SMF Ernest Poku
Each time I look through the profile book it impresses me how unique a group the Fellows are. Although we work in a wide variety of industries and roles, we all share a common perspective and experience. We have also all participated in the vision of Lord Sainsbury.
The Society has in essence two broad aims. Firstly to add value to the UK and international economy by supporting the aims and vision that Lord Sainsbury expressed in setting up and supporting the scheme and associated bursaries that we have all benefited from. Secondly, to add value to each individual Fellow by organising and encouraging interaction, and otherwise supporting our careers.
We are entering a period where the future form and role of the society may well be decided. There are now almost 300 Fellows, representing a considerable network of talent covering all major sectors and functions, and many countries. The debate on what makes us unique, what aims we should have and how we can realise them is coming to a head.
Recently, a strategic review was initiated to better understand what role the Society should or could fulfil. To further understand the Fellows’ profiles and their current views on the scheme we have asked Hall Associates to undertake a telephone review. You will therefore be contacted over the next few weeks and asked a range of questions. At one end of the spectrum we can be a mere alumni association, at the other, we can seek to positively influence views and attitudes across commerce. We are interested in your views on the Society’s future role and how you would like to be involved.
Re-Engineering the Board
You will have found enclosed our publication Re-engineering the Board to Manage Risk and Maximise Growth, or “HR Pack”, targeted at key HR decision makers. This pack was designed by our Communications Group to challenge the view that accountancy and legal training are the best qualifications for effective boardroom directors, and to highlight the strengths of the engineering mindset. Most of our outward communications to date have been via Public Relations. The HR Pack is a deliberate break from this approach and provides a more direct channel. If the evaluation of this new approach is positive then we intend to look at additional opportunities for new publications and forums for challenging views and arguing for wider adoption of our values. Please give us your feedback on this pack.
Website & Improved Engagement
We will shortly be launching a new website and interaction platform. Many of you will already be members of the SMF group on LinkedIn but this new website has vastly increased functionality and a new social engine to allow for private communications between Fellows.
As Fellows are geographically dispersed, the website is also intended to provide a material forum for useful interaction on a variety of initiatives irrespective of geographic location.
How we support each other and add value as a community will no doubt dictate the future success of the Society. We hope that the website will enable a higher degree of interaction and engagement by delivering value to every Fellow that uses it.
As you know, the SMF bursaries are funded by Lord Sainsbury via his Gatsby Charitable Foundation. However, the Society itself has been funded to date almost entirely by Lord Sainsbury’s private funds. Whilst we have been informed that the future of the scheme continues to be assured, and all recent feedback on our performance has been most positive, we have also been asked to take a hard look at whether there is a point at which the scheme becomes self funding.
We are currently reviewing whether to incorporate the Society and establish a registered charity to further pursue this question. A key benefit of this incorporation would be a tax efficient vehicle for those Fellows who have expressed an interest in investing back in to the scheme.
We also collect annual subscriptions from the Fellows. These subscriptions go directly to supporting the Society’s aims. They are not a ‘social fee’ but, rather, they underline the identity and activities of the Society and point to the responsibilities of the individual recipient of the award. We continue to ask for your support in collecting these fees.
Mentoring and Other Activities
An outstanding success of last year was the launch of the mentoring scheme. Fellows have been partnered with mentors at the very highest levels of UK PLC. We intend to look not only at how we can extend the scheme in size, but also how to access new key sectors of Fellow involvement such as Finance and Entrepreneurship.
We also launched the successful Energy Roundtable. This is a forum – currently physical but soon also to be online too – to exchange latest ideas between those with a role or interest in the Energy arena. We would like to have additional roundtables in areas of key importance to the economy such as Finance and Manufacturing. Please let Cathy know if you would like to be involved in this.
Other activities where our involvement continues include supporting the next generation through the RAEng’s BEST Programme and the Engineering Leadership Award scheme. If you feel you now have the time and would like to become further involved please do not hesitate to contact Cathy or myself.
There is no easy way to measure the sphere of influence that the Fellows have. However, by rising to the challenges we are set, and increasing our ability to collaborate, we can exert a positive influence of a disproportionate magnitude to our size.
Lastly, I would like to warmly thank outgoing President Ernie Poku for all of his hard work, initiatives, and achievements during his term of office.