Preparations for change
David Menzies reports on the ICAS Insolvency and Restructuring Conference held at Gleneagles.
More than 100 delegates attended the ICAS Insolvency and Restructuring Conference in association with Close Brothers Asset Finance and supporting sponsor Sweeney Kincaid over two days at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire on 13-14 November.
Leading economist Professor Trevor Williams opened day one of the conference looking at the prospects for the UK economy in 2019. As he explained, Brexit is not the only factor affecting the UK economy, but he concluded that the general economic outlook remains hopeful.
It will, however, increasingly be influenced by globalisation and changing demographics, he said, and the E7 (“Emerging 7”) countries will account for a much larger share of global GDP in future.
Stephen Allinson, Chair of the Board of The Insolvency Service and Chair of the Joint Insolvency Examination Board provided an overview of recent or possible changes, including: changes to the insolvency examination structures; corporate insolvency legislation in England and Wales as well as Scotland; and the plan to reintroduce Crown preference.
Delegates also heard from Mena Halton, Head of Legal at Manolete Partners, and Joanne Gillies, a partner with Pinsent Masons, on the options available to pursue challengeable transactions under insolvency legislation.
While litigation remains a favoured route, tactics and alternative dispute resolution can significantly improve the outcome for creditors.
A series of breakout workshops covered legal updates on personal and corporate insolvency from James Lloyd of Harper Macleod, and Stuart Clubb of Shoosmiths, as well as hearing the latest on proposed government reforms to corporate insolvency from Simon Whiting of The Insolvency Service.
A lively debate was had regarding the case for reform of personal insolvency in Scotland: Eileen Maclean, Director with ISS, argued for reform while Lindsay’s Iain Penman, put the case against wholesale reform, which carried the day.
Emma Porter of forensic practice Aver provided an insight into the dark world of criminal activity and money laundering, highlighting the risk that practitioners could be used to facilitate criminal activity.
The first day of the conference was rounded off by Ricky Munday CA providing an inspirational talk on his career and his climb of Mount Everest earlier in 2018, reminding everyone that they should always persevere and pursue their dreams.
The second day of the conference centred around two panel sessions facilitated by STV’s Scotland Tonight presenter Rona Mackay.
In the first session the panel – Tom MacLennan CA FRP Advisory; John Cairns CA, French Duncan; and Philip McNeill, ICAS Head of Tax (Tax Practice and Small Business Taxes) – discussed the interaction between tax avoidance and insolvency.
They highlighted that recent changes to legislation are likely to result in a flood of individuals who may be faced with liabilities that they cannot meet.
In the second session, the crisis in retail was the focus of attention. The panel –Professor Leigh Sparks, Institute for Retail at Stirling University; Mathew Ditchburn, British Property Federation; and Gavin Parks, Deloitte – highlighted the many issues facing retailers, landlords and wider communities. The resounding conclusion was that the next few months could see a number of new high profile insolvencies among retailers.