The UK200 Group at 30 years
Reflections of founder member and past president, David Ingall. Distributed to all the attendees at the UK200Group 2015 Annual Conference.
This cannot be a full history of the Group, due to space considerations as I was asked to restrict what I said to fewer than 1000 words. How could you begin to do justice to the founder David Turnbull alone in that many words and the Group has had its share of colourful characters over the years? But I quickly realised that this can only be a personal view, my personal view of the Group. I have the advantage of having been there at the beginning when Turnbull made his trek around the country trying (and succeeding) in enthusing practices around the country to join this new organisation. That the first conference was held in York in late 1985 speaks volumes of David’s charisma, vision and hard work by him and his backroom staff.
So why did firms join? The reasons are as varied as the firms that joined. A hope for an exclusive area and to hold out that they were superior to the other local firms. Many firms felt that they were not being supported, particularly against the big firms by our professional bodies. You have to recall in the early days that we were The UK 200 Group of Practising Chartered Accountants and that caused its own problems. Gradually a clearer picture of what was wanted and needed emerged. Silly as it sounds now, access to a barrister was restricted to instructions written by solicitors and when DT found a way to sidestep that, group members found they were able to back up their tax planning with expert opinions. Gradually the Group extended its distinguishing mark of expert advice from a local firm.
In those early days PII was a problem, as many of us had belonged to schemes where the advice was thin and invariably a quote came at the very last moment, excluding comparative quotes. So the man of colourful language appeared who always seemed to turn up late, but who certainly knew his insurance market and again we progressed. The cost of PII came down for many firms. Out of that developed The UK200 PII Scheme, requiring a review to give comfort to our insurers. And years later that developed into the mandatory reviews that we have now. That was so successful that our professional bodies developed and copied our systems once the requirement for minimum grades was established. The review system gave many firms the confidence to deal with Audit Registration and the inevitable Institute visit. Eventually this gave rise to our present review system where standards are everything and members who do not come up to standard face expulsion or the need to jump before they are pushed.
Members began to realise that there was a vast store of knowledge within the Group and this led to training groups and panels reflecting the major specialisms amongst the member firms being established. This allowed firms to share both their expertise and knowledge with other members. Those groups and panels, covering areas as diverse as taxation, insolvency, charities and agriculture are as important today as they were when they first started. They reflect the Group’s commitment to excellence in serving our clients.
The passage of time was marked by succeeding conferences that seemed to top one another. The display of medieval arms at Stratford, a visit to the Brighton Pavilion for a gala dinner, the occasional blip when the catering went awry at a far distant venue. That latter problem resulted in at least one member getting a taxi many miles back to the conference hotel. So many conferences, so many events and so many speakers with far too many memories to fit into a short reminiscence. The first conference is always the most memorable and for me that was York and the dinner at Castle Howard. But for many the social side of the conference was the most exciting part of the occasion, resulting in a very late or none appearance at the events of the following morning; and that applied sometimes to the lecturers as well.
Over thirty years we have come so far, adapting to the changing needs of our professions (now including lawyers) and setting the trends needed to survive in an ever more competitive marketplace. We have created an organisation that has given so much to so many people and will undoubtedly continue to do so. I have mentioned no names except for David Turnbull, but there are so many members and our reliable staff at the Centre, who have given so much over the past thirty years.
The Group is now planning, as always, for the future, recently appointing a new chief executive who will be looking to take us through the next thirty years. So raise a glass to those who have gone before and those who will undoubtedly follow.
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