magazine > summer 2010 > Issue 04
INSIGHT + INFORMATION + LEADERSHIp
Jonathan Dimbleby On Cameron, Obama and Harold Wilson
UK plc Eight experts make their predictions page 22
claire brindley Championing quality in customer service page 31
Foreword words from the front
the future starts here With summer in full swing, my colleagues and I feel upbeat about the future opportunities for Equiniti and its clients. We constantly strive to improve our client proposition and, so far in 2010, we have taken great strides in this area.
John Parker Managing Director, Equiniti
Turn to p31 to find out how the appointment of Claire Brindley as Equiniti’s first ever Customer Champion has given fresh impetus to our ambition to deliver the best possible customer service. We’ve arguably just experienced one of the most exciting General Elections in living memory. Jonathan Dimbleby, for one, is certain that it created the most remarkable experiences of his career. On p12, the acclaimed political and current affairs journalist and broadcaster explains why his passion for politics is as strong as ever. As the first coalition government in 70 years settles into Westminster at a time of considerable uncertainty and upheaval – from gaping budget deficits to volcanic ash clouds and ongoing financial turmoil – what the future holds for the UK economy feels like anyone’s guess. On p22, Equiniti Magazine brings you some of the best theories on what the future may hold from those in the know. I hope you find this issue useful. Please do share your feedback with us.
John Parker Please contact me at: email@example.com
2 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2010
January China overtakes Germany to become the world’s largest exporter, according to official Chinese government figures, with 2009 exports rising 17.7% to $130.7bn.
February Figures indicating a growth of 0.3% in the last quarter of 2009 show the UK’s economic recovery is better than predicted, and marks the first increase since the first quarter of 2008.
contents inside this issue
Equiniti magazine number 04 Cover photograph by Adrian Lourie
Jonathan Dimbleby On Cameron, Obama and Harold Wilson
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regulars 4 First Person
John Parker on his journey with Equiniti
9 Postcard from Westminster
The FT's George Parker on the joy of the unpredictable
Ash from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano caused chaos across Europe
10 In the know Phil Ainsley on the future of employee share plans
28 What's new at Equiniti?
New client benefits from across the business
30 Question Time
March In his last budget before the General Election, Alistair Darling announces plans for £167bn of borrowing – a record high, but £11bn lower than predicted in December.
April As Eurozone governments create a £30bn aid package for the Greek economy, the International Air Transport Association claims airlines are losing up to $400m a day owing to the volcanic ash cloud.
May The new Lib DemConservative coalition vows to reform the banking and regulatory system. David Laws, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, resigns within weeks.
June The coalition warns that deep cuts in spending will be required. George Osborne says the public will be consulted on where cuts should be made.
Rachel Benjamin on turbulent times and sunny climes
Features 12 Jonathan Dimbleby
The veteran broadcaster looks back over a stellar career
16 Corporate governance
A future of transparency and accountability?
19 Company Law
David Venus considers the future
20 Emotional intelligence
Have you got what it takes?
22 UK plc
Industry experts give their assessment of the economic challenges
26 CoSec profile Scott Massie of Aberdeen Asset Management
Equiniti Magazine has been printed on environmentally responsible paper, manufactured using 50% recycled waste and 50% fibre from well managed forests, controlled sources and recycled wood. Equiniti Magazine is published on behalf of Equiniti by White Light Media. Editorial Director: Fraser Allen Creative Director: Eric Campbell www.whitelightmedia.co.uk Members of the APA & PPA
www.equiniti.com > 3
person: john parker
Having worked his way up from bank cashier, Managing Director John Parker is well-placed to assess how far Equiniti has come - and where it is going Portrait: graham jepson
How do you expect the next 12 months to pan out for Equiniti?
One thing we’ll be paying particular attention to is the change to capital gains tax (CGT), and what that might mean for employee share plans
4 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2010
We’re well-placed, despite the fragility of the economy. We now provide a broad range of services, a number of which aren’t subject to market volatility. For example, the core share registration business continues to thrive because it is a feature of law rather than of markets. Another key factor is that we contract with our clients over long terms – typically 3-5 years – and that gives a good foundation of certainty. This allows us to invest in the business with confidence. It means we can continue our business acquisition projects, while further developing both our services and IT systems. Of course, there are some parts of the business that are subject to volatility – employees’ confidence around savings is one example. We also provide share dealing services, which fluctuate with stock market trends, and, like all businesses, we face the continual challenge of managing our cost base. So while we are generally optimistic, we do obviously need to be aware that there is an element of risk for us. Looking out over the next 12 months, the recent change in government could bring both challenges and opportunities, depending on how things develop. One thing we’ll be paying particular attention to is the change to capital gains tax (CGT), and what that might mean for employee share plans. We would hope that the Government will continue to encourage employee ownership within a corporate environment, because it helps to motivate the workforce and also complements a savings agenda. But the risk of increasing CGT could dissuade some employees from joining in. On the other hand, public sector savings and further outsourcing does raise the prospect of more private shareholdings being created in public
utilities, and that’s obviously a great opportunity for us. So, all in all, we’re pretty excited bout the prospects for the business.
What are your current priorities? Our number one priority is to retain our existing clients, and we’ll do that by continuing to enhance our services, both through organic development and through acquisition. Once we have that strong foundation of client relationships, we can identify areas for further growth. Key to this will be excellent service to our clients, their shareholders and employees.
What progress do you think the company has made over the past 12 months in terms of customer service? Based on our own internal management information, and on our own awareness of how our business is performing, I’m confident that the service we are providing has been on an upward curve over the last 18 months. And from conversations and meetings we’ve had with clients, I think that is being recognised in the marketplace. At the end of the day, however, the proof will be the formal replies to the annual Capital Analytics Survey. We take the survey very seriously, and we hope the results will reflect our belief of how things have improved.
Why should clients choose Equiniti over and above other share registrars? I really do believe that that is down to our people and our values. There are only a small number of suppliers in this industry and we generally try to provide similar services. At the end of the day, however, people do business with people, and I firmly believe we have an exceptionally professional and dedicated workforce within which everyone works together. That will always be our strength.
five facts about john
My favourite place in the world is Hong Kong. I love the fact that it is so busy, busy, busy and culturally different to what we’re used to. I first worked there in 1986 and it was just amazing flying into the airport on the day lower than the high-rises, which was fairly scary!
2 3 4 5
My favourite film is Men In Black. I saw it in an open-air cinema in Monaco, and thoroughly enjoyed it. My pet hates are bad manners and poor service – the two go handin-hand. I enjoy jazz music and Curtis Stigers is a big favourite. I really enjoyed seeing him live in concert with my wife on a number of occasions. If I could swap places with someone for a day it would probably be Barack Obama. Here’s a man who gets elected one day and suddenly has the weight of the world on his shoulders. That’s interesting! www.equiniti.com > 5
person: john parker
We have a banner phrase across the business, which says ‘One Equiniti’. This reflects our ethos that everyone in every department has an impact on the success of the business. And I think that philosophy benefits our clients, because when they deal with Equiniti, their service experience should be seamless, right across the board, whoever they’re speaking to. We also have a ‘house policy’ of honesty and commitment to our longterm relationships, and that goes for our employees as well as with our clients. I’ve been in this role for 12 years and our team has mostly been together for around five years now, and I think that really says something. The other thing that differentiates us from our competitors is the fact that, since being taken out of Lloyd’s Banking Group, we’ve established ourselves as an independent company. So we’re no longer part of a big, global organisation and are instead defined exclusively by what we do for our clients.
Equiniti acquired ICS Computing and David Venus last year. Do you have any further acquisition plans? Yes, and we have a number of opportunities under review. Our owners Advent International are keen to invest in us, so we do have funds available if we find the right transaction. There is a two-part test that we look at when we consider acquisitions. The first part is ‘what benefit would we and our clients get if we owned that business’? The second, just as importantly, is ‘what benefit would that business derive from being part of Equiniti’? David Venus is a very professional organisation providing services that we didn’t offer to our existing clients. And from their perspective, being part of Equiniti opened up access to our client base and working relationships. So that acquisition passed the test on both sides, and the same is true of ICS. If a proposed acquisition doesn’t pass the second test, it won’t work because you will end up killing what you’ve bought. Advent have also recently acquired a pensions administration business called Xafinity, which provides pensions admin to some of the same companies that we provide employee share plans to. So that’s another opportunity to provide enhanced service synergies to our clients, 6 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2010
and we’re exploring how we take that forward (see p28-29).
What do you like most about your job?
I really fell into banking, rather than it being an aspiration, and just continued to move through the bank as my career progressed. It’s basically a ‘Wolverhampton boy made good’ story.
Meeting people, doing deals, problem solving and competing – I think those are the essentials of what I do.
What did you want to do when you left school? I wanted to be a journalist, actually, but the starting pay rate and the initial slog dissuaded me. I later worked in Spain for six months in a burger bar, and joined Lloyd’s bank as a cashier when I was 20. So I really fell into banking, rather than it being an aspiration, and just continued to move through the bank as my career progressed. It’s basically a ‘Wolverhampton boy made good’ story. I moved over to being a registrar 12 years ago. At that time Lloyds wanted to grow a full business from what was, effectively, a small department on the south coast of England.
What is the most important business lesson you have learned so far? You can never predict what is around the corner but, if you play as well as you can, results will generally go your way. If you want to use a sporting analogy, not every team will go through the season unbeaten, but if they generally play well they’ll be successful. I am, incidentally, a Wolves fan, so I’m very pleased with the way things turned out last season!
If you could be granted one wish to improve your business life, what would it be? I’d like to have more time for face-to-face meetings. It wouldn’t be right to say I’d want to create more time, because even if you work 24 hours a day, you’ll fill them all. But I do believe that we have defaulted into electronic communication, whereas meeting people face-to-face is a lot more fulfilling.
How would you describe your approach to leadership? Has anyone in particular inspired your approach to leading people? I hope I lead by example, and I like to get involved – both when things are going well, and when things are not going so well. Others are maybe better placed to comment, but hopefully I’m open, friendly
and fairly relaxed – although I am known to be challenging! My main belief is that people perform better when they set their own benchmarks, and that it’s human nature to set our own higher than others would set them for us. I’ve worked with people who’ve motivated me in that way, and who gave me the opportunities to make the most of what I had and go from being a cashier who didn’t go to university to where I am today. I hope I return that confidence to others that I meet, and help them to be the best that they can and achieve their aspirations. One thing I’ve learnt, however, is that not everyone wants to be a superhero. People’s ambitions differ, and you need to accommodate these into a team structure to make it a success. We all know people who work from 7am until 9pm, but those people still have to have respect for, and be able to work with, people who want to work 9-5, because, for example, they want to get their kids up in the morning and put them to bed in the evening. However, while everyone is different, we all want to achieve certain ambitions and, if you can help people to reach those achievements, then that is very satisfying indeed.
Anything else that you’d like to add? I’d like to thank our clients for their support over the last three years, in which they have gone from working with a major FTSE 10o plc to working as a stand-alone private company. Seeing those relationships maintained is the most satisfying aspect of everything I’ve done. As I said earlier, business is good. We have a new IT platform in place, we’re a much more confident organisation, and we’re starting to see the fruits of those acquisitions come through, with more clients taking up more services. We have also been enhancing the services we provide on a day-to-day basis. For example we’ve improved how we answer calls at the customer contact centre, and we’ve had a very successful first half of the annual general meeting season. So we hope that our corporate clients feel that we are delivering. On a personal note, my wife has been ill in recent months and I’ve been working remotely a lot. I’d very much like to thank people for their personal support over what has been a difficult period. www.equiniti.com > 7
feature xxxx subhead in After here 30 xxxxyears at Edinburgh Napier University Business School, Andy Cowe was last year appointed President of the ICSA. As his tenure of the presidency comes to a close, we ask what’s been keeping him busy andy cowe
Postcard from Edinburgh “The recent financial crises and failures in corporate government have clearly dominated the environment in which we’ve been working over the past couple of years. On the positive side, it has presented the ICSA with the opportunity to share and make good use of our knowledge and expertise. This has enabled us to raise the profile of both the profession and the Institute, and promote the interests of our members. A specific example would be the contributions we made to the Walker Report on corporate governance in the finance and banking sector, for which we carried out a lot of research, and produced our own report on boardroom behaviour. Then of course there has been the recent Companies Act, which, as the largest single piece of legislation that has been passed in this area, has also kept us busy. Yet, as it has taken several years to come into full effect, it has to some extent been overtaken by the events of the last couple of years. That reinforces our view that you can have as much legislation and codes of practice as you like, but in effect governance really comes down to behaviour. It’s how you implement the rules and regulations that makes the difference between good business practice and bad. The ICSA also made important contributions to the recent review of the Combined Code. The review was announced by Sir Christopher Hogg, Chairman of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) at an ICSA conference, and the subsequent FRC report referred to the ICSA several times. The ICSA has been asked to carry out a review of the Higgs guidance for chairman and non-executive directors on behalf of the FRC. That work is ongoing, and it is a huge honour for the Institute to play a part in redesigning governance structure for the future. Another significant development this year has been the introduction of our new Chartered Secretary Qualifying Scheme (CSQS). Coming from an academic background, I recognise the importance of ensuring that qualifications are relevant to and cater for employers’ needs. One of the distinctive features of the CSQS,
8 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2008 2010
Andy Cowe Andy Cowe is ICSA President for the UK, Republic of Ireland and Associated Territories. He was formerly Director of Partnerships Development for Edinburgh Napier University Business School and has taught and delivered management training in the UK, Hong Kong, mainland China, Malaysia, Russia and Poland. In his free time, he enjoys playing the piano and singing, and is a follower of Livingston FC.
which has been under development for some years and comes on-stream in 2011, will be a ‘chartered secretary case study’ element. This requires candidates to apply knowledge gained from the different modules, while also giving the opportunity to demonstrate an awareness of ethical concerns, corporate social responsibility and the practicalities of a company secretary’s work. Finally, the other big event we were involved with last year was the Transparency In Governance Awards – a new venture by the Institute, which involved examining the annual reports of the FTSE350 companies and assessing the level of disclosure and transparency they contain. A panel of experts, chaired by Sir John Parker, discussed eight categories of awards. It was a huge, very successful event, that generated real excitement among the candidates for the various awards, and we look forward with anticipation to similar events in the future.”
As the dust settles on this year’s General Election, we pull FT’s Westminster correspondent George Parker from the shadows of the lobby for his perspective on events
Postcard from Westminster
“Expect the unexpected of UK politics,” says George Parker, political editor of the Financial Times. “It teaches political correspondents to be humble and to question their own judgement. For example, lots of people had written off Nick Clegg, but then the TV debate was a surprise big hit for him. We all thought the bullying allegations were a disaster for Gordon Brown, but he went up in the polls. Your understanding of politics is always evolving.” Similarly, when the Liberal Democrats failed to poll as many votes as expected, the disappointment was written all over Nick Clegg’s face. Little might he have realised that, within a few days, he would be Deputy Prime Minister. Parker loves this unpredictability, and the fact that a story can turn on its head in 24 hours. That said, the top priority for the next parliament is unlikely to change. “By far and away the most important issue is the £163 billion deficit,” he
GEORGE PARKER Born: 1966, Guildford Education: Queen Mary College and City University Family: Married to Gabrielle, three children Parents: Journalist and teacher Favourite book: Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain
says. “That will be the defining feature of the next parliament. The spending review in the autumn will probably be one of the most important moments in the coming term.” Parker has been a political correspondent for 20 years and works out of the House of Commons press gallery, where his office overlooks Big Ben. His job is about making politics interesting for the FT’s business audience. “I suppose the biggest challenge is to keep your reporting fresh,” he suggests. “The other big challenge is having to serve a growing number of outlets for your journalism. In our case, that means the newspaper, FT.com, video clips, blogs and radio and TV.” One of his biggest ‘scoops’ was correctly predicting that the Government was about to nationalise two of the UK’s biggest banks. “Calling that early and right was one of my proudest moments,” he says. He describes good journalism as 25% contacts and 75% intuition. “Making contacts and staying close to politicians and officials is a vital part of the job. But it’s a lot less booze-related than it used to be. In the olden days, you’d get lots of tipoffs in pubs and bars. Now it’s more likely to be over a pasta and a bottle of water at lunchtime.” Parker has wanted to be the political editor of a national newspaper since he was a schoolboy in Guildford. His father was also a journalist before working in the House of Commons for Hansard, the official report of parliamentary proceedings. After studying Geography and Journalism at London’s Queen Mary College and City University respectively, Parker went into his first job in the North Devon office of the Western Morning News. At 24, he was the paper’s political correspondent. Five years’ later he moved to the FT, where he was political correspondent, UK news editor, Brussels bureau chief and then political editor. What are his predictions for the next year? “It’s going to be a very painful 12 months for anyone working in the public sector,” he says, unsurprisingly. “But I predict that if you have a job in the private sector, the economy will rebound more quickly than some people think, and 2011 should start to look like quite a promising year.” www.equiniti.com > 9
In the know:
Why share plans remain buoyant The benefits of employee share plans continue to appeal, despite the economic gloom of the past two years. But Phil Ainsley will be keeping a close eye on possible changes to capital gains tax
With the new coalition Government pledging changes to the tax regime, it’s important for companies to keep a watchful eye on the knock-on effects for employee share plans (ESPs). Many will be eager to monitor the impact on the use of equity as part of reward and on employee participation levels. We’ll be focusing closely on these issues at our annual ESP forum. One of the key areas of interest will concern the changes to capital gains tax (CGT), with the introduction of a new, higher-rate band at 28%. In addition to increases in national insurance, higherend income tax has increased significantly. We are therefore reviewing the impact that this change might have on ESPs, and whether it could reduce participation and destroy value. We are working closely with industry bodies, such as ifs ProShare, to lobby Parliament and to try to ensure that share schemes are outside new provisions, and that tax benefits for employees are preserved. Another concern is the bonus rate reduction for sharesave plans, which means, for the first time ever on a three-year scheme, there will be no interest payable. In other words, while people will always get their money back, their incentive to participate will purely be the option to buy shares. There is a worry, therefore, that take-up rates will be harmed. This reduction also highlights the reducing margins available to administrators. However, we remain fully committed to supporting Sharesave at all levels and promoting its use by companies. It remains the most popular share plan in the UK and taps into a savings culture which engages all levels of an organisation in share price performance, without risk. 10 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2010
Many companies are also waiting for the Budget to gauge impact on their executive share plans. Shifts in the balance of taxation are bound to impact on their design and application, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on general industry trends as well as individual sector variations. There have been a number of AGM’s at which recommendations about structure, performance triggers and levels of awards have been questioned or rejected, so benchmarking your plans to current practice is key. This will be a prime topic at the ESP Forum, alongside a strong focus on how companies can extend share plans globally to include their international workforce in equity participation. There is a wealth of experience in our client base that we can all draw on to identify and overcome local obstacles and adopt best practice. The Forum provides an ideal environment for companies to do so.
Strategic partnerships Within Equiniti, we’ve instigated a number of changes to improve the quality of our share plan customer service. One of the major developments, begun at the turn of the year, has been to bring together all aspects of ESP – operations, service delivery, product and business development, creative services and trustees – into a single division. This is to allow us to focus more directly on ESP for both the corporate and employee
customer, to work towards common goals, and provide the best possible client experience. We have ambitious development plans as part of that process, and one key element is the ESP portal that is currently under construction. This will be an online environment where employees can transact and view all details of the share plans that we manage on their behalf. The idea is to enhance the service provision already available in Shareview, providing a lot more functionality in a bespoke environment, which will also allow clients to insert their own branding and to influence content within the portal. This focus-on-service enhancement goes hand-in-hand with our belief that working with clients is a strategic partnership, and we are keen to offer flexible provisions that are tailored to our clients’ needs. This
What’s your view? If you would like any more information on Equiniti’s ESP services, including the next ESP forum (8-9 September 2010), please e-mail Phil Ainsley at Phil.Ainsley@Equiniti.com
philosophy is well illustrated in our partnership with BT. As part of our newly-won contract to administer the sharesave and share incentive plans (SIPs) of BT’s 100,000 UK and 10,000 international employees, we are using ‘federation’ technology. In essence, this means employees can log in to the BT secure intranet, and, from there, navigate directly through to our secure Equiniti environment, without further username or password validation. This is important for BT as it wants to encourage employees to access benefits through the company intranet.
Future focus So what’s in store for ESP in the coming years? Share plans have been around for a while, with Sharesave celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Meanwhile, the SIP has definitely
come of age. First brought in by Gordon Brown ten years ago, many people have questioned its success, but it has been adopted by most FTSE 100 companies and is a very popular plan. Shares held within the plan are exempt from both income tax and CGT, so in a higher tax environment it is likely that more companies will want to take advantage of its tax-free status. There is also continued pressure on companies to show value from ESP and justify their costs. At Equiniti we’re very keen to help clients demonstrate – whether in pure financial terms or through surveys – the value their share plans deliver. Their impact can be seen in many areas, including recruitment and retention, and motivation and reward, as well as the less tangible, but equally important, benefit of alignment of interests between all the
different stakeholders in a company. We’re continually developing fresh ideas to help our clients communicate the benefits of their share plans more effectively to their employees. We have our own creative services team, who are experts in getting the right message to the right people, and they have lots of case studies to demonstrate communication techniques that have boosted not only levels of participation, but also a better understanding among participants. They can also help you segment your target audience, explore the benefits of different media channels – including social networking and mobile technology – and ensure you reach the widest audience effectively. After all, there’s no point having a great plan if your staff don’t understand the full benefits! www.equiniti.com > 11
interview jonathan dimbleby Portrait: Adrian Lourie
amazing dimbleby He is the ex-showjumper who ended up reporting on everything from drug-addled hippies to famine-ravaged Ethiopia. But for Jonathan Dimbleby, one of the most amazing experiences of his career was this year’s General Election. Liz Barclay reports “It’s a huge landmark in British political culture. The debates were it! Forget the 'X Factor' criticisms, we had the biggest policy discussion publicly we’ve ever seen – one that the broad electorate was party to and engaged in. Effectively, millions of people went to a meeting of three party leaders for 90 minutes and things were discussed in public in more depth than ever before. The reengagement in politics is astonishing. If you believe democracy needs people to be engaged in politics it’s very encouraging. I hope and expect they’ll be a fixture.” His passion for politics is clear to see and hear. Jonathan Dimbleby’s first election was in 1974. He was what he himself calls a ‘young upstart’ reporter. The Daily Telegraph at the time said that it was an offence to the office of the Prime Minister that this ‘whippersnapper’ should be sent to interview him. Now he’s one of the most respected political journalists of our time. However, he had to watch this election from the sidelines. Having left ITV in 2006 to work on a series of programmes on, and write a book about, Russia (Russia: A Journey with Jonathan 12 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2010
Dimbleby, BBC 2) he presented some pre-election programmes this time round, and, of course, his beloved Any Questions on BBC Radio 4 on Friday evenings. But when 6 May rolled round, he had to watch his replacement Alastair Stewart occupy his chair on ITV, while big brother David was as cool as a cucumber leading election night coverage on the BBC. How did that feel? “You surely don’t need to ask the question!” But it was those debates that were the most exciting element of the election for Jonathan and he’s still fascinated by what came next. “It became clear very early on that we were facing a hung parliament and that the exit poll predictions were spot on. I’d assumed that might result in a Lib/Lab pact or more likely a minority Conservative Government. I think pragmatism is the word for this coalition. If you have a clear majority you can bask in your tribal and ideological differences and argue about whether you cut £6 billion this year or next… but when you’re faced with the reality of running the country you become very aware of how limited your options are – in the real world there are very few choices – Greece matters, ash matters. The tribal and
It was the first election in almost 40 years that Dimbleby has watched from the sidelines
Jonathan Dimbleby relaxing at home in London
When you’re faced with the reality of running the country you become very aware of how limited your options are – in the real world there are few choices – Greece matters, ash matters ideological differences very quickly fall away.” He thinks Cameron and Clegg want to hold the coalition together and with a majority between them of around 80 they can afford to lose a few back benchers. But the question now engaging him is where that will leave the two parties at the next election: “What will the Lib Dems say? What will the Tories say? We’re in uncharted territory.” And you can tell he’s looking forward to it immensely. Politics wasn’t Jonathan Dimbleby’s first love, as you might expect given his father’s fame as a World War 2 correspondent for the BBC. He grew up in a very happy household which – although his father Richard was away a lot – was apolitical, tolerant and liberal, and where the focus was on a work ethic and interest in other people. Jonathan’s passion was for horses. He wasn’t interested in what his father did. He still goes slightly red at the embarrassment of being at the theatre in London with his father to see Arthur Askey as Widow Twankey in pantomime. The spotlight turned on his father – and him – and the compere for the evening announced to the audience that ‘one of our most distinguished broadcasters’ was in the house. “People would touch him for luck. It was incredible. There weren’t many TV channels then and as presenter of Panorama he became Mr TV.” His brother David followed in their father’s footsteps but he had little influence on Jonathan. He was six years older and they didn’t overlap www.equiniti.com > 13
interview jonathan dimbleby
much as children. So Jonathan became a professional showjumper – South of England Showjumping Champion 1965. He also graduated from the Royal Agricultural College that year. But an influential outsider had already sparked his interest in politics. While he worked on Home Farm at Windsor as a teenager he met a mechanic – a shop steward – who told him about tied cottages and poverty – a world he hadn’t thought of in his own comfortable environment. He eventually studied Philosophy at University College London, became engaged in politics in 1968 and followed his father and brother into journalism. After a stint at BBC Bristol – for three months at £20 a week in 1971 – he was offered freelance work on the World at One. He’s been freelance ever since. That led to the Today programme and his first brush with drug-addled pop festivals. The story was that the Glastonbury Festival near Shepton Mallet had been taken over by drug addicts so the intrepid Dimbleby was despatched to check out the level of debauchery. He reported back on the early news slot that it was “like a Roman encampment of peace” and was told to harden up the story for the later news bulletin. Such was Dimbleby’s knowledge of pop culture that when he was told that Jefferson Airplane were late he assumed that a real aeroplane was being discussed and responded with concern that there was no airport in the vicinity of Shepton Mallet. Fortunately he made a better international correspondent than festival reporter and reported from around the world for ITV’s This Week for the next few years. It was the job he really wanted. He followed war, destruction
and disaster as they unfolded with their trail of human devastation. The experience was harrowing but not without its lighter moments. He clearly remembers a review of one of his interviews by the author, then critic, Julian Barnes in the New Statesman which was mostly favourable until Barnes wrote: “Jonathan Dimbleby must learn to take a downer with his tequila”. “I didn’t
know what a downer was and I didn’t know what tequila was – I had to look them up. I've become more measured or maybe I'm more of an aging fogey, but I was always passionate about things.” The famine in Ethiopia in the early 1970s certainly upset him and is something that has remained vividly with him. “We saw the most terrible sights – the most graphic images of
Career highlights 1970-71
Presents Radio 4’s World at One and The World This Weekend
Presents This Week on ITV
14 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2010
Wins BAFTA’s Richard Dimbleby Award for Outstanding Presenter in the Factual Arena for his groundbreaking report on the Wollo Famine in Ethiopia
Presents ITV’s Jonathan Dimbleby on Sunday
Begins hosting Any Questions? on Radio 4 – still going strong
suffering that I don’t think would be transmittable today. But the pictures we sent back had an electric effect on the money donated and the reports contributed to the overthrow of Haile Selassie in 1974.” Dimbleby claimed that 100,000 Ethiopians had already died and that without immediate aid many more would die. Many historians credit him with creating a sense of urgency
Becomes the first and only journalist to be granted an interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union
His worst ever interview? It has to be a nervous exhange with Prime Minister Harold Wilson
regarding the famine and saving many lives. He was banned from Ethiopia in 1974. His time working there was, he says, one of the peaks of his broadcasting career. But there have been others: being the only journalist to gain an interview with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989; his first anchoring of a major election; and going to Russia recently was a challenge as he’d never done that kind of TV documentary before and was finding new ways of reporting current affairs. “I’d never lain naked on a slab in a bath house for anyone's benefit before.” It may not qualify as a ‘peak’ given he’s been chairing it since 1987, but there’s also his beloved Any Questions?. “I’m married to it! I’m lucky I’m still being asked to do things. I’ll go on working.” One of the things he was asked to do recently was to return to Africa and make a three-part series. He travelled 7,000 miles to discover how the continent has changed since he started reporting there almost 40 years ago. (The series – An African Journey with Jonathan Dimbelby – began screening in May on BBC 2.) He’d like to be asked to interview Obama; he’d invite Mozart, Tolstoy and Cleopatra to dinner – “she’s such a strong, powerful sexy woman that I would behave in an upright fashion but I’d be the only one.” And he’d like his epitaph to be ‘He went for it …” When one broadcaster interviews another there’s always one question they just can’t resist asking. What was your worst interview? “It was my second Prime Ministerial interview with Harold Wilson for This Week. I found it difficult to understand why the balance
Biography of the Prince of Wales is published; His BBC programme, Charles, The Private Man, the Public Role, makes the headlines
Last series of weekly political programme, Jonathan Dimbleby, broadcast on ITV
:: competition copy of WIN aDiscover
Philip Green's Secrets Liz Barclay, our guest writer in The Equiniti Magazine, has collaborated with legendary businessman Philip Green to write 'Business The Philip Green Way - 10 Secrets of the Billionaire Retail Magnate'. To win one of six copies, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 09 July 2010, with 'Philip Green' in the subject line, and answering the following question. Sir Philip Green owns which major retail chain? a) Arcadia Group b) Marks & Spencer c) Habitat The first six correct answers pulled from the hat will each receive a copy of the book. Judges' decision is final. Not open to employees of Equiniti.
of payments mattered. I started to ask a question; Wilson sat there with his pipe; the question went on; he filled the pipe, tamped it down, lit it and puffed and puffed, the smoke billowed; I hadn’t a clue where the question was going and finally I stopped; Wilson said ‘no’; and that was it – I had no idea what I’d asked! I thought ‘Oh well, they’ll never let me do that again, which is a pity as I really enjoy doing interviews.’” It could have been a glorious broadcasting career cut short – but you get the feeling Jonathan Dimbleby will be around for a few more elections yet.
Presents Russia: A Journey With Jonathan Dimbleby on BBC2; His book Russia: A Journey to the Heart of a Land and its People is published
Presents An African Journey with Jonathan Dimbleby on BBC2
www.equiniti.com > 15
feature regulatory change
Is sunshine the best disinfectant? As UK boardrooms adjust to the growing demand for transparency and accountability to shareholders, Victoria Masterson explores the practical implications of regulatory change 16 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2010
Have Britain’s boardrooms ever faced such intense scrutiny? It started gently enough, as the passage of the Companies Act laid bare issues of corporate governance for industry consultation. But then the banking crisis upped the ante, with a harsh media spotlight homing in on boardroom behaviour and director remuneration. And, of course, it doesn’t stop there. Listed companies and their investors are now digesting a number of good practice changes introduced in the wake of last year’s corporate turmoil. These include revisions to the Combined Code - now to be renamed The UK Corporate Governance Code - a new stewardship duty on institutional investors to play a more active role as business owners, and
a review of the Higgs guidance on board leadership and effectiveness. The UK Bribery Bill, expected to become law this year, will also change the legislative landscape for company directors, with new offences, including failure to prevent bribery on a company’s behalf. The banking sector, meanwhile, is braced for a fresh wave of scrutiny as the new coalition government formulates ‘clean-up’ plans, including a new bank tax, a ban on ‘unacceptable’ bonuses, and an independent commission to separate retail and investment activities. David Paterson, Head of Corporate Governance at the National Association of Pension Funds, says it is too early to tell what the specific outcomes might be. “At this point, it’s hard to know,
“The risk is that excessive regulation damages its competitiveness. That’s not to say one condones some of the practices in the banking sector, but we do need to tread quite carefully.” David Paterson, Head of Corporate Governance at the National Association of Pension Funds
UK businesses wait to see what regulatory steps the coalition government will take
because [the Government’s] ambitions for reform of the banking sector have not been made clear,” he explained, at the time of going to press. “Our own desire would be to see limited change in terms of governance, because the banking and financial services sector is an important part of the UK economy. The risk is that excessive regulation damages its competitiveness. That’s not to say one condones some of the practices in the banking sector, but we do need to tread quite carefully.” Paterson saw little in either the Conservative or Liberal Party manifestos that suggested further corporate governance reform for the wider listed sector was a priority. “Our own view is that the broad state of corporate governance in the UK is pretty satisfactory,” he says. “The Code will change a little bit, but it’s more of a change of emphasis rather than of fundamentals. It’s all to do with a better appreciation of some well-established principles.” Key amongst these is the need for boards to have an appropriate mix of skills and experience to understand a company’s challenges; sufficient independence to ensure an objective approach; and time to carry out their duties properly. ‘Comply or explain’ provisions related to this include externally facilitated board evaluation reviews at least every three years and regular development reviews with all directors, led by the chairman. The importance of the chairman’s role in leading and shaping the culture of the board, and that of the non-executives in providing constructive challenge, are also set out in two new top-line principles. Joyce Cullen, Chairman of law firm Brodies, believes these changes will prompt a fresh approach to board appointments by both companies and potential candidates. “Before, it was all about making sure there was a balance of executive and non-executive directors on the board,” she explains. “The assumption being that, just because you were a non-executive and therefore independent, somehow that would keep the board right. There’s a bigger emphasis now on whether you have the right skills, experience and
knowledge of the company, and that will really make non-executive directors think hard about whether they take on a role. Are they really sure that what they would bring to the board is something the board needs? Are they the right person to fill any gaps? I suspect in the past if someone was asked to be a director of a company, their main focus would be on whether their personal portfolio looked good. I think now directors will be much more interested in being able to justify accepting an appointment, if something goes wrong later.” The revised Code also introduces a new principle on the board’s responsibility for defining the company’s risk, and emphasises that performancerelated pay should be aligned to the longterm interests of the company and its policy on risk. Cullen wonders how this will work in practice. “Are companies really going to have the appetite to enforce agreements with directors who meet targets to receive bonuses and then, when things go wrong, have to repay them?” she asks. “How will they prove liability to justify the claw back from any individual director? Drafting these contracts will be difficult. People may have to assume that any performance-related pay they receive could be taken away again in the future. Directorship will be less attractive, and that has come out of the banking crisis.” The most controversial proposed change to the Combined Code was allowing shareholders to put boards or their chairmen up for re-election annually. This prompted a barrage of protest from companies, although investors supported it. “The majority of listed companies (75%) were opposed to that idea because they were concerned about shareholders taking a short-term view, or possible disruption to the board,” explains Chris Hodge, spokesman for the Financial Reporting Council, which oversees the Code. “Most investors (also about three quarters) supported this because they saw it as meaning increased accountability for the board and an incentive for the board to talk more to shareholders, which they don’t always do. It’s not an area where we’re going to get consensus.” www.equiniti.com > 17
feature regulatory change
At the time of going to press, the FRC had not made a final decision on this provision, but was looking through historic data on votes against directors to help formulate its position. “On average over the last ten years, just 2% of votes were cast against directors,” says Hodge. “This suggests that some of the concerns may have been over-stated.” The FRC will also be administering a new Stewardship Code, designed to improve engagement between companies and their investors. The NAPF helped to draft this and is an enthusiastic supporter. “It was needed because questions were being asked about whether the quality of dialogue [between shareholders and companies] was as high as it ought to be,” explains the NAPF’s David Paterson. “We want to encourage both boards and shareholders to take their responsibilities seriously.” He adds that, for pension fund trustees, the biggest challenge will be ensuring that the asset managers holding their fund mandates act diligently and in the best interests of the ultimate owners. Recommendations expected to be enforced by the Financial Services Authority include that asset
managers disclose on their website whether and how they commit to the Stewardship Code. Peter Swabey, Company Secretary at Equiniti, commented that the Stewardship Code is a very worthwhile initiative. “Self-regulation has been very helpful, but a formal code against which investors are expected to ‘comply or explain’ requires a greater clarity of reporting, and consequently more focus on the relevant processes.” The FRC has also commissioned a review of the Higgs guidance associated with the Code, which focuses on the role of the chairman and non-executive directors and, to some degree, boardroom dynamics. This is being conducted by the ICSA. Seamus Gillen, Policy Director at the ICSA, says: “One of the principal lessons from the financial crisis, highlighted in both Sir David Walker’s report on banking governance and the FRC’s review of the Code, is that effective boards are one of the main drivers of good corporate governance. The ICSA’s final guidance will help directors understand how good governance is a key factor in delivering ongoing business sustainability and success.”
The role of the chairman and non-executive directors may be reviewed by the FRC
One size fits all? Banks and other financial institutions have been at the blunt end of government efforts to clean up the boardroom, with proposed measures including new legislation on remuneration from the Treasury and a new code of practice on remuneration policies from the Financial Services Authority. These were enshrined in the Financial Services Bill following a review of corporate governance in UK banks and other financial institutions by senior Morgan Stanley adviser Sir David Walker. His recommendations also form the backbone of the new UK Corporate Governance Code for all listed companies. The British Bankers Association (BBA) said the Walker Review had already changed the industry’s approach to effective corporate governance, ahead of expected new proposals from the European Commission.
“But, as always, we find ourselves pointing out the perils of a onesize-fits-all approach, which could see small firms making costly and unnecessary changes to their governance in order to comply with new rules. It is patently obvious that systemically important, cross-border banks do not face the same issues as smaller firms.”
18 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2010
Picture: Micha Theiner/City AM/Rex Features
“Accordingly the UK’s banks are working to adopt these principles, while the FSA is ensuring it has the right regulatory foundations in place to implement the new rules,” says BBA spokesman Brian Mairs.
feature company law
All tied up? What kind of red tape can we expect to see in the coming years?
Company law – what could change? The basis of UK company law was established in the 19th century. If the new Companies Act has moved things on, what else could change? David Venus scans the horizons When attempting to explain the recent financial crises in the banks and the wider economy, most commentators see one of the main root causes as one of agency. By this I mean a conflict between a company’s owners and its hired managers, the directors. The more owners there are, the more difficult it is to co-ordinate action, and this has led to some senior management having too much power. It could therefore be argued that what we currently need is a strengthened capitalism that will allow owners to exert more control over managers. Enhancing corporate governance is one route to achieving this, and we’re currently seeing this being put in place, including measures to encourage investors to be more proactive in the affairs of investee companies. It has even been suggested by the new Business Secretary, Vince Cable, that short-term holders of shares be disenfranchised in any vote on a merger or takeover. Commenting on the launch of the Takeover Panel’s forthcoming consultation on the regulation of takeovers, he said that he wants directors to think about their wider long term legal duties and takeovers to be decided on the basis of long-term shareholder value rather than short-term speculation.
So how will the structure of companies look in a few years’ time? For starters, I believe we will continue to see a battle between the demands of business for a lightly regulated company law regime, and political pressure for tighter protection against money laundering and fraud by terrorists and criminals. I think these competing forces will result in little or no reduction in red tape. In fact I believe we are going to see more. A second issue is the role of the shareholder. With company law, a shareholder has rights but not duties. The emerging idea of ‘stewardship’ seeks to place a responsibility upon shareholders, particularly institutions, to exercise their rights to create long-term shareholder value, particularly in shaping the UK’s response to environmental and climate issues and in preventing a recurrence of the recent financial crash. The new stewardship code presently being drawn up by the FRC is awaited with interest.
“The new stewardship code presently being drawn up by the FRC is awaited with interest”
Lastly, we may begin to see a new form of capitalism. Excessive risk taking and ‘short-termism’ have led to mergers and acquisitions that do not add any longterm value. We have also seen bankers who, falsely claiming to have added value, have even gone on to reward it. What we may see evolve now, therefore, is a new kind of corporation. The movement to oblige directors to consider wider interests, including those of employees, the community and the environment, is certain to gather pace and may result in further legislation to create clearer legal duties. This would sit well with a recent comment made by Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, that “shareholder value” should not be the driver for success and that this can be achieved by focusing instead on the customer and consumer. All this suggests that, in future, corporate success may be measured in the longer term. We shall see how this sits however with the new Corporate Governance Code recommendation for annual reappointment of directors! • David Venus is Senior Director at David Venus & Co, which is part of Equiniti. For more information, please contact David on 01372 465330 or email@example.com www.equiniti.com > 19
feature emotional intelligence
Time to get emotional?
Managing the big personalities of the boardroom is part and parcel of a company secretary’s life. But can you learn ‘emotional intelligence’ skills to strengthen your hand? Charlotte McNeill reports 20 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2010
Imagine the scene. Board members are discussing their strategies to reach the company’s share price target, but differences in opinion quickly lead to dispute and confusion. How would you react? Your decision as to whether you move on quickly to the next agenda item or, acknowledging the tension, strive to find the best solution, depends largely on your level of emotional intelligence. Employers increasingly cite the ability to understand the emotional reactions of those around you as a sought-after skill. In fact, studies suggest that where emotional intelligence is lacking, even people with the most enviable IQ scores, academic backgrounds and technical skills will struggle to get ahead in life
and in work. A high Emotional Quotient (EQ) score is quickly emerging as a more important indicator of an employee’s ability than the cognitive skills associated with Intelligence Quotient (IQ) testing.
Relationships made easy
From sending annual returns to Companies House to ensuring that directors operate in line with the company’s established articles, impeccable organisation and communication skills, a flair for absorbing complex information, and problem solving prowess are required by company secretaries in abundance. David Venus, Senior Director of David Venus & Company, a leading firm of chartered secretaries, and part
EQ is as important an attribute for successful company secretaries as organisational skills and an eye for detail
of the Equiniti group, explains: “In my experience, the most important relationship at board level is between the chairman and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), closely followed by the relationship between the chairman, CEO and company secretary. The best chairman uses the secretary as a sounding board for ideas and appropriate strategies for engaging with the individual egos and personalities seated around the boardroom table. “The secretary is a facilitator and should act discreetly and thoughtfully to help the board function effectively. This usually means staying in the background and allowing others to take the credit,” says David. “People automatically expect company secretaries to have a very good
eye for detail, but they also have a very different set of skills that helps them to ask difficult questions. This requires diplomacy, relationship management skills, impartiality and well-tuned emotional antennae.” In the UK’s post-recession climate, attention has never been more clearly focused on company directors and boards, and how to prevent a repeat of the failure in corporate governance that contributed to the financial crisis. Looking ahead, company secretaries will play a leading role in overseeing boardroom dynamics and ensuring that compliant behaviour prevails. As Liz Wilson, Director at behavioural change specialist TWP and co-author of Emotional Intelligence Coaching, explains, it is those with the highest level of emotional intelligence who will excel in this role. “Cognitive skills, such as sound knowledge of company law, are essential, but so too is the ability to communicate effectively, build rapport with others and get people on board. That way, even if someone doesn’t like your message, they will accept it more readily,” she says. “It is a high level of emotional intelligence that helps company secretaries engage with people, recognise differences and keep everything on an even keel.” A heightened awareness of how others receive and react to information is another highly desirable trait. “When communicating to people about lengthy and complex legal material, for instance, basing your approach on how they behave and interact with each other helps you to transform the level of engagement achieved,” explains Liz.
All linked up
But what makes one individual more emotionally intelligent than another? Emotional intelligence improves when we form the habit of connecting the cognitive and the powerful emotional functions of the brain. This positively impacts on our behaviour, helping us to make informed and balanced decisions. The good news is that everyone can improve their EQ scores, no matter how ingrained past habits may be. “For some, working on emotional intelligence is more challenging than others but anyone can improve, so long as the will and the
:: The secret of success? Research carried out by the Carnegie Institute, based on the performance of staff at leading financial organisations, suggests that 85% of our success is due to emotional intelligence and ‘human engineering’ – how we interact with others, manage conflict, bounce back from setbacks, our outlook on life, and how we value ourselves and others.
support is present,” says Liz. “There are lots of assessment tools available that assess current levels of EQ and identify areas for improvement. Many people find that the first step in improving their emotional intelligence begins with valuing themselves and working on their own self-esteem.” The bad news is that a quick fix does not exist. “The best way to go about improving your emotional intelligence is to make small changes in how you interact with and observe others, and repeat them daily until they become more habitual. It takes about 21 days for the new pathways in our brain to become hardwired, so that the new response becomes a habit,” says Liz. “Take small steps and all the hard work will be worthwhile when you experience improved relationships with work colleagues and people in your personal life. As we’re more aware of the messages that our body and mind are sending us, and we begin to pick up on the impact our behaviour has on others, everything in life flows more easily.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? So if you have room for a little more success in your life, start working on your emotional hardwiring today. • Liz Wilson is a Director at TWP, the behavioural change specialists – www.twpartnership.co.uk. TWP will be running an Emotional Intelligence seminar on Thursday 19 August. For more details, please email firstname.lastname@example.org www.equiniti.com > 21
feature uk economic prospects
How will the UK economy look by the time of the next General Election? If Britain’s business leaders have their way – very different. Victoria Masterson reports
Where next for UK plc? Two years of economic turmoil. The banking crisis. A record budget deficit. War in Afghanistan. Volcanic eruptions in Iceland. The first coalition government in 70 years. Welcome to the United Kingdom 2010. Except even that name is deceptive. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have devolved governments of sorts – and the Scottish Government is pushing for full independence. ‘UK plc’ hasn’t looked this fragile in decades – a fact that the new Government will be all too well aware of. It is, therefore, a perfect time to take stock and assess what the real challenges facing the UK economy and UK business are – and how they should be tackled. The Equiniti Magazine has gathered together a highly impressive panel of commentators to tackle this question over the next four pages. Then we’d like you to send us your suggestions so that we can include some in the next issue of the magazine.
Stable – but lagging
Tim Leunig, a reader in Economic History at the London School of Economics, believes Britain’s biggest strength at the 22 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2010
moment is that it is a well-functioning economy. “We are not Greece, Mexico or Argentina,” he says. “We have a stable and predictable business environment and, by and large, British workers are also sensible, so we don’t gets lots of strikes. People in this country understand the rigours of a market economy and don’t just down tools when things get tough. We hugely underestimate how advantageous this is.” On weaknesses, Leunig highlights the logistical challenges of being an island, which means transporting goods via trains, lorries and very slow boats. Education is another failing. “The proportion of the British workforce who are not functionally literate is way higher than in the Netherlands, Scandinavia or Germany,” Leunig says. “It’s a big problem when people leave school, because it’s very hard to address.” This, and Britain’s archaic planning system, are his target areas for future development. “[Sir James] Dyson wanted to expand his plant in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, but he couldn’t, so he opened a factory in Malaysia instead. That was pretty tough for the workers who lost their jobs. Ikea also has fewer stores in
Britain than it would like, because it’s hard to get planning for a really big box. It means less competition so it’s good for the companies, but it’s bad for the customers.”
Struggling students, stuttering start-ups
Sir James Dyson has his own ideas for making Britain better. The vacuumcleaner entrepreneur believes promoting science, engineering, technology and maths, improving the commercialisation of university research, and overhauling
financial support for start-ups will be key to pulling Britain out of the downturn. “Backing British engineering and inspiring new talent must start with the Government,” he says. “We need to make decisions on big projects like high-speed rail or nuclear power and get on with it. Big projects inspire engineers and universities and children. Instead we get bogged down with endless reports and bickering.” Sir James’s ideas are set out in his report Ingenious Britain. They include better pay for science, technology and
maths teachers, and the provision of industry-sponsored scholarships for engineering undergraduates. He also suggests increasing the pay of postgraduate research students from £13,000 to £23,000 a year. “There are so few British students in post-graduate work because they are too indebted to stay on,” Sir James says. “As a result, the universities are filled with foreign students who then take the expertise back to our competitors. We need to help students with their loans and then pay them.”
He also suggests that R&D tax credits are redirected to technology start-ups. “Nearly 70% of the tax breaks are claimed by banks and the service industry,” he says. “These should be scrapped but the ones for hi-tech development should be boosted from 140% to 200%.”
Grappling with emissions and smarter energy
In its wishlist for the next decade, the Renewable Energy Association has set out ten key actions necessary to deliver on renewables. It says the new www.equiniti.com > 23
feature uk economic prospects
government will be crucial in determining whether or not the UK achieves its target of generating 15% of its energy from renewable energy by 2020. “We’ve heard a lot about ‘change’,” says REA chief executive Gaynor Hartnell. “If we’re serious about energy security and global warming, nothing needs change more than our energy system. The new government must redouble efforts to deliver the 2020 renewable energy target. Meeting that target is essential for plugging the UK’s looming energy gap, reducing emissions, and securing the jobs and economic opportunities of the future.” The REA's priorities for the future include strong and visible political leadership on renewable heat, power, transport and 'greening' the gas grid; a stable framework for investment to bolster investor confidence; effective incentives to encourage renewable electricity; a strategic approach to national planning; and a £40bn ‘Green Investment Bank’ to support large private investment needs.
A nation of shopkeepers – and entrepreneurs
Stephen Alambritis, chief spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses, identifies Britain’s biggest threats as weak demand, increased costs – particularly diesel, fuel and utilities – and reduced trade. The strengths are from businesses which have been well capitalised during the good years and are dipping into their savings or using friends and family finance to survive the credit crunch. “Despite the recession, we also have an entrepreneurial culture, with 5,000 people deciding to go self-employed each year,” he adds. Access to finance is at the top of the Alambritis wishlist going forward. “We want lending at reasonable rates and a good relationship, based on complete trust and confidence between banks and small businesses,” he says. “It is important that the banks were saved. That was the right decision because 90% of small businesses are with one of the four main clearers. We want a reduction in red tape and form filling. We also want measures to help the High Street. For 24 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2010
example, reducing parking restrictions and allowing independent stores to thrive and survive beside big supermarkets.”
Rebuilding the construction industry
In the construction sector, boosting skills and helping employers prepare for the upturn are key goals of CITBConstructionSkills, the Sector Skills Council and Industrial Training Board for the construction industry. Chief Executive Mark Farrar says: “Construction is one of the UK’s most important industries and its success is central to economic vitality. Three million people work in the construction supply chain and it accounts for 8% of British GDP. Regardless of which political party is in power, a well-trained, diverse and safe construction industry
“Regardless of which political party is in power, a well-trained, diverse and safe construction industry will be central to economic recovery.” Mark Farrar, Chief Executive CITB-ConstructionSkills
Expert suggestions for a brighter future include better education, less red tape, and more savings
The UK construction industry is forecast to remain in recession until 2011 at the earliest
will be central to economic recovery. “Helping workers to access funding at various stages of their career, support for bringing new talent to the industry and maintaining investment in public building programmes are all crucial if we are to ensure the effective recovery and growth of the industry.” Specific goals for the future include championing apprenticeships as the best vocational route available and maintaining public sector investment until the private sector picks up. Construction is forecast to remain in recession until at least 2011 – so steady public sector investment is crucial to its recovery.
A flexible force
David Bell, Professor of Economics at the University of Stirling, describes flexibility
as one of UK plc’s greatest strengths. “We have a flexible labour market – people are willing to change jobs, re-skill and work different hours,” he explains. “We also have a reasonably highly-skilled workforce." Weaknesses are an over-reliance on financial services, so-called 'NEETS' – around one million people that are 'not in employment, education or training' – and a lack of savings. "The danger is that people are constantly living on credit, and that the private sector becomes as indebted as the public sector currently is,” he explains. Looking ahead, Bell wants leadership on energy and economic policy. “We’ve got big issues with the changing structure of electricity generation and we just have to move ahead in policy there," he says. “What we also need is leadership in dealing with the fiscal difficulties that we now face." He adds: "What scares me a lot is the politicians not being able to come to terms with reality of the fiscal problems that we now face.” For business, Bell warns the government to maintain a ‘reasonably benign tax environment’ and suggests that businesses need more help with knowledge exchange. In practice, this means linking colleges and universities more closely with the private sector to improve business performance.
Cutting the red tape
For the British Retail Consortium, the nation’s high streets are vital to the health of UK plc and must be supported by local and national government. The lobby group’s priorities are protecting retail jobs, reducing business costs and promoting competition. “Retailing is a global industry,” the BRC says. “Products are imported from around the world for the benefit of UK consumers, while many well-known UK retail brands are achieving great successes in both Europe and further afield. Free and fair trade, and recognition of the benefits of market competition, are all vital if UK retailers are to continue to thrive and offer their customers the best choice and value. “Likewise, the sector is reliant on an efficient regulatory framework at all levels of government. Rigid or inconsistent
bureaucracy adds significantly to costs without delivering proportionate consumer benefits. In the current economic climate, every regulatory burden must be fully justified.” To reduce the pressures on business, the BRC says the UK Government needs to continue to champion the benefits of free trade and resist all forms of protectionism; to ensure the UK has an effective presence in Europe in order to shape Single Market legislation; and to support competition and innovation by insisting regulation is proportionate and evidence-based, and that enforcement is both consistent, and targeted and implemented in a business-friendly manner, with workable lead-in times and recognition of complex operations.
Resilience and innovation
At the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA) – the membership body for the Chartered Secretary profession – Chief Executive David Wilson believes that, outside some members of the banking sector, UK plc has performed "remarkably well" during the global economic downturn. He says one of its greatest strengths is its willingness to embrace diversity and encourage innovation, while weaknesses centre around the lack of capital available for SMEs to expand their businesses. "The likely tightening of public spending following the general election will lead to an increase in unemployment; which in turn will restrict confidence and make consumers less willing to buy from the UK," he predicts. He cites sovereign debt as another issue which raises concern. Over the next five years, the ICSA would like to see a greater understanding of the business benefits of pursuing best practice corporate governance. “Greater emphasis will be placed on the importance of the boardroom as a place of constructive challenge and more attention will be paid to issues such as effective decision-making and the roles and responsibilities of the chairman and directors,” Wilson predicts. “We also anticipate more recognition of the commercial advantages that can be gained from improved disclosure in annual reports.” www.equiniti.com > 25
group company secretaRy scott massie aberdeen asset management Portrait: derek ironside
Going for growth In the north-east of Scotland, a â€˜challenging climateâ€™ refers to more than just the recession. But, as Scott Massie of Aberdeen Asset Management explains, opportunity knocks in even the toughest conditions Tell us a bit about your role?
What are your current priorities?
I am Group Company Secretary for the Aberdeen group, comprising a FTSE 250 listed parent company along with a large number of subsidiaries around the world.
This week the PLC Board is holding a meeting at the offices of one of our overseas subsidiaries, in Helsinki. Confirming the schedules for all associated meetings and presentations to guarantee that the visit is a success is high on my agenda. We have also introduced electronic board papers and a directors extranet, so ensuring that all directors have access and are able to download papers is important. The current issues with BA are an annoyance that I could do without!
Do you have anything approaching a typical working day? As is the case with all company secretaries, the role is wide and varied with never any two days the same. Invariably, a great deal of time both before and after the eight PLC Board meetings that are held in any one year, is spent dealing with PLC issues. 26 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2010
How has Aberdeen Asset Management coped with the economic turbulence of the past 12 months? Aberdeen has weathered the financial storm relatively well. We were able to take advantage of one or two opportunities presented by crisis. Specifically, we acquired the asset management units of Credit Suisse and RBS as they and a number of other investment banks refocused their strategy on what they regard as their core businesses. This increased our assets under management by around ÂŁ50 billion
in the Granite City hat are the best lessons that you W have learned during the course of your career to date? Be prepared for what might happen and if it does, then tomorrow will probably be a better day.
Who inspires you? My late father – although he was hard-working, he was also generous with his time.
How do you relax after a busy week? We have a one-year-old son, so we take enormous pleasure in being with him. I also collect old vinyl records and love most sports – although mainly watching rather than taking part these days.
role Group Company Secretary, Aberdeen Asset Management PLC 2000-2002 Company Secretary and Compliance Officer, WJB Chiltern Group plc 1995-2000 Company Secretary and Compliance Officer, The Smith and Williamson Group and, combined with strong inflows into our equity products in particular, helped us to become the largest independent asset manager in the UK.
Following the formation of the new UK coalition government, what do you think the key priorities for UK business over the next 12 months (or longer) should be? Given the scale of the UK’s budget deficit and the need to make significant cuts, the business environment is likely to be tough. Fortunately the majority of businesses are in reasonable financial
shape. However, as well as continuing to keep a close eye on costs (the bottom line) companies should look to grow their top line and perhaps exploit the benefits of having a weak currency.
How would your describe the essential skills of a good company secretary? Being thick-skinned. Having a sense of humour is also a must.
If you could make one wish, what would improve your working life? Warmer weather in Aberdeen.
What did you want to do when you left school? I come from a family of accountants and, while it was not the job for me, I always seemed to be nudged in that direction.
If you had to choose another job what would it be? The owner of a record shop or art gallery.
If you could invite three people (historical or living) to dinner, who would they be and why? Allan Clarke (ex-singer with The Hollies, right), Richie Benaud and Billy Connolly. The Hollies have long been my favourite group; cricket is my favourite sport and Richie is simply the master; and Billy Connolly can make you laugh just by being in his company. If you are interested in appearing in this feature in the future, please email email@example.com
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What's new at equiniti? Equiniti Trust offers the full package Thanks to the creation of Equiniti Trust (Jersey) Limited, clients are benefiting from the combined power of two experts in their respective fields March 2010 saw the beginning of a relationship between Equiniti and Bedell Group in Jersey. This has now paved the way for the creation of Equiniti Trust (Jersey) Limited, which is owned, managed and controlled by Bedell Trust Company Limited, and provides trustee services in the offshore employee benefit trust and share plan arena. “We looked at several organisations and ultimately chose Bedell Group,” said John Daughtrey of Equiniti. The new offshore trust company has been formed to service clients introduced by Equiniti who require an offshore trustee. These clients benefit from Bedell Group’s experience and expertise of operating trustee services for employee benefit and share plan schemes,” said Grant Barbour of Bedell Group. As Paul Anderson of Bedell Group adds, the addition of trustee services is a welcome boost to Equiniti’s offering. “Now, not only does Equiniti offer share plan and employee benefit administration, it can also provide the offshore trustee angle as well. This really adds to the overall process.” Plans are in place to continue to build on the close working relationship between Bedell Group and Equiniti, and the company’s expanding client base. “We have done a lot of brainstorming on the specific segments of the market that we’d like to target and have drawn up a list of potential clients who could benefit from the services that this new company has to offer,” added Grant. “Looking ahead, we’ll be working closely with John Daughtrey of Equiniti to take our relationship forward,” said Grant. Equiniti Trust (Jersey) Limited is regulated by the Jersey Financial Services Commission. For more information, contact John Daughtrey on 01903 833 259 or firstname.lastname@example.org
28 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2010
Together we're strong. Below L-R, John Daughtrey, Paul Anderson and Grant Barbour
> Equiniti Trust created > Business process outsourcing strengthened > Equiniti and Xafinity join forces
Did you know? Xafinity handles $2 trillion every year on behalf of its clients
Equiniti and Xafinity join forces Fresh acquisition makes perfect match for client benefits Private equity group and owners of Equiniti, Advent International, has purchased Xafinity, one of the UK’s leading specialist providers of pensions, employee benefits and payments expertise. The group, which handles £2 trillion annually, provides consulting, software, resourcing, training and business process outsourcing services. A team of experts from Xafinity and Advent International has identified areas where the combined businesses, and therefore its customers, could benefit – broadly by: a) increasing effectiveness and efficiency; b) sharing best practice; c) enhancing current and prospective customer service and sales opportunities by providing access to a wider range of
solutions and services for an enlarged joint client base. Following this review, Advent has created the Equiniti Group, comprising the two companies. However, both Xafinity and Equiniti will continue to trade as separate legal entities under their existing brands. Wayne Story, CEO of Equiniti, will now also be CEO of the Equiniti Group, working with Alasdair Marnoch, CFO of Xafinity who will be CFO of the Equiniti Group. John Parker will continue in his role as Managing Director of Equiniti and the existing relationship management team structure will be unchanged. “We believe this is very positive and I am excited by the opportunities that the combination of our two businesses will offer for enhancing our current and future services,” said John.
Stepping up outsourcing power Clients can now tap into extra BPO expertise from the team at Equiniti Equiniti is fast emerging as a market leader in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) service provision, offering a wide range of services – including complex administration, document management, fulfilment and payroll services and business intelligence delivery – via its sister organisation, Equiniti ICS. The group now has ambitious plans to further expand Equiniti’s BPO offering to both public and private sector clients. To meet this challenge, it has strengthened its team, with Jason Carter and Mark Tabone joining Colin Finnegan and John Whitaker as Directors of Business Development within the new BPO division. The division is dedicated to defining,
growing and developing the Equiniti BPO proposition and both to bringing this additional value to Equiniti’s existing customers, as well as to defining its target market for new customers. John Whitaker comments: “I was part of the original Lloyds TSB Registrars organisation which moved over to become the new Equiniti business when it was acquired, and I can see the complete sense in bringing these powerful operational services together to create a new and dynamic offering. “I can also see the great opportunity there is for all of us as employees, as well as the huge value that we can offer to our customers, who
have been with us for many years.” Among the benefits that Equiniti’s BPO service offers to clients are improved efficiencies, cost savings, and the assurance that Equiniti draws on its wealth of expertise to complete projects efficiently and accurately. “Clients often find that they experience a better quality of service delivery, improving the customer service they receive and allowing them to concentrate on their core business areas,” Mark explains. “Another undercommunicated benefit is that everything from print and production to process execution is undertaken by skilled Equiniti staff, rather than being passed to third party outsourced partners,” said Mark. “Our BPO model allows us to perform high volume, complex transactional work,” Jason adds. “Offering fast-start projects where clients need a project to be set up quickly, usually on a short term basis and under a tight deadline, is one of Equiniti’s key strengths.” Want to find out more? Look out for the full-length article on Equiniti’s new BPO offering in the forthcoming e-zine
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question time: Rachel Benjamin Rachel Benjamin, Deputy Company Secretary at Mitchells & Butlers has an energetic approach to work – and life in general
us a bit about your Q Tell career to date.
flexibility to change direction at a moment’s notice. The importance of frequent but effective communication between each of the parties involved was crucial.
was a slightly unusual start, A Itwith a degree in music and, after a brief foray into music publishing, I decided to give the company secretarial world a shot. My first job was working for Cookson Group plc, a FTSE 250 materials science company, where I completed my ICSA qualification. After four years with Cookson, I was appointed Assistant Company Secretary for Mitchells & Butlers plc (a FTSE 250 pub and restaurant company) and was made Deputy Company Secretary just over a year ago.
someone who Q Name inspires you. mother – she is amazing. A My Somehow she manages to fit in full-time work, the odd degree here and there, and looking after my dad, me and my brothers, and now grandchildren too. She is the most kind hearted, generous and hard working woman that I know. are you most Q Where likely to be found on
does your current Q What role involve?
a Sunday afternoon? training for whatever A Either sporting event I have signed myself up for (last year the Olympic distance triathlon, this year a half marathon) or in my local deli in recovery mode with friends, putting the world to rights.
run the Secretariat on a A Iday-to-day basis and therefore deal with a wide variety of work. In summary, my job is to ensure that the company complies with its obligations as a listed company, company law and corporate governance guidelines. I also work alongside HR in managing the employee share schemes and I am the data protection officer.
is your favourite Q Where place in the world? a holiday? It would have A For to be Antigua – stunning
portrait: simon hadley
company hit the Q The headlines recently over events at the AGM. How pleased are you with the way that was managed and have you drawn any lessons from it? was certainly a turbulent A Itlead up to the AGM with events changing on a daily basis. We ended up running a full proxy solicitation campaign to contact all 70,000 shareholders and encourage them to vote, as well as distributing six shareholder communications in as many weeks. In terms of lessons learned, the experience reinforced the importance of having strong relationships with suppliers and the 30 > Equiniti Magazine | summer 2010
It was certainly a turbulent lead up to the AGM... We ended up running a full proxy solicitation campaign to contact all 70,000 shareholders
location, fantastic music and such friendly people. In the UK, Dorset is top of my list – I was born there and love having both beautiful beaches to explore and the New Forest to stomp around in. I’m fortunate that my parents are still based there, so I get to escape from London and do both of those things on a fairly regular basis whilst spending time with my family. you could make one Q Ifwish to improve your business life, what would it be? have more hours A To in the day.
my equiniti: claire brindley Equiniti’s first Customer Champion is overseeing a raft of customer service enhancements
‘The customer is always right.’ When Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store, coined this phrase in 1909, he could never have known that it would be such a common mantra more than a century later. This philosophy still holds true at leading companies, however, and Equiniti is no exception. Continuously improving the customer’s experience is a top priority for Equiniti and, with the appointment of a Customer Champion, the entire company’s customer service efforts are more aligned than ever before. The role brings together a wide range of quality and service initiatives and will drive a journey of continuous improvements within Equiniti. “As Customer Champion, I am overseeing a governance framework that looks across Equiniti's range of products and ensures that we are always focusing on the customer experience. I look at the end-toend processes and products across the business, making sure we deliver the best service possible,” says Claire Brindley, Customer Services General Manager. A number of initiatives have already been delivered. “We have started a training academy for new recruits and set a new service level standard that better addresses our customers’ expectations – whether they are a shareholder, employee, investor or their agent,” explains Claire. IT systems and our recruitment and training process have been adapted to reflect the trend of more customers opting to get in touch by phone or via the web, rather than by letter. For example, more transactions can be made over the phone, such as updating bank and address details, without the need to send
Three quick questions What do you enjoy most about your role as Customer Champion?
Making a real difference for the customer across Equiniti’s core products, having the opportunity for my team and I to visit companies across different industries to benchmark our customer service, and having the support of the executive team to drive improvements forward. any follow-up documentation. We have also implemented a new bereavement helpline, with specially trained agents to deal with enquiries of a sensitive nature, and this has been well received. And we have undertaken a review of how Equiniti communicates with customers – the wording of letters and the timing of communications. It's about responding to the changing needs of customers and the increasing complexity of their queries. But what has made these changes possible? “It has required a big investment in our people. Over 5,000 hours have been dedicated to customer service training this year,” says Claire. “We’re confident that colleagues can take ownership of their work. They are multi-skilled so they can handle a wide range of complex issues and identify the root cause of problems.” Our complaint levels show
the positive impact of the improvements. "By understanding our customers' requirements, addressing the root cause of issues and investing in our people, we have significantly reduced the number of complaints we receive. This is set against a background of investors being much more likely to complain and ask for compensation. Coupled with direct positive feedback, this is clear evidence that we are improving our service offering," says Claire. Looking beyond its direct competitors when benchmarking customer service performance has also reaped rewards. “Our clients come from a variety of industries with varying customer bases, so it’s not enough to consider what others are doing within our space," explains Claire. "Sharing best practice with some of our client companies in the retail and financial services industries has been very useful."
Which other businesses do you admire and why?
M&S for its approach to handling retail customer complaints, as I learnt on a benchmarking visit. What’s your favourite way to spend a summer evening?
Enjoying some fresh seafood and a glass of wine with friends.
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8 - 9 September 2010
Equiniti ESP Forum This year’s Equiniti ESP Forum 2010 is proving as popular as ever – book now to guarantee your place. Join us on 8-9 September as we: + learn more from experts in share plan administration + get advice on current best practice in the industry +VIGIMZI½VWXLERHEGGSYRXWERHXMTWJVSQGSQTERMIW who have implemented successful, innovative schemes + better understand the rewards this brings to employees.
PARTNERSHIP THROUGH INSIGHT, INTEGRITY AND INNOVATION
At only £399, this is truly an event not to miss. Call Laura or Lynn on 01903 833227 or email email@example.com to book your place.
Published on May 30, 2010
The Equiniti Group provides complete commercial solutions in share registration, employee benefits and investment services to a broad range...