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Diary of a delegate at ICSA's annual conference

11 June 2015 by Orla Kelly

Boy it’s a warm one; it must be the warmest day of the year? Some crowd here at the Ballsbridge Hotel (I still only call it Jury’s – rebel!). Great turnout, probably biggest ever, a real sign that things are definitely on the up. Oh, there’s Ruairi and Monica. I haven’t seen them for months so a quick coffee and a catch up before we get down to business. This is the first year ICSA has tried running an all-day conference, I hope it works for them, and that I last the pace, things are so busy at work.

It’s a nice feeling being amongst ‘your own’. I like finding out what’s going on in other people’s organisations, what I should keep an eye out for in my own…

I had never seen Minister Simon Harris ‘in the flesh’ before though he’s normally impressive on the ‘box’ whenever I see him there. He gives a good solid address, none of the usual waffle, and he reminds us that we company secretaries have a very important role to play in the improving economic landscape. There's no doubt that the Crash has highlighted our role in corporate life and what we bring to proper governance of business in the future.

I wasn’t aware of how big an operation the Irish Stock Exchange is – but following a very nice and light presentation by ISE CEO Deirdre Somers (she did a good pitch looking for companies to join the exchange)I now know that it is quite a player internationally in what they call the ‘listings’ business. Definitely an Irish success story.

Next up the man I was waiting to hear, Paul Moore, a whistleblower that everyone in business should want to hear as his tale is salutary. This is a man who stood up against the might of HBOS and the British financial establishment and eventually won…but it took its toll. He’s definitely to be admired.

At coffee I made it my business to talk to another six or seven colleagues that I don’t think I met since last year’s conference or last year’s lunch in November – great to hear they’re all doing well.

I’m not a Manchester United fan but Oddi Aasheim’s insights into how the club made such a mess of finding a successor to Alex Ferguson was really interesting, especially the way it can apply to any organisation. There’s the dilemma. Do you hire people like you who fit into your organisation’s culture or should you find someone who will challenge that culture? Answers on a postcard please…

Now for the meat of the meeting – the Companies Act 2014 in all its detail. I hadn’t realised that getting the Act across the line, the first major change in Irish company law for fifty odd years, was managed by just two public servants – who says they don’t work hard? And a 2nd tip of the hat to them for having listened and responded to stakeholders and their views.

That rumble in tumble can only mean it’s time for some lunch on the run while I catch up with office emails (whatever happened to actually being ‘out of the office’?). Also, I saw two people on the attendance list that I want to talk to as well, one of them has just moved job (great to see jobs now being advertised on the ICSA Ireland website!)…now where will I find them in this crowd?

So back to business and to the Companies Act workshops. I’ve got to admit that though I have read, read and re-read the Act I’m still finding out fresh interpretations and nuances that I hadn’t seen or thought of…a big thanks to my professional colleagues for the insights.

Was the star act today Maureen O’Sullivan of the CRO? I think so. No matter what she was asked during her Q&A session she seemed to have an answer, and not any old answer, but one that made eminent sense. No question she won over the audience when she said her team would be ‘flexible’ in the early days of the Act, with many of us worried sick as to how we’d manage some of the practical challenges following the June 1st commencement. Thank you Maureen for not ruining a long weekend.

As if this day couldn’t get any better, I’ve just won a £250 voucher for Tiffany & Co, looks like I may need to attend the UK conference next year and tie in a bit of shopping!

And that was the quickest eight hours ever. Time to have just the one (OK, maybe a second) and hear some more of the industry gossip at the bar. No, no, no question that I’d miss the ICSA annual lunch in November. As I say, I like the company of company secretaries!