As my term as President comes to an end and to quote Sinatra “it’s time to call it a day”, though it’s certainly been no party, but it has been a privilege and honour to serve as your President over the past months.
In the years to come, history will record that 2018 was an extremely challenging and traumatic year for the Institution. Early in the year, allegations were made against the then President, Carolyn Griffiths which resulted in her being denied her role as Chair of the Trustee Board for the rest of her Presidency. Subsequently the case against her was dismissed. Then the Special Meeting in May, the first time this has happened in the 171 years since we were formed. A few weeks later came the resignation of the elected President and the resignation of the Chief Executive. Thus the first six months of the year were dominated by a collection of unique events.
Since 1 August, the Trustee Board and Council have taken actions to identify some of the root causes of past problems and address the lessons that can be learned from them. Three separate major Reviews were launched into finance, governance and finally, the Code of Conduct/Disciplinary Regulations. For each Review there was a detailed terms of reference document with a clear remit and defined areas of scope, with the composition of the Review teams, in particular the Chair, being selected for their experience and knowledge.
Two Review reports will be presented to Trustees and Council Members during May and the final report is expected in the next few weeks. The implementation of the Reviews will represent one of two major challenges for the Institution and the Trustees for year ahead and possibly beyond.
The second major challenge is addressing the financial situation we find ourselves in. In terms of capital we have minimum free reserves, equal broadly to three months of turnover- it leaves us with severe constraints on what we can spend on essential maintenance of the building infrastructure and IT systems and no possibility of new investment to generate new income.
If we look at our traditional trading operations, then we have been in a loss making position on for seven consecutive years of roundly £1m per year. The scale of these annual losses is unsustainable and significant action is required to both generate profits on our trading activities and significantly reduce our costs and that is what the Institution will need to focus on, not just for 2019, but for the years beyond that.
These two challenges on implementation of the Reviews and getting our house in better financial order should be seen as opportunities for creating a sure and sustainable future for the Institution.
On a much happier note, one of the real joys and benefits of the 10 months passed has been getting out and about around the Regions in the UK mainland, and to Paris, Dublin and Belfast to meet our members; whether young or those with many years under their belt it was great to discuss their views and concerns. Meeting hundreds of schoolchildren at the many events we put on, provides hope and encouragement that these young people will form the future generation of engineers - it was a privilege to meet them.
Each presidential year has its challenges. For success the President requires the committed support of many parties, fellow Trustees, Council Members, the wider membership and of course the brilliant in-house staff led by our Chief Executive. It is a sincere thanks to all of them for getting me to the end of my term, I think still relatively sane and still able to smile.
As I said 17 years ago I wish the Institution every future success; I sincerely believe that the implementation of the Reviews will provide a solid foundation for the Institution to further develop and continue with our aim of “improving the world through engineering”.
President, Institution of Mechanical Engineers