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Regional Briefing Update and Next Steps

First and foremost, I would like to thank those of you who gave up their time to come to the regional briefings and to hear what we had to say. It is a great opportunity for those of us in the ARMA team to share with you what we are doing on your behalf and to hear your thoughts first hand.

Now that all six have been completed I would like to give you feedback on the comments that we received and that we will look to incorporate into next year’s briefings. The strongest feedback was that the Legal, Technical and Health and Safety updates were the most valuable – and we will maintain those topics the next time around. The CEO’s briefing was, I am relieved to say, also well received and in future I will again review the progress that ARMA has made over the past year and share thoughts on future strategy.

Four other comments that came out clearly from the feedback forms have made us think about the structure of the day itself. The first is that instead of a half day meeting the briefing should instead be a full day. The second, which would tie in nicely with a full day session, is to have more interaction such as breakout sessions to discuss items of concern or interest. The third piece of feedback was a suggestion of two streams of presentations – one for owners/directors of companies and one for property managers etc.

Regional chapters

The fourth and final piece of feedback was that ARMA was very London-centric with respect to ease of training, marketing and advertising and so forth. The ARMA Council does come from all around the country but with a single office in Wimbledon it is fair to say that life is easier for the South-East based companies with respect to coming on training courses if nothing else. For advertising and marketing we do not have unlimited funds and as an organisation we can get the most “bang for the buck” in some of the London papers but we did ensure that we went with a National paper (The Sunday Times) plus of course all of our on-line advertising.

That said, it does strike me that we could organise Regional Chapters, led by local volunteers, who could help address this imbalance. For example, if there were twenty companies in one Region it would be easier for the Chapter to agree which training courses were of interest to them, how many would attend and when. This would make it worthwhile for a local training session to be organised, with ARMA coming to you rather than the other way around. That would save on costs and staff time away from the office for members. Similarly, if there are local advertising opportunities that the Chapter identifies we can look at how to fund those such as the local Chapter raises funds, ARMA looks to match or at least contribute to the kitty and ARMA provides the customisable advertising packs.

New initiatives

I also raised within the regional briefings some initiatives that I would now like to share with everyone. We all know that the technical help, guidance notes and ARMA logo help you with your business but it would be nice to have some financial benefits as well and we have been looking at a number of items. And before anyone has a heart attack all these will be voluntary – if you don’t want to take advantage of the benefit that’s up to you.

Firstly, ARMA Energy. From my own time owning a small firm the management of client energy supplies was very time consuming. Each communal meter had to be tendered out, requiring a study of the energy bills and meter readings and discussions with various suppliers along with administration of new instructions, VAT forms and direct debit forms. All of this in order to secure standard prices. Although we all try our best to avoid default rates it can happen, particularly when coupled to changes in personnel. Clients claiming compensation from their managing agent are not unheard of.

The proposal here is to establish pooled electricity and gas accounts for any interested members in order to get a bulk discount on purchasing. Once you join all you have to do is supply MPAN or MPRN numbers (and ideally a scan of a recent invoice for each meter) and that is it. All contracts, renewals, VAT forms and so on will be taken care of so from that point on you have none of the administration headache and risk and your clients get a better price.

Secondly, we could do the same with an ARMA Insurance initiative. Looking at benefitting your own bottom line we should be able to get lower prices (figures of 25% have been bandied about) and better policy wording if we combine our requirements for such schemes as PI, D&O, and Office insurance. The menu could also include cyber protection or other more exotic policies. With respect to your clients again a D&O policy and perhaps even Engineering could be cheaper and with better policy wording for them. Buildings insurance is more complex and I think at this stage the best way that we could help our members is to look at creating an exclusive ARMA policy wording so that you can ask for it via your own brokers and keep your working relationship intact.

Thirdly, an ARMA Contractor Register. At the moment each member has to identify their own contractors and put them through an accreditation process to establish that the firm is properly insured etc. For the contractors they have to go through accreditation with each member that they deal with. The advantages of a central register would be:

Members. Reduced administration as you would not need to accredit your contractors yourself. In addition, the Register would be a place where you could source new suppliers if you needed them.

Contractors. Reduced administration as they would only need to go through one accreditation process. They would also have the potential of increased business.

ARMA. We would charge contractors to be on the register. This has been very successfully implemented in Australia and the US and provided a significant income stream. ARMA can use this additional income on behalf of Members.

How would this work?

ARMA would not be underwriting the performance of the Contractors – if you use them you will need to manage their work yourselves. However, it would be easy to introduce a feedback score (think EBay and TripAdvisor) so that a Members threat of bad feedback could encourage a Contractor to ensure that everyone is happy with their work.

Finally, we are in early discussions with various organisations to provide better terms for our members. These would cover reduced membership and advertising fees for example, or Private Medical, member discounts and Pension Auto Enrolment.

Attached is a very short survey to ask you which of the initiatives I have outlined above would be of interest to you – and if sufficient interest is registered we will implement them.

If you would like to help on a new Member Benefits Working Group to determine the detail of these benefits (and hopefully add some more) or indeed the Regional Chapters I mentioned earlier please do let me know.

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