We did have one more speaker by way of introduction on the day. James Nicholls, who many of us have been speaking to for some time but not necessarily met, managed to attend. I was delighted as I have known James for some time and now we have two “common sense” lawyers on board.
The other people speaking seem like old regulars now (bizarre given that was our second meeting) but it just goes to show the level of contact and communication has been such that Jon Welsby, Nick Gould, all the founder members and I, did rather feel as if we've been members of SME Alliance for months rather than weeks!
Having said that, we've come away with a host of things to progress after the meeting and we all realise we're still at the beginning and have a long way to go. One really good initiative which we hope to put in place very soon, is the SME Alliance advisers platform. Many of the members, having faced their own problems as SME owners and in particular with banking and regulatory issues, have now gone on to form companies who advise SMEs. Some were already in the financial sector and could see the problems and some have just developed a vast amount of knowledge from their own experiences. So the plan is, these people will all get together to pool information that will help all of us. This will hopefully be in place before our next meeting, where we will have a much longer session to include a 'clinic' where members can talk to advisers.
Jon, Nick, Paul and I have a meeting next Monday with the SRA on behalf of SME Alliance. As we said at the meeting, if anyone has issues to raise that are relevant, please let us know. Steve Middleton raised one very serious issue: the many and varied examples of crime or misconduct in the financial sector have only really come to the forefront in recent years. Many of the issues are to do with complex, financial products and require very specific legal knowledge and advice. Unfortunately some legal firms are jumping in to give that advice without the appropriate level of expertise and this is causing huge problems. If anyone else has questions you would like us to ask, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
I would just like to make one point about that – Nick Gould has done a fantastic job of opening doors for us and I know many of the people or organisations we will be meeting are not always held in the highest esteem by the members – yes FCA, we're not your biggest fans. However, if we are going to get a voice, we need people to listen and they won't listen or even open the doors if we only want to attack. Which isn't to say we want to get pally, pally with the authorities but we do want to talk very seriously while very civilly and always based on the very level headed concerns of our members, so our points are taken on board. As we get more members it will be harder to ignore our points but we'd like to think people will actually want to talk to us – even if we raise some contentious issues.
Other updates – we will be sending out a monthly newsletter to all members. Now we've got a basic website, we're going to change a lot of it over the next month based on content from the members – so please send content for the general website and the members area. This will include a change to the 'Join Us' process, as this seems to be confusing people. There was some debate at the meeting as to whether the forum (which now works well but still can't drag any of us off twitter) should remain in the members area. The consensus of opinion was - it should for now.
Joel has suggested we should have our own newspaper – I'm assured by Laura this isn't hard to do and I'm guessing she's right because she has one for her own work. So watch this space.
The next meeting is planned to take place at the beginning of January and will be in Birmingham. We don't have a date or venue yet but will keep you posted. Great to see more ladies at this meeting – I hope you'll come to the next one.
More information from the meeting will be in the 1st newsletter – hopefully by the end of this week and I'll just finish by thanking Jon Welsby for Chairing the meeting; Nick Gould for setting up the Company and making some great contacts; to everyone who attended – some came from the other end of the Country and; most of all to James Fahey, our incredibly gracious and generous host.