BCS reports £2m losses on commercial activities

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BCS reports £2m losses on commercial activities

Kevin Cahill

The Chartered Institute for IT (BCS) is haemorrhaging its cash reserves while its membership remains virtually static, according to a report and accounts presented yesterday.

The BCS’s annual general meeting (AGM), which attracted fewer than 50 professional members, was presented with accounts that showed losses of over £2m in the past two years from the society’s commercial activities.

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David Clarke, the retiring chief executive, screened a chart showing a precipitous decline in the society’s reserves, from £16m five years ago to under £8m now.

Clarke (pictured) assured the meeting that the losses had been stemmed and that the key company set up by BCS to put it on a commercial footing – BCS L&D – would be back in the black this quarter.

Clarke said the decline in the reserves had not been”losses” but “investments”.

Static membership

The professional membership was more or less static for the past two years, at around 44,000 out of an overall membership of about 74,000, the meeting heard.

This is 4,000 down on a few years ago and a fraction of the total IT industry pool of 1.5 to two million that the society should be tapping, according to one of the attendees.

And the number of society members voting at the AGM had fallen from 15% to 8% over five years, the meeting was told.

But the bulk of the meeting was devoted to a discussion of the accounts.

Lack of detailed plan criticised

Society loyalists expressed unease at the BCS’s finances – and the lack of a detailed plan for the society to stem the losses.

Outgoing president Roger Marshall, soon to be replaced by Liz Bacon, told the meeting that the BCS was focusing its efforts on marketing and business activities.

This led to a riposte from Gerry Fisher, the octogenarian BCS council member who has been vociferous recently about the state of the society.

“This isn’t a plan,” he told the president.

Fisher, a former president of the society, has recently raged against the trustee board’s emphasis on business and lack of attention to the professional development of the society and its core membership.

He picked up over 20% of the vote for a series of motions to make internal reforms, despite opposition from the BCS council on which he sits.

Impact of Snowden delegated to sub-committee

Roger Marshall was asked what the society was doing in relation to the Snowden revelations about the US National Security Agency spying in the UK.

He was reminded that this could place members of the society at legal risk if they worked for any of the affected companies.

Marshall said he thought “the matter had been delegated to a sub-committee of the BCS”.

Society unable to respond to journalists

Marshall and the board were also asked what the society had done about the endless government IT catastrophes and why the society did not have a better profile in the media. 

He said the media wanted "instant answers" and the society could not always do this.

“The media don’t like it when we point out that very often failures are not an IT issue, but a management issue," he said.

Fisher lost a vote to stay on the council, but remains there until 2016 in place of a promoted council member.


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