Monday, 19 October 2015

The 2015 Finance Directors’ Forum aboard P&O's Arcadia a great success

This year’s Finance Directors’ Forum was held aboard the P&O cruise ship Arcadia from the 7th to the 10th October and proved to be a great success. And I was delighted to be on-board and a part of it representing Shaylor Group plc.

The opening night’s keynote address was given by ex-Newnight and University Challenge heavyweight, Jeremy Paxman, and focused on The UK Political Landscape. Humorous, witty, entertaining and followed by a typically prickly Q&A session (albeit somewhat tongue-in-cheek), it was the perfect way to start the Forum proper. His banter with Justin Urquhart Stewart (in the circle of the theatre) was a joy to behold.

These Forums are well known for being busy and concentrated affairs, and this year was no different (with delegates kept focused from 7.30am to 10.30pm to ensure that benefit is maximised for taking precious time out of the office in addition to the CPD accreditation).

Day 2 started with an excellent presentation by Virgin Atlantic Airways FD, Liz Collins, entitled ‘Building a Finance Centre of Excellence the Virgin Atlantic Way’, which demonstrated the steps taken to streamline the finance function and deliver a leaner, more commercially focused organisation. My schedule followed this up with the workshop, ‘Leading The Finance Function During Uncertain And Volatile Times’ delivered by Tim Pullen of Telefonica UK.

The keynote address on Day 2 was ‘Courage, Vision and Values’ by Roz Savage MBE, the solo women’s ocean rower who not only rowed across the Atlantic Ocean (3,000 miles) to raise environmental awareness, but followed this amazing feat of endurance by then rowing across the Pacific (8,000 miles) and the Indian Ocean (4,000 miles). I was also fortunate enough to attend Roz’s ‘eVALUEation’ interactive workshop on the same afternoon before I, myself, delivered a presentation on being an Interim/Equity Finance Director.

Around the presentations and workshops were a number of meetings with suppliers, so many new contacts were made and hopefully much business will result from this opportunity (from both sides) to explore and discuss opportunities in this captive environment.

Our Forum Facilitator, the irrepressible Justin Urquhart Stewart, opened up the first main session of Day 3 with an interview of/audience with Mark Hesketh, UK & European Finance Director of Standard Life plc, with the working title of ‘Setting A Standard In The Finance Function’. Justin’s questions about Mark’s time at RBS resulted in some surprising and positive comments regarding working with Fred Goodwin.

Following this, the Day 3 Keynote Address was given by Jas Hawker, past Commanding Officer of the Red Arrows and currently a Director of Mission Excellence (and organisation focused on improving clients’ execution – closing the gap between what gets talked about and planned, and what gets delivered). This was an enjoyable session that mixed lots of anecdotes and footage of the Red Arrows in action with some key pointers on how to lead a world-class and highly performing team in the corporate world.

Perhaps the finest presentation of the event was reserved for later that afternoon when Justin Urquhart Stewart gave his presentation, ‘Post General Election Economic Update – What It Means For You And Your Organisation’. Irreverent, amusing, fast paced but also interesting, relevant and cutting through the nonsense so often reported in the media to give the real bottom line. An amazing hour that seemed to fly past in minutes – top class.
My pre-dinner day ended with a very useful one-to-one coaching session with Aim Higher Leadership, with a post-dinner keynote given by Austin Healey and aptly titles ‘The Rugby World Cup (Amongst Other Things)’.

Day 4 was all about packing, disembarking the Arcadia in Southampton and driving back up the country reflecting on what had been packed into the previous 3 days (and the meeting and business that would be inevitably be done in the weeks that will follow).

And a big thank you must go to Richmond Events for their excellent organisation once again.