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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Accommodation Strategy Group

In today’s competitive climate we are all under pressure. Demands on our time, demands for greater efficiency and effectiveness, and, not least, demands to contain costs. This pressure extends not only to the commercial world in which we the members work but also to your profession as a corporate body. Councils, FIMC, and the executive are acutely aware of the need to make sure that moneys raised from the membership are used in the most effective way to support the profession. To help achieve this, a small group made up of representatives of Faculty, Institute, and the executive has been established to look at future options. The purpose of this article is to invite you to give your views on the future location and presence of your profession.

At present the profession is spread across three sites, Edinburgh, London, and Oxford; however, the current accommodation is already failing to provide an efficient solution to the profession’s requirements.

The problem is most acute in Staple Inn, where accommodation for current staff is inadequate. It will also be apparent to those members who use Staple Inn regularly that we have insufficient meeting rooms, both in terms of quality (in terms of space and acoustics) and quantity, effectively to service all of the boards and committees.

Staple Inn actually comprises three distinct leases:

  • the main building, which includes the hall and Council chamber;
  • Staple Inn Buildings (located behind and attached to the main building); and
  • 10 Staple Inn, across the courtyard.

Although the current rent for the main building is, by comparative standards, reasonable, it is expected to increase sharply upon the rent review due on 25 December 2003.

The fact that the building is not meeting the profession’s needs and the imminent rent review leads us to believe that now is the appropriate time critically to review how and where we conduct the business of the profession. It goes without saying that this is an attempt to begin a process in which change, if that is what the membership want, will take many years to achieve, but that should not stop us from beginning the debate now. Regardless of what we want, we also need to recognise that it is possible that the landlord may choose to occupy Staple Inn from 2008 anyway, leaving no option but to move elsewhere.

But, of course, Staple Inn is not the only building that we use. If we are reviewing our strategic requirements then we should look at Oxford and Edinburgh. As a membership organisation, should we continue to maintain buildings which members do not personally visit? Does a Georgian townhouse, over five floors, in the centre of Edinburgh provide us with what we need now and in the future?

Obviously the buildings that we occupy have an impact upon the profession in many ways, both visible and invisible, and in recognising this we want to make sure that we capture as many views of the membership as possible. We have also tried to understand what the profession needs from its buildings with a view to analysing how well current provision meets these needs. Although not exhaustive, the profession’s buildings should provide:

  • a focus for the profession;
  • an external presence for the profession;
  • an efficient and effective working environment;
  • sufficient meeting rooms and resources to meet the requirements of its structures;
  • flexibility to adapt to changing requirements;
  • an economical solution to the profession’s needs.

Obviously, if the profession opts to move towards change, we need to address some thorny issues. Not least of all we need to ask ourselves how wedded we are to the hall and Council chamber at Staple Inn. Staple Inn Hall and Council chamber have an understandable value attached to them, but we also need to recognise that this was equally the case for Edinburgh and its Council chamber. The surrender of the Faculty’s sessional meeting hall seems to have left no ill effects!

We would therefore invite all of the profession to give us their views. To give some structure to the responses we have posed a few questions below, although you should not in any way feel restricted or bound by them. Responses can be sent back to the executive by email to pauh@actuaries.org.uk or by fax to 020-7632 2170.Please take the opportunity to let us know what you think about this matter.

Indicative questions

  1. In attempting to scope out the requirements that we might have of our buildings, what factors are missing?
  2. How crucial is retaining the hall at Staple Inn? If ‘crucial’, should we consider hiring it as required?
  3. What functions of the executive need to be readily accessible in person to members?
  4. Do we need three sites? Two? One?
  5. Do we need a site in the City of London, or is proximity to airports a more important consideration for fellows?
  6. Do the current buildings provide flexibility should we require it for future development of the activities of the profession?