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All roads lead to Durham for R3's Northern Conference 2017

By Neil Harrold, North East chair of R3 and a partner with Hay & Kilner Law Firm

North East England cast off its winter clothes and greeted delegates to the 2017 R3 Northern Conference with a welcome burst of warm spring sunshine.

It's the first time that the conference has been held in my region, and it was very pleasing, first of all, to have more than 100 practitioners and other delegates from right across the north making the journey up to Ramside Hall, just outside Durham City.

In addition to the packed programme of speakers and presentations, the conference offered delegates a chance to catch up with colleagues and friends in more informal settings – something I know was very popular with all who attended.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to attend - we hope you liked what you saw of the North East and will come back for another, perhaps longer look around the region one day soon.

Our thinking in putting together the programme for the event was to supplement the professional education element of proceedings with presentations which provided a wider financial and economic view of the environment in which we work, offered a range of divergent views on how things stand and provided context for the challenges that the insolvency profession is facing now and can be expected to have to address in the future.

For example, the data and related insight provided by Mauricio Armellini, the agent for the Bank of England in the North East, picked up a wide range of factors which will have a direct impact on the sorts of insolvencies that practitioners can expect to be handling in the years to come, as well as the factors that will drive their occurrence.

From the other side of the commercial fence, Graham Moore, head of business development at Durham-headquartered Atom Bank outlined the thinking behind the creation of this online-only challenger brand and the changing landscape in financial services that is going to force the traditional financial institutions into making radical changes to the business models that have served them well for so long.

This will in turn clearly impact on the relationships that IPs have with these institutions and the struggling businesses that they count among their client base, and getting this early insight into where the sector is expected to be going could prove very useful in the long term.

Our panel session on the corporate insolvency framework and the future of restructuring, focusing on last year’s consultation by the Insolvency Service and proposals for reform, brought together representatives of a range of diverse organisations, each with their own take on where they felt things were going and the issues that would arise along the way.

Having panel members Nick Howard from the Insolvency Service, Graham Dawson from Lloyds Bank, Rcapital’s Josie Richardson, Martin Jesper of Rootcorz and (once his recalcitrant train had reached Durham) Kevin Dolan from the Pension Protection Fund on stage was especially useful in putting the issues discussed into a wider context.

The importance of one of R3's key messages - that struggling firms seek help as early as they possibly can - was also echoed by all that took part in the conversation, as well as in several contributions from delegates.

The increasing importance of mediation as a dispute resolution mechanism was brought home to all by Patrick Walker of imediate, whilst Jonathan Rodger of Enterprise Chambers presented the legal update covering the leading developments in case law over the past year and Robert Brown of hlw Keeble Hawson LLP presented on the administration of insolvent estates of deceased persons.

To wrap up the conference, R3’s Technical Director Caroline Sumner presented ‘The Indispensable Guide to the new Insolvency Rules 2016’.

We all know that we're living, as the Chinese proverb goes, in interesting times, and our profession has an important role to play in demonstrating its fundamental place in the business cycle, helping to ensure that talent, assets and ideas are put to productive use and that creditors are repaid money wherever possible.

Insolvency practitioners already make a massive contribution to the health of the UK economy, and our role in helping to save struggling companies and the jobs they sustain will become even more important as new economic challenges heading our way become more tangible and impactful.

Final thanks must go to all our speakers on the day, to our sponsors Willis Towers Watson, Credebt, Compliance on Call and, as well as to everyone from both the North East region and the central R3 team who helped to put together and run an extremely interesting and useful event.

Notes to editors:

  • R3 is the trade body for Insolvency Professionals and represents the UK’s Insolvency Practitioners.

  • R3 comments on a wide variety of personal and corporate insolvency issues. Contact the press office, or see for further information.

  • R3 promotes best practice for professionals working with financially troubled individuals and businesses; all R3 members are regulated by recognised professional bodies
  • R3 stands for 'Rescue, Recovery, and Renewal' and is also known as the Association of Business Recovery Professionals.