of Reference (TOR) that had been prepared to define the Council remit and its composition. Although it wasn’t accepted by the Board, there are now only a few points still to be resolved, so we are very optimistic that these remaining issues will be resolved soon. Council has a very important role to play in advising the Trustee Board so it is vital that we do ensure it has the correct remit that will allow the Institution to operate efficiently and effectively.
Royal Charter and By-Law changes
As you may have already received your election pack, you will be aware that we are also balloting members on changes to our By-Laws and Royal Charter. It isn’t something we do very often, but the need has arisen, primarily, to enable us to make some of the changes that have emerged from the Governance Review and also to bring the By-Laws up to date and align them better with our operational practices. In total there are 88 changes, some quite minor, like for example allowing us to hold virtual meetings, but some are more significant like for example the change to the line of succession to the role of President, moving from one President Elect to two Deputy Presidents, a change recommended by the Governance Review. The changes are essential to allow us to complete our Governance Review changes so I hope you can give them your support and approve the changes. They have already received approval from the Engineering Council and the Privy Council.
Our Finance and Commercial Director presented the EOY figures for 2020 that are in the process of being audited for inclusion in our Annual Report. Preparation of these is progressing and on schedule for release in early May prior to being presented at our AGM on the 26th May. It was good to see that overall a slight surplus had been achieved, despite everything that COVID has thrown at us. This is a fantastic result and a significant improvement on the earlier forecasts, made in the depths of the lockdown, that had anticipated a significant loss. The turnaround has been achieved through a better-than-expected COVID recovery of our trading subsidiaries, prompt action to furlough staff where possible, the move to virtual meetings and other cost savings measures. Revenue from room hire and events was significantly down as would be expected with the building being closed.
As to this year, it was reported that PEP Ltd has started the year better than forecast. Venue Hire is not expected to come back on stream until the end of Q2. The charity is overall very close to budget as at the end of P2.
The annual audit was reported as being almost completed. This is being done by our new auditor, BDO.
Real Estate Strategy Group update
The project has moved into a consultation phase with a comms campaign underway and feedback being received – there is a broad spread of opinions on the future of the buildings but still a majority who wish to retain the building as our HQ and for us to find a way to fully refurbish One Birdcage Walk (OBW). The solution being developed to release 3 Birdcage Walk on a very long lease to finance the refurbishment of OBW is gaining traction but at this stage we are still keeping an open mind as we gather further information from surveys and a red book valuation. The webpages that have been set up to communicate to members are being regularly updated and generating further member opinion.
We are still aiming to ballot members on the building in summer.
Audit and Risk
The Corporate Risk Register was reviewed by the trustees and proposals made to develop this further, including the possibility of using external assessors. A specific risk register has been running for the pandemic to keep a close eye on the exceptional circumstances and the increased risks it has presented. It is now planned to merge this into the Corporate Risk Register. Trustees were also presented with an update on our insurance policies and health and safety status – both being in good order.
New Terms of Reference for the Audit and Risk Committee were approved.
Implementation Group (IG) update
Dr Kerry Mashford, Chair of IG, presented a status update. She reported that we are now at 79% of recommendations implemented; this is expected to reach 90% by the end of May. The final 10% include communications and culture & behaviour work, which are currently ongoing. These will continue beyond the tenure of IG due to the timescale of the changes being implemented for these items.
There was particular focus on the wrap-up of IG activities. This will include the production of a Governance Manual and a Close-Out Report, to capture the full details of the work undertaken and how the recommendations have been adopted/adapted during implementation. These will be made available to members when completed. Attention is also being given as to how the changes that have been made will be monitored to check that they have been effective and to determine if any further refinement is required.
Also during this meeting, the trustees made a final review of the new Disciplinary Regulations, which had just completed their final legal verification, and these were approved and will now be rolled out.
Well, I hope you found the above to be of interest. As always, your feedback is always welcome. You can reach me on email@example.com, or if you have some specific feedback on the topics above please use firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Terry Spall CEng, FIMechE
Institution of Mechanical Engineers