Branching out

by Sam Dukes

11 April 2017

The recent HFMA branches conference highlighted the variety of ways branches are bringing their local finance communities closer together.

Representatives of 11 branches from across the country, including two of the devolved nations, came together in London during March. It was acknowledged right at the start of the day that many finance staff identify most strongly with HFMA through their local branch, and for lots of members a local branch event is likely to have been their first introduction to HFMA.

As a relatively new branch vice-chair, it was an opportunity to learn more about what other branches are doing to engage with their local finance staff, and there’s no shortage of exciting things happening within the HFMA branches at the moment.

One that generated much discussion was the West Midlands Branch, which is currently unique in having their own research and development committee. This committee recently produced an insightful guide on stress management in finance functions.  It is a fantastic example of how a branch can bring people together to discuss a shared problem and work collaboratively towards a solution.

As well as looking at local issues, the branches are well placed to support HFMA’s national programmes of work. As the first students are being accepted onto the HFMA qualification, I certainly intend on using the connections in our branch to help identify people within the region who could benefit most from undertaking this new route of further study.

One of the defining features of HFMA branches are the annual conferences held in each region, and during the day each branch fed back on what parts of their conferences they felt were the most successful. Whilst the branch conferences come in all shapes and sizes, some common themes clearly emerged.

Several branches highlighted their local awards ceremonies as something they were especially proud of, and as part of a branch that doesn’t currently have an awards process this has certainly got me thinking about what we could do to acknowledge the contributions of people in our region. Many highlighted the quality of speakers. While many branches have secured impressively high profile speakers for their conferences in recent years, it is clear that the speeches which really stick in people’s memories are the opportunities to hear the experiences and inspiring stories of patients and clinicians from the front line of NHS care.  

However, perhaps the most common theme was the opportunity for networking that branches provide. In the modern working environment, the word ‘networking’ often carries the stigma of being a cold and calculated exercise in career advancement. In contrast, networking opportunities within the branches are a far more enjoyable and meaningful affair; where counterparts share their approaches to mutual challenges, experienced members share insight with junior members, and old colleagues share memories with one another.

If the word networking doesn’t adequately capture the spirit of what the branches provide, perhaps the word community does a better job. And as more and more questions are asked of finance professionals, these local communities have a key role to play in bringing people together in search of the solutions.

To find out more about HFMA individual branches and the one closest to you, please click here. You can join our circle for a 60-day trial for just £1 in April and May.

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