21st January 2015

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10 Minutes With...Karen Bowman Dominic Fryer

In the second interview in our new series, we speak to Karen Bowman. Karen joined the University of Edinburgh in 1998 from the Scottish Health Service, after a period in London in nursing / research before her procurement career kicked off buying drugs (!).  She is the Director of Procurement for the University, whose team won THELMA Outstanding Procurement Team in 2013 for saving £10 - £15million p.a. and for sustainability and eProcurement developments. Karen is a CIPS Fellow and a trustee of higher education procurement development fund. She won the Principal’s medal for outstanding service to the University, loves embroidery and fair trade chocolate! Read the interview here.

If you missed the previous interview with Kerry Sykes, then you can read it here.

BUFDG Team Update - December 2014 Dominic Fryer

December was only half a month, really. Karel attended the BUFDG Executive Committee met on 3rd December, which involved a very full agenda and a follow-on meeting to organise the final details of the 2015 conference at Lancaster. Woburn House, where we held the meeting, was occupied by students when we left, so like the Three Kings, had to return to our homes via another route. That was also the day of the Autumn Statement, which held no great surprises or opportunities for Higher Education. I travelled to Bournemouth the following day to mark off another HEI in my I-Spy book and attend the meeting of South West Finance Directors at the Arts University Bournemouth on 5th December – as usual, there was a very good discussion amongst Finance Directors who value the opportunity to share ideas and experiences. Our team day on the 11th December was a highlight of the month and I left work that day feeing very lucky to work with such a great group of colleagues. Gill Ball (Birmingham) must have thought similar thoughts on 15th December at her retirement dinner, which I was honoured to attend and enjoy an evening of meeting old colleagues and chatting with some very interesting people.

Matt’s December included end-of-year ‘Spring Cleaning’ along with his regular article writing. He also did preparatory work for a number of BUFDG surveys to be launched in the first few months of 2015. He produced some website sliders and other artwork, and also did a big batch of database cleaning and ordering, including updating all the financial statements. The full list (www.bufdg.ac.uk/auditfr/financial-statements) is now the most complete it’s ever been!

For Emma, there were only 5 working days in December, during this time she finalised and published the sustainability document and attended the sustainability training course in London. She is currently focussing on trying to build relationships with those in the procurement arena who we might share information with or work with to create useful resources for our members. She also worked with Kerry Sykes as our first interviewee for “10 mins with…”.  

Gill was busy with HEPA events during December – 5 in total, admin for the Midlands Deputy Finance Directors Group meeting in Birmingham and travelling up to Loughborough for the BUFDG Team Meeting.  Finishing on the 22nd meant a lovely long Christmas break!

Amanda had her usual array of tax issues to deal with; meeting with the Office of Tax Simplification to provide some feedback from members for the OTS employment status review, obtaining clarity from HMRC over confusion regarding the transitional rules for the removal of the student accommodation summer letting concession and discussing HMRC’s views on universities claiming Research and Development Expenditure Credits with PwC. She also finalised the details for some tax training courses in 2015 and produced the Christmas Tax Newsletter.

Dominic had a slightly shorter month due to annual leave, but made sure that everything was ready for Siobhain Clarke to start as our new Training and Development Manager on 6th January. He has also been working on some more website developments and looking at how the new resource sections are being used. He is working with Matt on particular areas of our service and how the members are engaging with them. However the most important task was to make sure that all his colleagues got the food that they ordered for the BUFDG Christmas meal! 

BUFDG achievements in 2014 Matt Sisson

The behind-the-scenes nature of the work of membership organisations such as BUFDG can often pass under the radar (excuse the mixed metaphor!). Our monthly team updates (see above) are one of the ways that we inform members of what we’re up to.

We’re also keen though that you know about all the work that we do over the whole year, and so we’ve summarised all our 2014 activities into a handy little 9-page brochure. Click to download it here.

Below is a little taster of the ‘Events’ page. In 2014 we hosted 941 delegates at 47 training events. These events were run (on average) at 103% capacity – this means that we set the numbers limit and then Gill worked hard to squeeze in a few extras, to limit disappointment!



While we’re all proud of what we get done, we also want to keep developing and improving our services to you, our members. If you have any thoughts on how we can help you, or how we can do things better this year, then please let us know

Budget 2015 Amanda Darley

The Chancellor has announced that the 2015 Budget will be held on 18 March 2015.  HM Treasury is seeking views on policies for the 2015 Budget.  If you would like to contribute your views via BUFDG, please contact Amanda with your ideas for policy suggestions with an explanation of the policy rationale, likely costs, benefits and consideration of how the proposals could be delivered.

FD Regional Meetings and SORP Self-Help Sessions Siobhain Clarke

Just a timely reminder that the next regional meetings for Finance Directors are scheduled to take place during February/March. If you haven’t already reserved your place please click here

In each region there is also a SORP Self-Help Session. Whether you have a plan in place and project team members identified, or are just starting to think about the implications, these self-help group meetings are must-attend events. To make effective use of available time, where possible these are scheduled for the afternoon (except South West and Wales).  All meetings start at 2pm and finish at 4pm and places can be booked here.  In addition to Finance Directors they are aimed at Deputy FDs, Heads of Finance and Financial Accountants. 

The meetings will be chaired by a member of the Financial Reporting Group, and colleagues from the audit firms will be in attendance to help answer questions. The meetings are your chance to bring issues for discussion and resolution in a non-judgemental environment.

Please note you need to book separately on both events (your registration for the regional meeting doesn’t automatically cover your attendance for the afternoon session).

Regional meetings have been scheduled to minimise travel and time out of the office so please support your regional event.  The Scottish events look likely to be held on Wednesday 18th March at QMU Edinburgh and Monday 15th June in Glasgow.  These dates are hot off the press and booking slots will be available shortly.  Agendas and speakers will be added to the Eventbrite booking page as details are confirmed.

Overseas Tax Changes Amanda Darley

India appears to moving closer to a GST regime with a probable implementation date of 1 April 2016.  Read more in our full news article.

Singapore has announced changes to its Transfer Pricing rules, largely centred on documentation.  Find out more in our full news article.

Japan will introduce a requirement to charge consumption tax on the provision of e-services by foreign businesses to Japanese consumers from 1 October 2015.  See our full news article for more details.

Website Top Tip #3 - Anonymous posting Matt Sisson

You may have noticed that we offer the option for you to post ‘anonymously’ when you post on the discussion boards. To do this, reply to a post as normal, but before you click the ‘OK’ button, check the ‘Anonymous’ button in the bottom right hand corner first.

Now you know how to do it, how do you know WHEN you should do it? That’s where our anonymous posting guidelines come in, with the common reasons people often post anonymously answered with a 'No', 'Yes' and 'Maybe'. 

NO: A bit shy?

Should you post anonymously if you’re new and you’re just a bit shy? No. Everyone was new once, and we’re a friendly bunch – no one will think worse of you for asking a silly question (It’s probably not as silly as you think it is). What’s more, there’s a good chance that other people are thinking it too, but just too shy to ask (yes, even shy-er than you…). If you’re unsure if it’s a silly question or not, try clicking the ‘archive’ tab or using the search tool to see if it (or something similar) has been asked before.

MAYBE: Commercially sensitive?

There’s an argument that anything commercially ‘sensitive’ should be anonymous. My careful use of inverted commas in that sentence should hopefully highlight that in reality, very few topics are sensitive enough to have a genuine commercial impact (giving ‘competitors’ an unfair advantage), especially as no suppliers can view the discussion boards (apart from the special SORP ones). If you could imagine picking up the phone, or emailing to discuss the issue with a known colleague at a different institution, then you can post it to the boards without anonymity.

YES: Reputational risk?

The only real reason you should need to post anonymously is if you’re discussing a particularly delicate issue that could potentially have reputational or legal implications if it was associated to your institution. I’m thinking here about things like frauds you may have suffered (which you’d like to warn others about – please do), or industrial or commercial legal disputes. If it’s the latter, you may prefer to ask someone within your own institution instead. Ask your manager if you’re unsure. If it’s about your manager, don’t post it on the boards…

Finally, if you’re ever unsure, please feel free to email Matt. He is always happy to discuss what your options are, or may even be able to post on your behalf. 

Are you prioritising professional development? Siobhain Clarke

After spending the first few weeks with BUFDG getting to grips with the basics of what I need to know, I wanted to share an article which embodies the key aspects of my role and relates to all of us in some way or another. According to the Chartered Management Institute, over half of all managers want to prioritise professional development for themselves and their team this year. With this in mind, I am keen to gain a greater appreciation of how BUFDG can help support your training needs and that of your team. 

I will (unashamedly) take any opportunity I can to raise the training and development subject with you all as ‘face to face’ opportunities arise. However if this article triggers any thoughts or you have identified any training and development needs, please pick up the phone and give me a call on 01509 228864, or drop me an email to s.clarke@bufdg.ac.uk, perhaps with a convenient time to call you back?

I look forward to working with you all in developing further the BUFDG/HEPA training and development provision over the coming year. 

Increasing your "hidden income stream" Matt Sisson

Energy efficiency is sometimes called a ‘hidden fuel’ for its ability to supply more energy for a lower cost. In the same way, spending efficiency is certainly a ‘hidden income stream’, especially when the savings register in the £millions.

The Procurement Maturity Assessment (PMA) programme has made a big contribution to those savings, through providing direction, support, and training to HEIs to improve their procurement efforts. Susan Wright, the Head of SUPC – the consortium responsible for PMAs in England – has an article on the Efficiency Exchange website this month outlining the achievements of the programme, and of some of those universities who have undertaken it.

“The programme is a true HE sector success story” she writes. “Currently 97 HEIs are in our PMA programme and so far more than 20 institutions have had their follow-up assessment. And the good news doesn’t stop there – those HEIs that returned for a follow-up assessment showed an average 22% improvement in their assessments meaning that their procurement functions had significantly improved”.

Job of the Week Matt Sisson

Our Job of the Week is for a Procurement Officer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The closing date for applications is the 11th February.

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