Greater London & South East
We are just over half way through the year and our regions are sprinting towards the finish line. We have had over 1100 members attend branch meetings this year and over 250 have attended meetings in July alone. The Greater London and South East region have gone for gold and are July's ‘Region of the Month. With the region to consistently have the highest member attendance rates, as well acting as the host region for the London 2012 Olympics, our members in the Greater London and South East definitely have something worth cheering about.
Written by Regional & London Branch Chair Stuart Wildman and London Co-Chair Liz Needham
How many branches do you have within the region and how has it developed in the last year?
S: We now have 6 branches operating in London and the South East. This year, we have managed to get Surrey, East Sussex and Kent up and running along with a day group in Hampstead, so we now have meetings in ALL our counties (go South East!)
How long has your branch been up and running?
S: I am the Co-chair of the London Group along with Liz Needham. Liz and I have had London up and running for just under 2 years.
The GREAT(er) London group is a very special group as it has had the largest attendance of any branch meeting to date! My feeling is that people recognise the importance of being associated with the Institute's Fellows (especially as we now interview to decide who future fellows are) and London has 3 regular attending Fellows; myself, Liz and Dinah whom the members come to see for our pearls of wisdom and deep wells of knowledge(!). To further highlight the London group's kudos, we often get regular visits from other regions branch chairs to see how things should be done.
L: In all seriousness, at the London Branch Meetings we aim to provide a welcoming and secure environment in which our members grow and develop, whilst providing a relaxed atmosphere for them to network with other bookkeepers from their region. This may also lead to work, but also affords the opportunity to ask questions and get advice from other people in the same position as them. I also think that it is useful for students and associates to see how well full Members are doing.
How often do you meet?
S: The London Branch meets on the last Wednesday of every month, with the exceptions of August and December.
What do you discuss?
S: What we discuss depends on if there is anyone from ICB in attendance. If there is, we are all serious and do technical stuff. If noone from the ICB attends, then we just have a Party. It's a nightmare hiding the disco when Garry arrives.
We have several elements to our meetings and, although the various formats of the meeting may vary in the region, they will all contain time for networking with fellow members,
We usually start with a discussion about what is going on with ICB as a professional institute, particularly in respect of conversations with other organisations we have to work with such as HMRC and Companies House, and in respect of legislation and discussions coming from the UK goverment and Europe.
L: This is followed by a technical lecture, which is delivered by a member of the group on a bookkeeping topic of their choice. The aim here is to try and draw on the various experiences of the group's members and also allow them to develop their confidence and public speaking skills in a safe environment.
To date, we have had discussions on such subjects as accounting for petty cash, self - assessment, accounts payable, setting up as a sole trader/limited company and preparation of a year-end file for handing to an accountant.
S: If we very lucky we will also have a visiting speaker and these have covered issues such as website design, marketing for your business and branding.
What are the benefits for people who attend?
S: Attendees get CPD points for attending the meetings and they get to network with local members, which is really important as you never know when you will need to use a good bookkeeper yourself and it is always good to use someone you know.
Hampstead has a definite benefit in that there you get fed, although in most meetings you can score a bickie, but Essex goes the whole hog and gives you a buffet!!
For those ladies or fellas with a Fireman fetish, then its Surrey meetings for you, as they are held at Guildford fire station. Although they are really stingy with letting us have a go on their pole.
Like all things in life, the more you put in and contribute to your group the more you will get out of it, if you give lectures you will develop your own knowledge and presenting skills and also gain in confidence.
Did I mention you also get to meet me!!
What advice would you give someone who is thinking about attending for the first time?
S: Come along and don't sit on the side-lines. Mix in and speak to people, most don't bite, so you will be perfectly safe, honest.
As I have said before, the more you put into your branch the more you will get from it.
L: We're a very friendly and welcoming bunch and always happy to meet new members. Come along with an open mind. Sometimes you may not be interested in a particular talk or may think that it's a subject you are already familiar with, but I can honestly say that I haven't yet attended a meeting where I haven't learned something new.
Have there been any success stories to come out of your region?
S: Our region has many success stories. The Luca Awards Practice of the Year winner runs the Surrey group, Moolchand Dubey the Student of the Year is a regular at the London branch meetings.
We have got a few members who now do business with each other and have mutually beneficial arrangements in place so the networking is going well.
We have seen some shy members grow in confidence and really start to blossom.
What makes your region special?
- L: The members! We have a fantastic membership base with people from all corners of the earth and all sorts of different experiences. Each one of them is fascinating in their own right and each one brings something different to the table.
- S: London and The South East was the first region to get a branch meeting going in all of its designated county areas.
- We have the Luca Award Winners for 'Student of the Year' and 'Practice of the Year' in our region and both are active in their branches.
The structure being developed by the groups is based on our a mixture of the South East and the Midlands regions structure (Grudging acknowledgement to Ken Bell there, I hope he notices)
What are your visions for the future?
S: It would be fantastic to continue to expand the groups, so we can look to start sub-dividing groups to an even more local level, L: It would be lovely also, to see members using eachother's services as they continue to grow their own businesses and for all members to continue supporting those coming up behind us.
If someone was to visit your region for the first time, what would you recommend that they should go and see/do?
L: The list is endless! It's Lahndahn, innit! I suspect I'd give them a tube map and a guide book and say "Good Luck"!
Branches in the Greater London & South East Region
City of London - Stuart Wildman & Liz Needham
East Sussex - Claire Packham
Hampstead - Meena Onihavardargh
Kent - Cheryl Parry
Surrey - Karen Jewell
West Sussex - David Fisher
Each ICB region has its own discussion area within the Forum- just scroll to the bottom of the forum homepage bookkeepers.org.uk/forum to find yours. The UK is split into 12 regions, within which smaller 'branches' are set up to host meetings.
Please note, the Forum regional topics are private discussion areas for ICB students and members so you will need to log in to view them using your normal ICB website login.
This year's conference, the Bookkeepers Summit in London on Wednesday 7th November, will conclude with a Members Dinner where you'll have the chance to get together with fellow members on a table hosted by your local branch.