Training for investment executives who are nominated to the Boards of investee companies started in 2002 at the suggestion of the BVCA Education Committee. The Education Committee was ahead of the curve, at the time in instigating this programme. I was on the faculty of Cranfield School of Management and had launched a programme for Non – Executive directors in 1997. Patrick Dunne, who was then at 3i, approached me and asked me if I was interested in designing and delivering the programme. I clearly remember going to the BVCA’s offices which were very humble and tucked away in a back street of London and included a climb of several flights of stairs. I can’t remember how many BVCA offices I have been to but the development of the organisation into the professional, highly effective representative body that it is today, is mirrored by its new offices.
I remember the first programme very well. There were about 30 people in a training room at Cranfield. As we went around the room doing personal introductions, it was obvious that these were “the old lags” [a term they liked] of the PE/VC industry. They had many years of experience of investing and sitting on boards. What struck me, and it is testimony to the influence of the BVCA and the importance that the industry places on training, is that so many experienced professionals were prepared to attend the programme. Other industries in my experience do not share that belief in training. What was interesting was that almost all of them said they were not directors of their investee companies but ‘observers’, in the belief that this would somehow mitigate their personal responsibilities and potential liabilities if something went wrong. The initial 30 minutes of the first session on the programme by Simon Witney on the Legal Responsibilities of Directors swiftly disavowed them of that notion.
That first programme must have been effective and popular as the demand was such that the programme had to be delivered four times per year for the first two years. Perhaps the dinner with good wine at the end of the first day had something to do with it. I always remember them as very positive events.
The programme has developed over the years with positive suggestions from the BVCA Education committee. Again, being ahead of the curve, the Education Committee suggested that a session on ‘Health & Safety’ be introduced to the programme. It is safe to say that initially this was not always welcomed by the attendees. “I want to do great deals and make money, what’s health & safety got to do with me?” was a sentiment I heard more than once in the early days of the session’s inclusion in the programme. Today it is a highlight of the programme as attendees have learned the importance of the topic.
I always look forward to delivering the BVCA Nominee Director Programme, although I am usually mentally exhausted at the end of it, as every piece of knowledge and experience has been extracted from me. I get a great buzz from working with incredibly intelligent, well qualified young people who want to make money in the “right” way. A trend among attendees has been the increase in educational qualifications they possess. It is not unusual to have attendees who are lawyers, accountants, corporate financiers and/or have doctorates in life sciences and MBAs from top business schools.
I have trained over 10,000 NEDs and the emphasis the private capital industry places on education is, I believe, a component of its success. Far more people from PE/VC have done training for their role than from the FTSE350. This might in a small way explain the difference in relative performance between the two asset classes.
It has been a privilege to be associated with the BVCA and its training function over the last 20+ years. I would also like to thank Simon Witney and Patrick Dunne who, with me, have presented on virtually every programme.
BVCA Training Course Director