This article was published before we became the Chartered Institute of Export & International Trade on 10 July 2024, and this is reflected in references to our old brand and name. For more information about us becoming Chartered, visit our dedicated webpage on the change here.

It was with some surprise that Lesley Batchelor, the Director General of the Institute of Export heard that Richard Pennycook, the CEO of the Co-operative Group, found it difficult to manage the levels of management and the volunteer governance structure he had inherited – especially when it reflected the way in which many trade associations and professional bodies conduct themselves.

Like many institutions incorporated in the last century (the Institute of Export was established in 1935), we have been using articles of association and bylaws that tried to bridge the requirements of the Companies Act and the Charity Commission.

In June of 2013 the Council decided that it was time to look at the way we governed ourselves in more detail, as we look for new blood and better connections for the executive board and governing council. This started a full review of the way in which we operate and an appraisal of the model terms that the Charities Commission suggests charities such as ours should use.

It has been clear for a while that the branch network is not truly representative of the membership, with many members unable to attend regular meetings, normally due to work commitments. We need to encourage active members to be up to date with current issues facing those in global trade – and this open approach is designed to do just that. Our role in representing vital industry interests among government and lobby groups is more important than ever.

The plan is to take the existing federal structure and flatten it. Currently, national Council members and branch Council members represent the members. These Council representatives then vote for the executive board who implement the strategies suggested by the Council and monitor the secretariat that supports the work of the Institute. The idea behind the new articles of association is that we would have a larger Board of Trustees and Directors to replace the council. This would be a better way of managing the best interests of the members and using the talents of our membership to their fullest.

This new governance would be voted for nationally, thus making it a more engaging process for all members and be truly representative of the membership. It will reflect the manner in which business is executed nowadays, allowing for virtual meetings – and introducing the concept of Special Interest Groups.

The branches, although few in number, could easily remain as they are, representing a region’s exporters. However, the new provision offers a less structured grouping we will call Special Interest Groups (SIGs). The plan is to enable the very broad church of members to express themselves and share the detail of their special interests.

For example, as the Institute is working with the All Party Manufacturing Group and the Manufacturing Advisory Services we could start SIGs that support those groups and their interests. Likewise the work we are about to start with TechUK, who represent the interests of electronic and software industries, highlights that there would be room for a SIG in this area which is growing and reflects the way in which we all sell internationally over the internet.

As our work with UKTI continues to grow the SIGs will support the Continuing professional development programme, and their excellent network will provide opportunities for SIGs in market specific topics. Likewise our members who are linked with trade associations will bring forward some brilliant opportunities to show the diverse nature of International Trade.

The details of the actual governance are on our website with the proposed bylaws that will be needed in the short term to administer the transition. Our plans require the support of our members – which is why we are asking all our members to vote and take the Institute forward.

Last year was the first year for a long time that we made a surplus and this growth is being reflected again in 2014, which allows the Institute to start planning for a better programme of support for British exporters.

If you’re a member please vote – if you’re not a member – why not? We are one of the fastest growing professional bodies in international trade.

New Articles of Association for the Institute of Export offer a new way forward for the next stages of growth.

Further details and voting forms can be found on the AGM 2014 page (members only, requires a log in)

Any questions – or call 01733 404400