The Maltese experience puts our Brexit imperatives under the spotlight, says Stephen Martin
The eight points of the famous Maltese Cross represent the eight nations, including England, that sent knights to join the crusading Order of St John, which ruled Malta between 1530 and 1798. I learnt this recently when I visited St Julian’s, a coastal town just north of Valletta, to speak at the 20th European corporate governance conference of the European Confederation of Directors’ Associations (ecoDa), which was organised by IoD Malta.
In a way, the IoD’s membership of ecoDa is a microcosm of the question of the UK’s role in Europe after Brexit. When I became DG in February, ecoDa asked me whether the institute wanted to remain a member in light of the referendum result. I was clear that I absolutely believe we should. Commerce thrives on co-operation and, after we leave the EU, firms of all sizes will still need to trade with their partners across the Channel.
The event was a great chance for the leaders of governance institutes from different countries to discuss the challenges we share, not least of which is the important task of increasing public trust in business. This subject is high on the political agenda in the UK. The government launched a review of corporate governance a few months ago, covering issues such as FTSE 100 executive pay, which has attracted plenty of negative headlines over the past few years.
Another connection between Malta and the UK is that we both recently faced a snap general election – although for very different reasons, I hasten to add: Malta’s PM has been caught up in allegations relating to the Panama papers. Although Brexit and the question of which party leader would be best to take us through the negotiations dominated the UK election debate, we at the IoD are very keen that it’s not the only topic up for discussion.
Governance reform will be on the agenda for both the Maltese and UK governments. This is why, as part of a series of pre-election manifesto papers, we called for measured reforms to give shareholders more say over pay policy at the companies they own. We’ve also published papers on tax, start-ups, infrastructure, education and more, under the title Let’s Push Things Forward. These looked beyond the general election to consider how the next government can enhance the UK’s competitiveness. You can find them all at our general election hub on iod.com.
It was great to meet…
MD, Retail Merchandising Services
I made a productive trip to Wales last month, where I met the first minister, Carwyn Jones, and heard about Cardiff Airport’s plans to start new routes with Qatar Airways. But the person who really stood out for me was Daniel O’Toole. His firm, Retail Merchandising Services, worked with nearly 10,000 stores last year, including Asda and B&Q outlets, to help them perfect how they display their goods. The business was founded by Daniel’s father, Peter, who sadly passed away last year. Shortly before his death, Peter had won a Director of the Year award in the Welsh finals. It was moving to hear Daniel’s story – and heartening to see how this family business is continuing to thrive.
This month I will be…
Although the UK needs to maintain strong links with the EU, Brexit also creates an impetus to strengthen our connections with the rest of the world. To this end, I will be going to the former home of the tsars to meet the IoD’s sister organisations from Russia, Canada, New Zealand and elsewhere.
One of the largest collections of art in the world.
No trip to St Petersburg would be complete without a tour of the State Hermitage Museum, which includes the Winter Palace, the official residence of Russia’s royal families from 1754 to 1917.
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Stephen Martin is the IoD director general.
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