Hot topics and golden nuggets!

Thursday 12 December 2019

There is always at least one golden nugget of information and best practise to take away from a Branch seminar.

I enjoy attending the South West Branch’s seminars as I always find at least one golden nugget that’s relevant to my own organisation.

That nugget can arrive through a PowerPoint presentation or guest speaker, through networking with my peers, or through an informal chat with someone I bump into in the ladies! The nugget will be there, and I look forward to its arrival, and the value it will give me and the organisation I work for.

ALARM’s South West Branch autumn meeting was held at the Taunton Rugby Football Club, which is a very convenient venue as it is actually in the South West. So often, for other forums, the ‘south west’ offering requires a full day out in London, along with (often prohibitive) train fares. For ALARM’s events easy access from the M5 and free parking is always welcome!

While the day’s attendance wasn’t as high as previously (ALARM members – you’re missing out), it proved to be a very valuable day. Rather than sitting through death-by-PowerPoint, we had lots of lively, interesting and relevant group debates and learnt from our peers and sector experts in the room.

I would choose this type of conference every time over a full line-up of speakers. We all know these can be a mixed bag, ranging from excellent and engaging, through to sleep-inducing.

The agenda for the day was deliberately flexible to allow for relevant ‘topics of the moment’ to be discussed with the Branch as needed, and this was a welcome format. We were able to explore particular aspects of risk methodology, emerging risks and Brexit risks. We even had time for an impromptu – and excellent – presentation from Alix Bedford of Zurich Municipal on emerging technology. She spoke on everything from open banking to smart cities. I think the dog-robots left us all feeling uneasy! (Google ‘Boston Dynamics’ if you’d like the same feeling of unease).

The interesting and useful conversations varied from practical tips on how to formalise your risk committee’s horizon scanning, comparisons of risk matrices, learning about the HMRC’s Digital Street project, through to the vast and murky area of liability for when technology fails.

We also considered the big question of whether boards and/or risk committees are ready to deal with the risks (and opportunities) the digital world brings. Is yours?

We naturally couldn’t avoid talking about risk without mentioning Brexit. However rather than labour on discussions held previously, we discussed various scenarios and associated planning, and proximity of risks and tangible actions to help us all plan as much as possible. After all, we’re all experiencing the same Brexit.

Overall, this forum was an excellent place to discuss topics of the moment in a friendly, open and sharing environment. Everyone learnt something and took away their own golden nugget.

November’s meeting dropped nuggets like a Hansel & Gretel themed fairytale. If you are able to attend the next session (and I recommend you do) I would advise bringing a picnic basket to collect yours too.

Nikki Allen, Head of Business Assurance, Yarlington Housing Group

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