Adam Owen uses his final missive as PFS president to look towards a bright future of communication and collaboration
This is the last time I will be writing as PFS President. It is traditional to talk about how much of a personal honour it has been to serve as president of the PFS and to reflect on the past year. While it has been a great honour, I have always felt that all of that is a little self-indulgent. Tradition can be useful as it provides us with the touch points to understand how we have arrived at where we are, but routines and rituals can also restrain us.
Due to the unique circumstances of the last six months, many of the traditions that I was expecting to be a part of didn’t happen and those that did took place through an online format. In the year when we celebrated the
PFS’s 15th anniversary, this has been a year when the Society has had to adapt, seeking new ways
to connect and create a new sense of community.
The PFS has set the standard for live professional development events in recent years with attendance records being broken in every region. The highlight of course is still the 2017 Festival of Financial Planning which saw thousands of our members gathered for a two-day celebration of our profession. However, these events can still only reach a minority of members and while thousands of members attended, tens of thousands of members did not.
Covid-19 has given us insights into the opportunity we have to use technology to be more inclusive and to create a stronger community
In the physical world we are constrained by the size and availability of venues and by transport links as well as the more fundamental elements of time and cost. This is not the case in the virtual space. Online we can reach all 40,000 members simultaneously no matter where they are in the world. The Society has already demonstrated with the excellent content from PFS Power that it can create engaging online content. In the future, there is the opportunity to create an inclusive and engaged community.
There will of course be many who baulk at the idea of a future based online. It is, after all, so much nicer to meet people face-to-face and to catch up with old friends at events but I do not see this being a binary proposition.
At the start of this presidential year, I set out to meet with as many members as possible. The last physical event I attended was the regional meeting in Belfast at the beginning of March but since then I have had countless Zoom meetings and telephone calls with members, many of whom I would not have had a chance to chat with at a regional event.
During my time in the profession I have seen how adaptable we are. The recent restrictions have pushed more people to adopt online communication tools and this has given us insights into the opportunity we have to use technology to be more inclusive and to create a stronger community. As a professional body, the PFS’s focus is to build public trust in the profession through maintaining professional standards. We can do this if we stand as an inclusive, united profession. Personally, I don’t mind if that is at a conference centre or in a Zoom meeting.
Adam Owen is president of the Personal Finance Society