ProcureCon Financial Services – is Procurement in the sector any fun?

It’s twelve years since I said goodbye to Financial Services, leaving my role as NatWest’s last ever CPO following the Royal Bank of Scotland takeover, with a healthy redundancy cheque, and share options that turned out to be worth about 27p. A couple of small consulting assignments with other banks have followed over the intervening years, but I haven’t had much contact really with the sector since Fred Goodwin made that first bold acquisition back in 2000.

So it was fascinating to attend the first day of the ProcureCon Financial Services conference in London earlier this week and have the chance to take stock of procurement in the sector in 2012. We’ll have more detailed comments on the event next week, but just a quick overview today.

It is the first time ProcureCon have focused on Financial Services, following their first sector specific event (Pharma) earlier this year. It was a two day event – I could only make day one, which was themed around IT procurement. To be honest, day two looked more interesting to me as a non-IT person, but actually I enjoyed the day more than I expected.

We had fun back in the old days of NatWest Procurement...

There were around 60 registered practitioner delegates I would say, with maybe 40 attending on day one, plus a strong line up of sponsors / exhibitors (Zycus, Xerox,  Efficio, IBM, Alsbridge, Xchanging, Beroe, Vinci, WNS,  Infosys, Ariba).  Duncan Brock, who was CPO for an insurance company in his past life, and is now Customer Relationship Director for CIPS, chaired very capably – he’s got a very good natural style for that role, engaging but authoritative.

I suspect ProcureCon would have liked a few more delegates, but actually the size worked really well. In fact, it’s made me revisit my views on ideal conference size somewhat. Having around 40 delegates, plus maybe 10-15 people from the sponsors (they were allowed to attend the working sessions) in the conference room actually made for a very good dynamic. It felt like there were enough people to make it an “event”, but the intimacy encouraged some of the best Q & A and debate I’ve ever heard at such events - very open and interesting discussion, which you don't tend to get with 100+ people in a room.

There were quite a few CPOs attending, and generally the delegates were of a high level of seniority. I haven’t got feedback from the sponsors yet but there seemed to be good opportunity for them to make contacts. The lunch was excellent too (thanks, Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel..)

Anyway, my overall feelings about the sector can be summed up in two comments.

- Financial Services procurement has come a long way and become a lot more professional than it was in my day.

- But it doesn’t look like a bundle of laughs!  The burden of regulation on the industry has increased so much and is having a major effect on procurement, with “control” becoming arguably THE dominant objective for the function.

So I’ll be back next week to expand on that and report in more detail, both on some of the specific sessions from the event and on my own views about procurement in the sector.

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