Press, Policy & Research
R3 Blog


Four key takeaways from the 2024 Southern Forum

Four key takeaways from the 2024 Southern Forum

02 April 2024

On Thursday 21st March, delegates from across the Southern region came together in Cheltenham for the Southern Forum 2024.

From restructuring plans to AI, from networking tips to retaining talent, the forum covered all aspects of the insolvency and restructuring profession, and in this blog we uncover just a few key takeaways from the day.

1.      Investing in your staff will pay you in the long-term

Attracting and retaining talent is a key issue for many firms in insolvency and restructuring. This was particularly highlighted when, in a room full of delegates, only a small handful of people put their hands up when asked if they actively chose to go into restructuring, making it essential to nurture and retain those who do enter the profession.

During a session on future talent, the panel underscored the importance of investing in employees, including supporting them through professional examinations like the Joint Insolvency Examination Board (JIEB) exams. While some may view this investment as risky, fearing that qualified staff may seek opportunities elsewhere, the reality often proves the opposite.

When employees undergo rigorous training and qualification processes, they develop a vested interest in the profession and are more likely to stay committed to their roles and the organisation. Investing in staff not only enhances their skills and capabilities but also builds loyalty and retention, ultimately contributing to the long-term success of the firm.

2.      Having a networking plan is just as important as having a business plan

While everyone knows the importance of writing out a business plan, not everyone gives networking the same attention. This point was raised by John Harvey, Founder of Samphire Club in his session on networking.

In the world of insolvency and restructuring, networking is essential to running a business and a strategic networking plan can help you understand whether your time and effort is being invested in the right place. Just as you would plan out your marketing or sales strategy, you need to plan out where you're going to network, who you want to meet, and what you hope to achieve. By keeping track of what works and what doesn't, you can fine-tune your networking efforts for better results.

John also pointed out 'the strength of weaker ties'. We are all guilty of wanting to stick to what (and who) we know. While it's good to maintain close connections with your existing contacts, branching out and meeting new people can open up new doors you never even knew were there. And when you’re meeting new people, be proud of what you do! We all tend to downplay or put down our profession, but in his final point, John emphasised that attitude matters, so be excited and proud of what you do, and others will be too.

3.      Diversity goes beyond appearance and background

Diversity isn't just about how people look or where they're from, it's also about diversifying the way that people think. In the keynote session, Jeremy Mindell, Director of Primondell spoke about the importance of intellectual diversity.

If you imagine a boardroom with ten people who visually represent a spectrum of differences – that's a good start. But true diversity really emerges when each person brings a unique perspective, approach, and set of ideas to the table.

Intellectual diversity sparks innovation, creativity, and critical thinking, and when we value visual and cultural diversity, as well as intellectual, we can create an environment where every voice is heard.

This point also plays into another key takeaway from the session: the importance of maintaining a 'culture of challenge'. If the status quo is never challenged, things will never change, and so may never improve. When you have people from all backgrounds and ways of thinking in a room, new ideas can form, and this diverse culture encourages continuous growth.

4.      AI is an important and useful tool, but will never replace the ‘human element’

Forecasts predict that we're on the cusp of AI reaching the same level of joined up intelligence as humans in just two years. This may be a scary thought to some, but in his session on AI in the professional world, Jonathan Mackie, Director at NRB Chartered Accountants encouraged firms to embrace the change.

Rather than displacing experts, AI can be used as a helpful tool to raise the level of the lowest intelligence in any company. Already, a significant proportion of professionals are integrating AI into their working lives – approximately 30% of professionals are using chat GPT, while 75% of large law firms and 72% of financial services firms are utilising AI in some capacity.

However, as Charlotte May, Associate Director at Manolete explained in her legal session on AI in litigation, as we navigate this AI-driven future, it's essential to tread carefully. We must be vigilant about the quality and reliability of the data sources we feed into AI systems to avoid instances of AI bias.

For example, a study found lenders in 2019 were unfairly denying home loans to people of colour, even when they had similar financial situations as white applicants. This shows how much the data we input can affect AI decisions.

But what this also tells us is that AI isn't foolproof.; we still need human expertise to guide and improve it. By balancing AI with human insights, companies can tap into its potential for innovation, efficiency, and gain a competitive advantage in their industries.


Share this page
For more information please contact
Amelia Franklin
Amelia Franklin
0207 566 4203
Stuart McBrideStuart McBride
Senior Communications Manager
020 7566 4214
Amelia FranklinAmelia Franklin
Campaigns and Communications Executive
0207 566 4203
Lyle HorneLyle Horne
Public Affairs & Policy Officer
0207 566 4202

R3 members can provide advice on a range of business and personal finance issues. To find an R3 member who can help you, click below.