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Regional excellence at ICSA's conferences

25 June 2018 by Simon Osborne

ICSA’s programme of regional conferences showcased the best of governance

In April and May, ICSA’s president John Heaton and I travelled to Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland to attend the regional ICSA conferences. I was delighted to see so many members and students at these events, and impressed by the breadth of the topics covered. We have an extremely strong regional conference programme, which is testament to the hard work of our branch councils and our team at Saffron House.

Special thanks go to ICSA Fellows Walter Clark and Gary Gray, who organised the Scottish conference at their employer, law firm Burness Paull LLP’s Edinburgh offices.

The theme of this year’s conferences in Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man was ‘Managing risk, leading change’. Speakers highlighted how the profession can lead the thinking in governance, risk and compliance.

Charis Evans, ICSA’s business development director, provided a comprehensive overview of the new qualifying programme syllabus and updated delegates on new validated MSc courses in corporate governance, which will begin this October at Leeds Beckett University and the University of Lincoln.

A variety of speakers updated delegates on corporate governance: James Jarvis and Dr Roger Barker from the Institute of Directors in Guernsey and Jersey respectively and ICSA policy advisor Chris Hodge in the Isle of Man. The ways in which the company secretary is a key point of influence for GDPR was covered in Guernsey and in Jersey, and delegates in Jersey and the Isle of Man were given valuable insight into how to respond to a cyber breach.

In Guernsey, we focused on topics of particular interest to delegates, such as the Common Reporting Standard, Brexit and blockchain, and also heard from the Guernsey Community Foundation on the benefits of volunteering.

In Jersey, ICSA Fellow Jennifer Palmer gave an in-depth presentation about conflicts of interest, using well-known examples, such as Barings rogue trader Nick Leeson, to show the financial and reputational harm that can be caused.

His Excellency Sir Richard Gozney KCMG CVO, HM lieutenant governor of the Isle of Man, shared his experience as a diplomat, ably demonstrating the importance of values and ethics in business. The importance of ethics was further brought home by Leeds University Business School Professor Kerrie Unsworth, who unnerved me when she disclosed how in the future hormones might be pumped into the air to control behaviour. A scary thought indeed!

We also heard about developments in the Isle of Man pension system and Appleby partner Caren Pegg provided an update on the Equality Act. Deloitte’s Andrew Griffin closed the day with a talk about the importance of building risk management into governance frameworks, as the Isle of Man seeks to confirm its deserved reputation as a good place to do business.

“Speakers highlighted how the profession can lead the thinking in governance, risk and compliance”

In Guernsey, Jersey and Ireland, psychologist Aidan Kearney had delegates frantically trying to pass on innocuous brown envelopes as he demonstrated how the brain can make us impulsive, irrational and emotional. Being able to recognise and control these functions can help increase focus, reduce stress and help people to connect with others more effectively, skills company secretaries need in abundance.

In Ireland, keynote speaker, Avolon CEO, Dómhnal Slattery, talked about the importance of diversity – a theme that was picked up later by Gillian Harford, head of diversity and inclusion at AIB Group.
A packed programme included sessions on conflict in the boardroom, charity regulation, beneficial ownership, subsidiary governance and key governance priorities in the financial services industry. Delegates were also given tips on how to deliver effective, high-quality presentations and how to keep directors focused during lengthy board meetings.

On the subject of board meetings, Chris Hodge and Jennifer Sundberg, co-CEO of board intelligence, introduced a ‘cost calculator’ that allows organisations to work out the cost of producing board meetings so that they can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of board reporting. It is clear that organisations are incurring significant expense producing board packs which are unlikely ever to be read in their entirety, as revealed by our joint research ‘The Challenges of Effective Board Reporting’.

Jim Gavin, manager of Dublin Senior Gaelic Football Team, gave an inspirational closing address for the Ireland conference, focusing on the importance of leaders finding ways to inspire those who work for them. Despite his disconcerting remark, as a qualified commercial pilot, that the plane I would later fly home in is powered by little more than a giant hairdryer, I really enjoyed hearing how business can learn from the sporting world in terms of inspiring people to perform to the best of their ability.

I look forward to hearing from the inspirational speakers we have lined up for this year’s two-day annual conference in London on 10–11 July.

Simon Osborne FCIS is CEO of ICSA: The Governance Institute

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