The past two years have been a challenge on so many fronts, and of course for treasurers one issue has been the inability to come together in person for events, to continue professional development and network with friends and peers.
This isn’t news. What maybe is, are the benefits virtual events have had in terms of bringing people together across the globe. Although the ACT has members and students in c90 countries, there was a sharp uplift in engagement in our award-winning events through 2020 and 2021.
But people are tired of being on screen all the time, and are really wanting to be back in-person with others. Understanding this, in November we had two in-person events. The first was a small lunch where we talked all things ESG, with Fitch’s Global Head of Sustainable Finance starting the ball rolling. We had a second lunch in January which was also a great success, and whilst we took the appropriate precautions and had a spacious room, it was clear that people were comfortable to be at lunch with others. More amazing perhaps was our ‘Reunion Dinner’ in November. We consulted with treasurers first: lunch or dinner? What kind of dress? What kind of content? Something for the team, or for the wider community?
What emerged was a preference for the evening, with a relaxed atmosphere and no big speeches, a short and fun auction (for which yours truly designed and knitted a couple of lots which made great Christmas presents), and no requirement for ‘black tie’ (so the men did not have to try to squeeze back into their tuxedos, and the ladies could be very flexible in their attire!). There was lots of networking beforehand as well as after the dinner, with some tables full of corporate treasury teams as a thank you from their Group Treasurer (we gave treasurers first option), and others hosted by the sell side – generally those who stayed close and supported us over the last two years were invited to buy a table. An event intended for 120 people quickly sold out, and we moved to a larger space and capped numbers at 220 to ensure sufficient space for people to feel safe – and sold out immediately. So it was something people were desperate to have in their lives again, and we were so grateful that we managed to pull it off before another lockdown took place. In fact, we went on to hold our Working Capital Conference 8 December, which was smaller than usual as Omicron had just emerged, but was again a huge success from the feedback we got (and if a week later, we would have had to cancel).
Now one challenge for us, as a global treasury association, is how to get that level of connection going around the world, and not just in the UK. People need it, but we’re going to have to be smart and agile in order to bring people together outside of the virtual world, i.e. in the physical one. We will have to be positioned to ‘grab’ opportunities when we can, as things can change so quickly in terms of government guidelines in the different countries. We have been chatting with our Asia advisory panel in the last few weeks about how we can achieve this, and plans are forming…watch this space!
Two of the auction prizes at the Reunion Dinner in November