All 99 and no flake

All 99 and no flake

The news a couple of months ago of the resignation of Adrian Bloomfield from the ASTL and its internal ‘leaked’ e-mail on membership gives us an interesting insight into the internal machinations of not for profit representative bodies.

One other trade body in the press recently has seen the interesting transformation, with SHIP becoming the Equity Release Council: a sleeping giant of a sector recognised it was time to develop its representative body from firefighting the issues of the past into a leaner, more commercially sensitive organisation. I think it will do well.

“Your Association needs you” should be splashed around tube stations, trade journals and blogs like this each day. They are not regulators, they are not providers and, in many cases, they struggle to demand a consistent mandate from their membership. Many won’t have the legacy of a union, but in truth, that is often the function they are being asked to perform.

I’ve been asked to set up two representative bodies in the past: and what a thankless task it was. It has all the headaches (and nerve-wrangling) of building a business without the quarterly dividends. It’s all 99 and no flake.

So why do it? Well, there is often a driver: for a non commercial organisation this could be consumer education, self-regulation by way of best practice or regulatory lobbying. In financial services, all of these could be true and in short term lending each is an immediate threat and opportunity.

When I have worked on regulating new areas, the use of a new fully supported trade body was critical but it is only ever as good as those that contribute. Imagine a school PTA without a committee: no cakes at the school fayre and no school improvements or field trips away. I am sure being hassled into buying raffle tickets is an occasional bore, but there is little doubt that an active and supportive parent network gives a school a more commanding platform for educating our children.

Which is why it is good to associate with your association: the only caveat is which one!