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Inside R3’s Annual Conference

The end of May saw more than two hundred and fifty insolvency and restructuring professionals descend on Northumberland’s Slaley Hall for the 2019 R3 Annual Conference.

Bathed in two days of bright North Eastern sunshine (nothing beats an early English summer!) and coming at a time when the profession is very much in the spotlight, this provided an opportunity for members to catch up with the latest trends, understand what’s coming up on the horizon, and raise concerns about issues affecting them.

Presidential plans

R3’s new president, Duncan Swift, opened the conference with an outline of his plans for his year in office: promoting the value of the insolvency and restructuring profession and R3 membership, delivering R3’s new strategic plan (see below), ensuring high standards are maintained throughout the profession and wider framework, and campaigning to tackle late payment.

Dovetailing nicely with a later session from the Office of the Small Business Commissioner, he spoke about the impact late payment can have on business recovery – as well as potentially triggering insolvencies or financial hardship for businesses.

Duncan also highlighted the importance of Government fully understanding the work that the insolvency and restructuring profession does, so that any changes to the profession’s framework make it easier to rescue businesses and help keep the economy turning.

Insight into a post-Brexit economy

Next up was our day one keynote speaker, BBC Economics Correspondent Dharshini David. Dharshini outlined her thoughts on the future of the UK’s economy and what it means for the insolvency and restructuring profession.

We could be in for an interesting 18 months. Although businesses are preparing for Brexit, and real wages have continued to rise, leaving the EU will have an effect on prices and interest rates, and the economy is expected to be hit if Brexit goes ahead.

But it won’t be plain sailing on the continent either: there are serious concerns about European exposure to struggling Italian banks and the risk of default on Italian debt.

Debate: debtor and creditor balance

Day one closed with a panel discussion around whether the debtor and creditor balance is right in the insolvency process – an issue that’s not only complex but has a real impact on how the profession is perceived. A common thread of the discussion was how the framework had developed since the 1986 Insolvency Act and the proposals of the 1982 Cork Report.

Ethics talk

Insolvency is evolving, but it’s also under increasing scrutiny from Government, media and the public. This means we need to be able to demonstrate – and demonstrate clearly – that we’re doing the right thing and holding ourselves accountable to the highest levels of scrutiny.

Part of this involves showing our commitment to working as ethically as possible. Day two of the conference included an ethics and conflicts masterclass, with some of the outcomes from the discussion informing the work R3 is doing into ethics in the profession later this year.

The key takeaways: it’s down to the individual insolvency practitioner to justify their actions, and the written records of how they reached the decisions they took are critical. A huge thanks to Phillip Sykes (RSM) and Nick Pike (Pinsent Masons) for leading this session.

Lessons from a lone rower

The final day of our conference opened with our second keynote speaker, Debra Searle MBE, whose account of her 111 day lone-row across the Atlantic, the lessons she learnt from it and how it changed her life touched everyone in the room.

Debra took us through her steps for staying positive, the psychological benefits of moving out of your comfort zone and the tricks and tips she uses to manage when she strays out of hers – subjects we can all benefit from learning more about.

R3 in the future: unveiling the Strategic Plan

Duncan Swift and R3’s CEO Emma Lovell unveiled R3’s Strategic Plan, our roadmap for the next three years. As we approach our 30th anniversary, in a profession which has evolved from the one we were founded to support, this plan will help us evolve into organisation we want to be: one that’s the home to everyone in the UK’s insolvency and restructuring profession, regardless of where they are in their career.

The profession in the future: AI is coming

The conference’s penultimate session was our new professionals event, where Tonya Allison (FRP Advisory) and Emily Lockhart (Addleshaw Goddard) offered their thoughts on the future of the profession. It was great to see young professionals so committed to helping insolvency and restructuring evolve – and to hear them make the case so convincingly that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will help us do our jobs more efficiently in the years to come.

The nature of insolvency work will always mean there’s a need for IPs, but some of the more manual tasks (like document searches) may well be easier to do thanks to advances in technology in the not too distant future.

That’s it for 2019!

Thank you to all those who attended this year’s conference, our speakers, the conference chair Duncan Swift, the venue staff, and our sponsors. Plans for 2020 are already underway…

For more photos from the conference, click here.

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.