IoD membership drops again as it seeks new permanent chair

The Institute of Directors has lost a further 3,000 members, adding to the pressure on one of the UK’s oldest business groups as it seeks to recover from a bruising period in which two of its chairs have left in just three years.

The IoD said membership had dropped to 26,442, from 29,612 last year and more than 40,000 at its peak in the 1990s. The figures were in its 2019 annual report published on Wednesday.

But the 117-year-old non-profit organisation also reported that it had managed to turn an overall deficit of £4.2m in 2018 into a surplus of £752,000 in 2019, boosted by training programmes and events held at its Pall Mall headquarters in London.

This grand address has sometimes proven a millstone for the image of the group, which has struggled to demonstrate its efforts to modernise as it seeks to attract new members among directors of fast-growing and regional companies across the UK.

John Watson, the IoD’s interim chair, said: “One of the board’s key focuses in 2019 was improving our finances and our target of achieving a surplus was achieved.”

The IoD has suffered several years of declining membership, while its management has been thrown into turmoil after a scandal involving allegations of sexist and racist behaviour against its former chair Barbara Judge, who passed away last month. She denied all the claims.

© Anna Gordon/FT

Judge was replaced by Charlotte Valeur, but she said last month that she would also step down after just two years of her three-year term, sparking a further round of questions about the group’s long-term leadership.

Ms Valeur said the IoD was likely to “need increasing levels of hands-on involvement from its chair, and more than was anticipated . . . when I took on the role”. She said it would be difficult as a resident in Jersey and in a vulnerable household.

The IoD is in consultation about a new round of redundancies amid a reorganisation of its operations. In its 2019 accounts, the members group reported a charge of £397,000 relating to the costs of job losses and payouts to former employees, with about a fifth of jobs being cut.

However, the majority of this charge related to payments to Stephen Martin, its former director-general and one of the complainants against Judge, who quit in January 2019 after less than two years in the post. 

The group was given about £689,000 from the government last year for its work in preparing businesses for Brexit, according to its 2019 annual report.

Jonathan Geldart, director-general of the IoD, said “2020 has brought its own challenges but this has only accelerated, not deflected us from our goal to ensure the IoD is ready to support our members for the next 100 years”.

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