Society takes the road to recovery

The Society of Practitioners of Insolvency has voted for a new name and constitution to reflect the modern market in which its members work, says Stephen Gale.

For years now the market in which insolvency professionals operate has been changing from one dominated by formal insolvency appointments (for example, receiver, liquidator, administrator or trustee in bankruptcy) to a much more "upstream" focus on turnaround, rehabilitation and recovery.

But the connotation "insolvency" no longer accurately reflects the work that members of the profession are becoming increasingly involved in.

The constitution of the Society of Practitioners in Insolvency (SPI) confined membership to licensed insolvency practitioners – and more of those operating in the turnaround field do not have a formal insolvency qualification yet provide excellent and professional service.

On 21 January the society voted to change its constitution so that its membership could be drawn from the wider turnaround field.

It also agreed to change its name to The Association of Business Recovery Professionals which will be rebadged R3 (Rescue, Recovery and Renewal).

There is a lot going on in this area: a new Insolvency Bill is imminent; changes are proposed to bankruptcy legislation; and further changes are being considered which will affect the very fabric of rescue techniques. In addition the European Union is seeking to harmonise insolvency legislation and practice.

Now that we have won a mandate to forge ahead with change, the new-look association can play a leading role in influencing and managing the wider developments.

First, we need to invite all those practising in the turnaround area to join the new association. We also need to reassure existing members who continue to practise in the insolvency marketplace that we still service their needs and are committed to that marketplace.

We then need to establish the identity of the new association with its new image, name and badge among opinion formers and government. In particular we must ensure that the Department of Trade and Industry is on board.

As one of the issues raised by the current consultation process is the need for the insolvency profession to change to respect the rescue culture we have every reason to believe that they will be delighted with the success in changes to SPI and welcome it. We then need to look at our relationship with other professional associations, notably the Insolvency Lawyers' Association, and deepen and develop further our working relationships with its members.

Beyond all of this we need to ensure that the insolvency and turnaround profession's voice is properly represented to government.

The submissions made to the Government on the Insolvency Bill and the wider consultation document were some of the most detailed and comprehensive submissions made in response to both of those documents.

The society represented the profession in the parliamentary select committee debate on the bill and the reporting of that debate vindicates the recommendations and thoughts of the insolvency profession. We are committed to continuing this level of quality and excellence on a wider canvas now to include turnaround.

Stephen Gale is head of corporate recovery at Herbert Smith and president-elect of the Society of Practitioners of Insolvency/Association for Business Recovery Professionals