IFT Higher Education webinar

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has changed the way many universities are operating, with a number experiencing worsening finances. A potential insolvency regime for higher education could change the sector even more.

Now we have seen the re-opening of universities across the country, Andrew Jordan and Mark Taylor of Eversheds gave their perspectives of the current dynamics, risks and opportunities in Higher Education.

“It’s great to have organised and co-hosted the IFT’s HE webinar this morning. There is so much change taking place at the moment and no doubt much more long term transformation afoot as the sector focuses on ensuring resilience in a post Covid world. As well as comparing and contrasting some of the challenges with those the FE sector has battled with over recent years, Eversheds’ Partners Andrew Jordan & Mark Taylor provided valuable insight into the new HE restructuring regime which will be in the spotlight over the coming weeks and months. This was really interactive session with an interesting array of questions and observations from participants.” Jo Wright

Delivering at Pace – report

Jo Wright was recently asked to participate in a survey collaborated between management consultancy Korn Ferry and the IFT.  The study entitled ‘Delivering at Pace: A Benchmarked Analysis of the Traits, Skills and Drivers of Turnaround Leaders’ has just been released and you can download a copy of the full report here.

Its extremely timely given the skills of turnaround professionals are expected to be in high demand as organisations grapple with competing demands and in particular stakeholder expectations as the the impact of the chaos of the last few months becomes clearer.

This study provides close analysis of the competencies, traits and drivers associated with turnaround leaders – the Chief Restructuring Officers, Chairs, Chief Executives and Turnaround Directors who have developed a specialism working at the most challenging edge of leadership for distressed or underperforming businesses.

For more information or to download the report visit https://www.the-ift.com/delivering-at-pace/

IFT’s virtual conference panel discussion

After the success of the IFT’s Virtual Conference in July 2020, the IFT hosted two regional conferences in November 2020, both of which were ran virtually on Zoom. The conferences focused on topics and sectors specific to each of the regions and further examine the economic impact of COVID-19 in these regions. Jo Wright joined a panel of leading Independent Members on how turnaround will support the recovery across all sectors.

“I was delighted to be part of this panel session which featured as part of IFT’s regional conference for the Midlands, West and Wales. The session was aimed at independent turnaround professionals and primarily focused on how turnaround will support the recovery across all sectors, and importantly the need for flexibility and innovation in how we operate and support clients going forwards after a turbulent few months, with many more still ahead.

The session was a timely reminder that the skills of turnaround professionals can really add value in times where existing management are stretched or lack certain skills, and importantly can complement or extend the existing organisational resources with specific specialisms.”

For more information visit IFT Swift magazine.

Senior thought leaders debate catalysts for change

IFT Midlands Corporate Partner Dinner

The second annual IFT Midlands Corporate Partner dinner was held on 19 September at Hotel du Vin in Birmingham.  Guests from the restructuring and turnaround community were hosted by Jo Wright and fellow Midlands IFT committee members, along with CEO, Milly Camley.

The Midlands has experienced a huge amount of change over the last decade with further disruption anticipated. Senior thought leaders debated the catalysts for change, how the region could realise the opportunities from this change, and the important role of wellness.

There was a general consensus that technology and transport are the heartbeat for driving change across the region, with the debate also highlighting the balance of risk and opportunity from greater mobility and flexibility. “Businesses have shown huge resilience despite uncertainty and regulation – they are well positioned to take advantage of access to new sources of people, transport and technology”, commented Jo Wright founder of De Novo Advisory.

The growing importance of wellness was hotly debated across the mix of lenders, lawyers, banks, accountants and independent turnaround practitioners. There was a collective sense of responsibility in the prevention and preservation of health when dealing with difficult situations, recognising they can be particularly prone to high stress levels.

Milly Camley shared insights into IFT’s forward plans and priorities and concluded by thanking  Corporate Partners for their continued support for the IFT.

The evening was a great success and the Midlands Committee look forward to hosting it again in 2020.

Jo Wright leads key NPQEL module for Education CEOs

Jo Wright leads key NPQEL module for Education CEOs

The Department for Education has created a programme for Executive Leaders.  One of its purposes is to develop the skills, knowledge and behaviours that a high-performing executive leader needs.

De Novo’s founder, Jo Wright, was approached to lead a session which formed part of the Managing Resources and Risks module of the programme. The workshop took place towards the end of last year and was well attended by aspiring and serving executive head teachers and multi-academy trust (MAT) chief executive officers (CEOs).

The main take away points for the attendees were:

  • Heightened awareness of why organisations fail and the warning signs
  • Importance of a more ‘business-like’ culture and thought process to identify and deal with issues promptly
  • The need for greater commerciality to achieve a better business model, operationally and financially
  • The significant impact a strong Finance Director with appropriate skill set can make
  • The tangible benefits of identifying and investing in talent, upskilling management and recruiting quality leaders
  • Importance of a diverse skills mix in Governors to support, challenge and hold leadership to account
  • The challenge of identifying and dealing with the vast amount of uncertainty – debated key risks, ways of mitigating them and the need to contingency plan
  • A focus shift is required from reporting on issues to actually resolving them – clearer roles / responsibilities and accountability are critical to speed up the process
  • The need to constantly embrace change to secure sustainability long term
  • How key the right cultural attitude is to evolving an organisation, and the amount of time and effort required before it embeds
  • War stories and case studies of both Colleges and Corporates, demonstrated where the timing of issues being addressed was the difference between success and failure

The lively session concluded with a discussion about ways of trying to future proof and secure long-term sustainability. Positive feedback from leading education services provider, Cognition Education, who organised the course included:

  • “Just want to say an enormous thank you for your time and input, I understand it was a really informative session, and very well received.”
  • “Just a word of thanks for your input today. It was really great, and the attendees really enjoyed the session. We kept drawing on it all day as we worked through the materials so thank you again.”
  • “Thank you so much for being involved in our Executive Leaders programme. Your input was really well received, even if they did spend the rest of the residential referring back to ‘Jo’s doom and gloom scenarios!’”

Further Education webinar – insights, risks and predictions

This IFT member webinar took place in November 2018, and shared the latest insights and predictions on the turbulent Further Education sector. Speakers also highlighted the most significant risks facing the future of FE, particularly in light of the imminent Insolvency Regime. You can register to download the webinar here.

The webinar was presented by Further Education sector specialist Jo Wright, Managing Director from turnaround boutique De Novo Advisory; Mark Kenyon, Director at Barclays in the credit risk function of  the Special Asset Management team; and Jane Bailey, Assistant Director at Deloitte advising financial stakeholders and organisations on FE college mergers – and was kindly hosted by Corporate Partner, Gateley Plc in Birmingham.

Download this webinar to hear the key takeaways including:

  • Summary of the current Further Education sector landscape
  • Sector transformation driven by the Government’s Area Review process
  • FE insolvency regime expected to go live early in 2019
  • Current and future significant sector risks, most notably the need for improvements in financial management
  • Challenges faced, including strength of leadership and balance of skills at Board level to constructively challenge and pursue improved performance
  • Increasing competition meaning colleges are required to become ever more commercial and business-like to survive
  • Opportunities for IFT member involvement and sector support

The FE sector continues to face a number of uncertainties, and the position will evolve further during 2019. Hopefully this webinar has provided some valuable insight for members into some of the key challenge areas.

Tick tock of the TU clock

Over the last couple of years, we have been supporting colleges to successfully complete Transactions Unit (TU) applications for financial support from the Restructuring Facility.

These applications relate to both mergers and ‘Fresh Start’ stand-alone applications.  We have been engaged in lead roles on some complex applications which have resulted in successful mergers, and are currently well progressed with our latest ‘Fresh Start’ application.

For a while longer, mergers will continue to be a dominating feature in the Further Education sector, and while much has been written about the intended financial outcomes of restructuring facility support, far less attention has been paid to how to successfully manage these applications – often in a highly pressured environment.

Our knowledge and experience suggests existence of some misconceptions around the whole process.  There is a sense that few deals have completed, that the quantum of funding committed has been low and that deals are very protracted to complete.  De Novo’s dealings with the TU give us some cause to challenge this, and here’s why.  We have seen eligibility criteria, timelines and both deal quantum and structure all accommodated with varying degrees of flexibility.  However, it is critical that clear and credible information is provided to support what is being asked for, and specifically that  there is evidence of the necessary changes being embraced  going forwards to actually deliver on the business plan. Yes, deals can take longer than expected to complete, but this is often down to issues with the information being presented in the first place.

All of this is of heightened relevance right now, as the official September 2018 deadline for making applications is rapidly approaching.  Bearing in mind the often complex nature of completing a restructuring deal, the sooner applications are made, the better the prospects of completion, which is required by the end of March 19.

With this in mind, and of course also remaining ever mindful of the forthcoming insolvency regime, here are our Top Ten Tips to adopt to maximise the prospects of an application:

De Novo’s 10 Top Tips for a successful TU application

1.     Strong stakeholder engagement – open and transparent communication with financial stakeholders from the outset is key. Provide regular updates, both on progress and the challenges faced. The skill and time involved in managing this effectively often comes as a surprise to Management and Governing Bodies, but executed professionally, it can make all the difference.

2.     Structured approach – preference is for a succinct application, with content always trumping style.  Highlight change and ambition, but importantly also balance this with a dose of realism too.

3.     Coherence, balance and value for money – curriculum and teaching plans must tie clearly to the financial plan, along with other key segments, notably estates strategy, demonstrating a single coherent plan. A sensible balance between financial demands and educational needs must be struck.

4.     Do not under estimate demands – adequate financial skill and resource is critical, and the demands on the finance team should not be under-estimated. This not only applies pre completion, but also for subsequent monitoring post-merger / fresh start.

5.     Be prepared – independent reviews are often needed as part of the business planning process eg, for curriculum, estates and IT.  Build in time, and take account of the additional burden of these demands on key personnel.

6.     Timeline and key milestones – introduce these as a tool to aid the business planning and application process, and share with stakeholders to highlight progress, to manage expectations, keeping clear focus on “how” the Plan will actually be brought to life. The timescale to completion will largely be dictated by the quality of information provision from the outset, and so investing in this front end will aid acceleration of the process.

7.     More time needed? – extension requests to pre agreed submission timescales must be credible, explaining what will be achieved and how.  A robust plan supported by clear assumptions that takes a little longer to produce, will be better received than a rushed timely plan that later “falls down” at due diligence; quality information and effective communication are key.

8.     Leverage DD support – engage DD providers at an early point as this can provide invaluable support ahead of DD commencing and make for a smoother, more efficient process. Stakeholders will want to approve the tendering DD firms, as well as the scope, which will take longer than expected if not handled right.

9.     Co-ordination  – lead regular and meaningful opportunities for cross stakeholder communications (TU, Banks, ESFA, LEP, LA, etc), which will make for a smoother path at advanced stages.  Local stakeholder support is critical and must be evidenced.

10.   Seek professional support – engage specialist skills from a restructuring and turnaround professional early in the process.  Stakeholders will encourage this and view it as valuable investment, rather than pure cost.  Some funding support is available, and therefore cost itself should not be a barrier to sound advice.

Our application process has been refined to maximise efficiencies, leveraging restructuring expertise and best use of sector knowledge.  To discuss your funding concerns or application requirements please don’t hesitate to contact us.

De Novo shares insights at IFT Education SIG

The first IFT Education SIG of 2018 took place on Wednesday 24th January 2018. It was a very well-attended event with all of the IFT Corporate Partners involved in Further Education represented and independent members who have been active, or who are keen to get active, attending.

The two key themes for the evening were:

  • An overview of differing assignments for Independent Advisors, from Jo Wright
  • An update on the developing structure and activities of the Transaction Unit, and a wider discussion on how attendees see the future, led by two representatives from the TU

The main themes of note for attendees were:

  • The major changing dynamics being experienced by the sector
  • The TU have been instrumental in driving change and the upcoming insolvency regime will overlay further changes
  • Major focus and attention on Leadership & Governance are always critical issues to focus on in FE college assignments
  • Addressing cultural change at pace is a major challenge to be expected – Jo specifically stated that it is ‘absolutely key that you become very engaged with college leadership and take them on the journey with you’.
  • The style and approach of independent advisors in this context is critical in both becoming engaged in an assignment, and also in being retained for ongoing support post merger
  • The range of roles she has engaged on cover Merger programmes, Fresh Start programmes and Pre/Post financial restructuring pieces of work. These have required variable levels of time commitment and lengths of project to suit
  • The skill sets involved in delivering, have covered managerial, operational, financial and strategic areas and hence flexibility is key
  • To conclude, Jo shared some quality case studies to outline how her work has been deployed
  • The TU representatives gave an overview of their work within the Transaction Unit, which went on to trigger interesting discussions around the table about the future outlook for the sector

@the_ift @LendingStdBrd Plenty of practical and constructive tips, highlighting the importance of engaging the rig… https://t.co/fLwTqjXN7R