Expect the unexpected at the ICAS Conference

Edinburgh Castle at sunset
By Robert Outram, Editor The CA

19 September 2017

Expect the unexpected: that’s always been good advice in business, and never more so than today. 

It’s also the theme of this year’s ICAS Conference, taking place in Edinburgh on 20 September in association with Investec Wealth & Investment. It looks set to be the networking event of the year for CAs.

The 2017 conference will bring together some of the most insightful leaders in business, politics and media to help
you address challenges, from Brexit and Trump to the impact of technology.

Political speakers

The shifting tensions and unexpected developments of politics around the world, and their impact on markets, will be addressed at the conference from the perspectives of a renowned politician, leading reporter and a respected investment expert.
The Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind The Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind KCMG QC served for 18 years throughout the whole Prime Ministerships of both Margaret Thatcher and John Major. He was appointed a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, at first in the Scottish Office and then, at the time of the Falklands War, he was transferred to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, being promoted to Minister of State in 1983.

He became a member of the Cabinet in 1986 as Secretary of State for Scotland. In 1990 he became Secretary of State for Transport and in 1992 Secretary of State for Defence. From 1995-97 he was Foreign Secretary. Sir Malcolm was re-elected as a Member of Parliament in May 2005 for Kensington and Chelsea. He was elected as Member of Parliament for Kensington in May 2010 and remained in Parliament until 2015.

Isabel Oakeshott is an award-winning journalist and commentator. She is currently political editor at large on the Daily Mail and a panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics show. She was formerly political editor of the Sunday Times and has written two hard-hitting political books, Inside Out – covering Labour’s political infighting during the Blair and Brown years – and Call Me Dave, on the career of former prime minister David Cameron.

John Wyn-Evans is Head of Investment Strategy with Investec Wealth & Investment. He is responsible for developing and marketing the firm’s investment strategy to IW&I’s network of investment managers and also to the professional adviser community.

One of the keynote speakers at the conference, Baroness Manningham-Buller LG, DCB, is no stranger to anticipating unexpected threats. As head of MI5 between 2002 and 2007 she led the organisation through substantial change in the wake of 9/11. Under her leadership MI5 doubled in size, opened eight new offices and altered its approach to the professional development of staff with the establishment of a training academy.

She is now an active crossbench peer in the House of Lords and Chair of the Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s largest nongovernmental fund providers for scientific research.

Digital: value vs risk

Also at the conference, the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) will be tackled by two expert speakers. Will AI and robots make our lives better – or just make us irrelevant?

Mike Chantler is Professor of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University, where he heads the multidisciplinary Texture Lab. His research interests cover the use of machine learning to extract meaning and value from data, and presenting these to users in a way that promotes understanding and trust.

Simon Lapthorne is Senior Research Analyst with Investec Wealth & Investment, covering the technology, media and telecommunications sectors with a primary focus on UK companies.

The dark side of technology is the topic of the “Cyber insecurity” segment. Cybercrime, hacking and ransomware attacks, some on a grand scale, are becoming ever more frequent. How worried should we be – and how can we become less scared?

John Shaw of IT specialists Sophos will consider these questions. As Vice-President of Product Management for end-user security he is responsible for all Sophos’s mobile, encryption, server and endpoint-protection products.

Martin Gilbert, Aberdeen Asset ManagementThe conference also provides a unique opportunity to hear two of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs in conversation on the subject of “Building Billion Pound Companies”. Martin Gilbert CA is co-founder of Aberdeen Asset Management, which has become one of the country’s biggest fund managers and is just about to finalise a merger with Standard Life, while Sir Brian Souter CA is Chairman and founder of leading transport group Stagecoach, and currently ICAS president.

In the “CA to C-suite” segment, two chief financial officers will talk about their road to the boardroom. Alison Cornwell CA is CFO of Vue Entertainment International and has had an illustrious career as a CA in the film industry, including working with Disney’s International TV business where she was head of finance responsible for TV distribution, Disney Channel and a portfolio of equity investments across EMEA, Asia Pacific, Latin America and Canada.

Jo Fletcher CA is CFO of the PGA European Tour, which runs golf’s Ryder Cup, European Tour, the European Challenge Tour and the European Senior Tour. She previously worked for the Vodafone group, firstly as Head of Finance for technology, strategy and operations before becoming the CFO of Vodafone Americas.

More inspirational stories will come from a trio of CAs drawn from different sectors. Colin McLellan is CFO at Skyscanner, the online flight, hotel and car-hire comparison business that was recently acquired by Chinese travel giant Ctrip for £1.4bn. Clare Campbell is the founder of Prickly Thistle, a business that combines Scotland’s weaving tradition with fashion flair. And Ricky Munday, Head of Corporate Services at the British Antarctic Survey, will talk about his motivation to climb mountains around the world – including Everest.

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