These are unusual times as we all progress from one videoconference to another and use words like ‘Zoom’ and ‘furlough’, which barely existed in our vocabulary just a few weeks ago. That being said, the work of the Institution’s Reviews Implementation Group continues apace. The aim is to create a well-managed and flexible Institution which can support the development of engineers and engineering around the globe.
My own involvement began in October 2018 when the Finance Review team was formed. As many of you will know, we reported our findings in April last year and we are now well advanced with implementing the changes that were recommended; these revolved around stronger management of the Institution’s finances and greater clarity of financial results. The 2018 Annual Report, for example, addressed the latter point and under normal circumstances you would now have been reading the 2019 edition, delayed because of COVID-19.
The Finance Board was formed during 2019 and is bringing focused and more experienced management to the Institution’s rather complicated finances. As you will have read elsewhere, 2019, which has still to be reported formally, was a substantial turnaround financially from 2018; we made an operating surplus, the PEP Limited companies did well and the Free Reserves increased to close on our 6 month target. This has provided the vital cushion which we now unfortunately need given the financial shocks affecting everyone.
In 2020, we are continuing to improve the way our finances are managed with particular emphasis on replacing the multiple financial information systems, policies and processes which the Institution has been using, all of which is scheduled for completion this year. For example, the accounting systems, of which there are four currently, are being replaced by one modern, integrated system.
On a separate subject, I have also been working with a small group to develop the Institution’s approach to corporate strategy. Whilst there has, for many years, been an annual planning cycle, we have not had a proper, long-term documented strategy, something which both the Governance and Financial Reviews noted. During the course of this year, we plan to remedy this by setting up a Strategy Committee for this key governance activity and to develop at the least the outline of a long-term plan which can then be shared and debated across the organisation – I firmly believe in this sort of planning being a collaborative and iterative process.
In the meantime, I hope you and your families are coping and are looking forward to emerging into the daylight once again!