Opening address from new Regional President Andrew Buck
By Andrew Buck
In March 2021, Andrew Buck was elected to serve as CIPFA North West President for a two-year term. Andrew has over 30 years of public finance experience and has been a CIPFA member since 2001, as well as being a member of the North West Council since 2016. He is the current Head of Finance in Liverpool City Council, a role he has held since 2011.
As deputy to the S151 officer, he has lead responsibility for social care and health, children's services and education finances, leading a number of financial management and business partnering teams. Andrew is also a member of the HFMA, volunteers as a secondary school governor and is chair of a community sports club in the region. An extract from his opening address to the North West Annual General Meeting in March is copied below.
I am very pleased and extremely proud to be representing CIPFA members in the North West as incoming president. I genuinely believe the institute has a very important role to play throughout our careers as public finance professionals and I am keen to give a little back and to help others on their own journey.
I started my volunteering with CIPFA many years ago as a member of the Housing Finance Panel. As a newly qualified accountant, I was on a steep learning curve; but taking myself out of my comfort zone and into a room full of subject experts really did accelerate the learning and was a great experience, and I am still in touch with some of the group now.
This week, like many of you, I received the email reminder to complete my annual membership statement, and took the opportunity to not only reflect on my own development activities over the last 12 months, but also to think about how as a region, and as council, we can continue to support you to be able to meet your own CPD requirements, and how we can shape our future programme to reflect your future needs.
As you will know, we have a very strong student network on the region and which is the envy of others. Thanks to Victoria and all those who give up their time to help. I really would encourage all of our students to take advantage of the support that is available to you, and if perhaps you feel you do not need that extra help then maybe make an offer to get involved anyway to help others; it is a fantastic way to build your professional network from the very early stages of your career. For our employers, I would ask that you do allow your students the time to access the network as part of their training; it will undoubtedly help them in the short term, and support you in the development of your talent pipeline. We will continue to progress our plans to support and showcase public finance as a career of choice and I hope we can move this on over the next few months.
The region has committed to improve its engagement with employers and I am keen to see that continue. During my term as president, I do want to take the chance to meet with, and talk to employing organisations and use our newly formed senior managers group to help to understand the issues faced by employers across all sectors, and to help them identify the knowledge and skills that are going to be required of future finance teams. The advancement of AI across both finance and audit is great example of how technology is already changing what we do and the way we do it, and as practitioners, we need to be anticipating and preparing for that change.
I would like to see, as one of our priorities for the year ahead, the introduction of a coaching and mentoring scheme across the region, taking a lead from colleagues in CIPFA in the Midlands who have made a real success of their scheme. I, like perhaps some of you, have had the benefit of being a mentor and mentee and know what a positive experience it can be for both.
As a profession, we have a track record of, responding and adapting to change – no more so that during the last 12 months. Our move to homeworking during the year was a significant shift, and one that is unlikely to go back to how it was before. One of the positives of this new way of working is the potential for increasing member participation in CPD online. Too often in the past, time, distance, and cost have been barriers to learning and development events. Platforms such as Microsoft Teams, webinars and e-learning give us the tools for broader engagement and greater access. As you have already heard, last month we held our first two regional webinars, and I certainly want to see the region continue to harness this technology to deliver a wider offer for our events programme. However, I do also look forward to the day we are able to meet in person again.
As well as our work in supporting your CPD we, as council, will continue to communicate with the institute on your behalf. We have recently supported the review of the PQ qualification, and both the Ethics and Diversity and Inclusion working groups, amongst others, and will always try to give the region a voice on such important matters. I'm really proud that the region is taking forward the diversity and inclusion agenda, and I look forward to reporting back to the AGM next year on the progress we have made in delivering on the recommendations from the task and finish group. This will remain a key priority for the region.
I want us to continue to listen to the views of the wider membership, to understand your needs in the ever-changing public finance landscape and to ensure that we tailor our support to you, at whatever stage of your career.
As a member led organisation we need to know:
- how the region could work differently for your benefit
- how we can communicate with you
- what potential gaps there are in the current offer and the range of CPD events?
As well as the technical and soft skills, we also have a responsibility, maybe now more than ever, to address the impacts on our physical and mental wellbeing and that of our staff, and so we will look to include specific elements in our future programmes that support personal resilience and mindfulness.
Lastly, raising the regions profile and supporting the growth and retention of our membership are both key objectives for council and I would want to hear your views on how we take these priorities forward.
I want to thank all of our volunteers across the region: those on council and all of our sub-groups, without who it would not be possible to do all that we do, are all very much appreciated. As always, if you would like to get involved, with either the council or any of the sub-groups, or maybe as a potential mentor, or if you are willing to share your knowledge and expertise by speaking at one of our future events then please do get in touch. Our contact details are on the webpages. Thank you.