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NL April 2020


WCoMC is a collegiate forward looking Modern City Livery Company; we maintain City traditions, share expertise and information between fellow members and give back to the community through our pro bono activities.

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Issue 65:  April 2020


Our Master’s Voice

What a difference a month makes.  At the end of March we were still hanging on to the hope that there might be a quick exit out of this situation.  It is now clearer that we are in this for the long haul and we have made the decision to postpone all face to face events until after the summer.  

But we are a resourceful crew and living up to our motto of “Change through Wisdom” we’ve been quick to adapt in a meaningful way to a new way of working including holding meetings via zoom.   The first new style Shop Talk was great with the advantage that some of our overseas Members who would have missed our usual meet in the Artillery Arms, were able to join the discussion.

A big thank you to all those who volunteered to be part of our team who are making contact with our members: not only checking that they are well but also ensuring that everyone is  aware of opportunities to engage with Company activities during the lockdown.   If you have not been contacted yet, then you should be soon. 

Next stop is to think about how we hold virtual Court meetings, Admissions and even Freedom ceremonies.

You may already have seen the news that William Russell, the 692nd Lord Mayor of the City of London, will serve an additional year in office to ensure continuity of leadership during the current COVID-19 outbreak. The Sheriffs of the City of London, Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli and Christopher Hayward, will also serve an extra year term until September 2021. There are currently no plans to cancel the Lord Mayor’s Show in November, but ‘watch this space’ as advice is changing daily.   The full press release can be read on the City of London website.   Some Livery Companies are following suit – again, watch this space.

In addition to our pro-bono work reported below, the Company’s Charitable Fund has also made a donation of £10,000 to the London Community Response Fund, set up by City of London to provide immediate financial support to charities across London.  Civil society organisations from across the capital have already received emergency funding for food and essentials.

Shoptalk Report

We are pleased to report that our first virtual event - Shoptalk – was held on17th April Friday. Twenty odd people (including a couple form overseas) joined to hear from two relative new members (Ranil Perera & Vijay Luthra) and engage in stimulating discussion. (For example, I learned what a “Regulatory Sandbox” is!).  We used (the now ubiquitous) Zoom and it was generally successful. Participant Doug Prior commented afterwards: “As was self-evident, last night’s Zoom based Shoptalk was successful.  Well done.” 

In fairness there were a few technical issues and some learning points but overall it was a rather good effort for our first virtually meeting. You’ve all seen this sort of picture all the over the press recently but this one is different – it is us! 

The next virtual shop talk will be on 7th May. You can book via the website but spaces are limited.

We may have to continue virtually for some time. Spurred by attendance at the virtual event Doug Prior has provided this historic look back at the origins and history of our Shoptalk events. Back in 2004, Doug and PM Mike Jeans realised that most members didn’t know much, if anything, about each other’s our professional backgrounds, expertise, management consulting activities, and interests.  They established an informal forum, which became “Shoptalk” and the initial meeting was held on Thursday, 22nd April 2004 in the upstairs room of The Cheshire Cheese pub (near Temple).  You can read Doug’s short history of Shoptalk here.

Zooming Wardens

As the Master has already noted, the Wardens are now meeting virtually using Zoom. We’ve had several successful meetings now and are getting used to the new normal.  

Pro Bono Round-up

As Patrick Chapman said in his email on 7th April, about pro bono opportunities:

“Covid-19 has not stopped us”.  Well, the reality is that we not just keeping going, we’re seeing the current crisis prompting significant new requests for help:

First, we were contacted last week by Anita Tiessen the Chief Executive of YBI (who spoke at the Charities Supper in January) seeking help in mobilising a new partnership with  The philanthropic arm of Google has awarded a $5 million grant to YBI to support over 200,000 underserved entrepreneurs in 32 countries in Asia and Europe in responding to the Covid-19 crisis.  A package of emergency support will be provided to business owners through YBI’s global network of members and delivery partners. This includes crisis helplines, targeted advice and signposting, online training through webinars and mentoring.  Bob Harris has assembled a small team of WCoMC assessors to provide financial assessments on potential new delivery partners in 17 countries, checking that these organisations meet the standards required. We’ll report more on this initiative as it develops.

Second, your editor was asked to act as Consultant Grant Assessors for “the Fore” – (Ed this is  a role I have filled before).  This time around I will be supporting their “Rapid Action by the Fore and Trusts Emergency Fund (RAFT)” which aims to get to get help to the best small charities.  I joined a pool of experience assessors for an Induction and training session using Zoom…. and it worked well.   I’ll spare you the “rogue’s gallery” photo on that one but will include more on how this initiative progresses next time.  

A lot can happen in a couple of weeks!   Back in the world of “normal” pro bono, Patrick also said: "Virtual ProBono Support" is the new order of things”.   And so it has proved, although with some mixed early results:

I ran a decent business planning workshop (5 people) with Trustees of an Arts Charity recently.  The only limitation seems to be on local broadband bandwidth.   Some new norms are emerging in Zoom calls as people use them more and more (e.g. hands up! - just like being back at school, screen sharing and so on). 

Conversely, Patrick Chapman and I had an exploratory call with a large (nameless to spare their blushes) charity recently using “Microsoft Teams”.  It was poor, with dodgy audio and blurred video. Hard work all round and the experience left us thinking “thank goodness we choose Zoom”.

Our Mentors too have had to move away from face to face meetings – although virtual meetings were quite common before the crisis. Despite lock down, we continue to receive request for mentors. David Glassman, who leads our mentoring efforts with Nanette Young, reports that most recent potential mentoring clients have been looking to future and strategic growth rather than to the immediate needs caused by current circumstances. Most remarkably and to our great delight, we have received offers to act as mentors from many more members than has been the case for several years.  Thank you to all those that have volunteered who we highlighted in the last edition.  We remain grateful for members’ willingness to “put something back” via our Pro Bono efforts, especially those that have stepped up to meet new demands. 

Trustees on the Frontline

A well as the upsurge in pro bono activity, trustees of charities and other not for profit organisations (as many of our members are) are seeing new crisis-related demands for their help and support as they deal with a wide range of new and challenging issues.  Here, First Warden John Pulford describes his recent experiences:

“A passing thought when the Lockdown was first mooted was that my trustee life might quieten down.  Far from it.   As Chairman of Creative Kernow I knew that I would have to be more active than usual. This arts charity has 35 staff and rents out studios to over 200 creative people at our Krowji (Cornish for shed, or space) buildings in Redruth. This is the largest creative workspace west of Bristol, soon to be increased by a £2m development of a further 21 studios. We also run a number of cross-Cornwall programmes supporting artists and rural villages who take up our Carn to Cove live and film performances.

As the Lockdown became inevitable the CEO and the senior management team implemented plans outlined only a few days earlier to trustees. Most staff could work from home. It helps that Cornwall has Superfast broadband, but our studios remain open as this is the only workplace many of the artists have. However only a handful are now using their studios. News that one of the older artists had died from Covid, was very saddening. He was already in hospital for other reasons and hadn’t been in his studio for weeks. Did he catch the virus in hospital? His wife thinks so, but we just don’t know. We told the other artists and did a deep clean on his studio.

It wasn’t long before we were able to advise artists on how they could obtain the Small Business Grants of £10,000 made available by the Government through Cornwall Council. The money was in their accounts within days of it becoming available.

Maintaining our own good financial position (classified Green flag by the Arts Council) has however meant that we’ve had to furlough eight staff including a senior manager. We are now waiting for details of the Arts Council emergency funding programme which hopefully will cover the £50,000 of artists fees to which we are committed even though there will be no Spring/early Summer performances.

Nowadays I’m far too busy to read the avalanche of advice that is being directed at trustees or to participate in the numerous webinars on offer.  So, 4 weeks of lockdown that has seen us having to deal with death, deep cleaning, new grants and furloughing of staff, none of which we envisaged back in February.  What next?”

Tomorrow's Worth

Father of the Livery Calvert Markham reports:

Following October’s Change Lecture given by David Willetts on ‘The Challenge of Intergenerational Change’ the Company launched ‘Tomorrow’s Worth’, a programme to identify practical action that can be taken to address the issues of intergenerational inequality, focusing particularly on the world of work.

The programme is supported by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the Intergenerational Centre (part of the Resolution Foundation), and the Centre for Management Consulting Excellence. Tomorrow’s Worth now has a page on the Company web site. The programme involves individual professionals from inside and outside the Company with a wide range of skills, and from them a coordination group has been formed to oversee the programme.

Following project definition workshops at the launch of the programme, we have identified three projects on which we are initially concentrating:

  • COLLABORATION: how can different generations work fruitfully together? This project is already quite advanced with students at Ravensbourne University conducting the project as part of their course.
  • MANAGEMENT: providing the HR department with the language and tools to address intergenerational issues.
  • KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER: providing guidance on how to identify and accelerate the transfer of tacit learning between generations in a professional services environment.

In support of these projects, over the course of 2020 project teams will be conducting:

  • RESEARCH: surveys to illuminate the areas of study, with accompanying analysis
  • EVENTS: including consultation groups and round tables to discuss and elaborate research findings and seminars at which the results of research will be announced
  • DELIVERABLES: ensuring that each of the project areas creates products that are of enduring value; these may include publications, apps, and other interventions

The measures to contain the corona virus crisis have meant that all the work on this has had to be delayed and some reformulation may be needed. Moreover, these measures in themselves exacerbate intergeneration inequality, as the younger generation is having to sacrifice economic health to protect the physical health of the more vulnerable older generation. We are therefore considering what, if anything, the programme might do in addition to address this.

CMCE Update

The Centre for Management Consulting Excellence is the learned society for all who are interested in management consultancy, started by the Company, but open to all.

For obvious reasons, CMCE is not holding any events now and wanted to give Newsletter readers some more thought-provoking material at a time when many people have more opportunity to read than usual.  You have probably seen the recently published Bulletin with its own distinctive CMCE content and these Bulletins will continue monthly. 

In addition you can find out the latest news about the Centre, its activities, projects and knowledge bank, here.

Livery Precedence

Thanks to both the Clerk and Alan Broomhead for tipping me off about this, a splendid song about Livery Precedence. The song was written by Alderman Prof. Sir Andrew Parmley and performed by Tony Saunders (pictured), an accomplished pianist and acquaintance of the Weavers' Company.

Pan Livery Group

As reported previously, Third Warden Bob Harris was asked last December to join the Pan-Livery Steering Group and organise a second survey of philanthropic giving by livery companies.  The PLSG has now morphed into a co-ordinating group for pan-livery initiatives in response to the Covid-19 crisis, meeting weekly and including the Lord Mayor and other senior livery participants.  The range of support being provided by the livery movement is astounding and WCoMC is pleased to be part of this effort alongside many of the older and wealthier livery companies. 

Poets' Corner 

This timely verse comes from the "Poet in the City" archive of audio, video and podcasts. 

And, on the subject of loneliness and mental health, the Almoners group thought readers might be interested in these reflections and suggestions from monks and nuns from a Christian and Buddhist perspective about managing isolation or in these reflections from the Church of England.

And finally...(and with apologies to Scott Adams)

Thank you for reading this far, and stay safe.

Steve Cant


This newsletter is produced by the WCoMC Communications Group. Please let us know if you have any items to include in relation to any topics that come to mind! The opinions expressed in this newsletter represent those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the Company.
​WCoMC is a Chartered Charitable Organisation (Privy Council Reference C877) and a Company Incorporated by Royal Charter (Company No. RC000819).