Corporate Treasury Association Reinvention after COVID
After this long lockdown period, event organizers, associations, conferences, fairs, and many other sectors must try to reinvent themselves to face a radical change in their business model, temporarily and in the mid-run.
A brand-new world…
The home working will continue at a higher degree than before (even if less than during containment period). Restrictions in terms of travelling, costs, health measures, but also home working will also result in less participation to physical events. Going digital is possible although different. And even within digital new world, there are several levels of events and technology behind. It is more than ever time to revamp our way of serving our members and to reinvent our model to sustain. If not, we could be in difficult situations soon or even disappear. And it true that in the economic history, often technology was behind major shift in businesses (e.g. Kodak, Nokia (twice), Microsoft, Apple, Blockbuster, …) to bounce back. Some are successful and some are slowly dying. Therefore, to survive this major change and this new paradigm, we need also as association and despite our non-for-profit character rethink our approach to keep serving properly our members, to maintain our member bases and to justify our “raison d’être”.
“Let’s get physical, physical”… (Olivia Newton-John)
What we know: members will not come all as in the past to the “physical” events and attendances should be lower. Therefore, to satisfy sponsors, associations need to reconsider the relationships and offer other services to their sponsors. I do not see the webinars as the association panacea. I think the e-conference time came. Therefore, at this stage it would be crazy and pretentious to claim we know the recipe. But what we know is that it will not be the same anymore and that the future will consist of a combination of physical and digital to offer a more comprehensive proposition to our association’s members. A real challenge for all the associations of treasurers, among others.
If I take the example of ATEL, in Luxembourg, we believe in the combination of e-conferences with live streaming and video recording (for our TV channel) as well as a physical attendance (which should gradually increase over time as soon as the COVID will be really behind us). We also work on a virtual booths and social networking, two important pillars of conferences in the future, to compensate the losses caused by the non-physical presence/attendance to our association’s events. All our sponsors count on these two elements to also capture attention and interest of potential prospect’s. Innovation is also expected from our members and remains a good mean to differentiate ourselves from other professional associations. At ATEL, we do not have FTE’s or huge financial means, but we have number of ideas and we are innovating and adapting ourselves to the new context.
Habits have changed and members also evolve
As I often reminded, we need to consider more than ever the millennials and “Y” gen who are coming, to be the future members of our organizations. If not, the average age of members will become older and older and associations will gradually disappear. Habits of members will change. Some treasurers will not come to an event if they are not at the office on the day of the conference. The travelling in larger countries like France, Germany, etc… will not be looked for by treasurers. Some people will not miss conferences and networking. Stopping for a while can be damaging sometime. In smaller countries and highly concentrated capital it may be easier to attract participants to conferences. On an international level, travelling will be also even more restricted and prohibited for lots of companies and executives. Even when the COVID will be fully behind us, we will not recover former attendance levels as we knew it and even less at international level. Time has changed. Some people believe after the final lockdown and back to normal, their associations and organizations will continue as before. But they completely occult the profound changes and consumption of events. Parallel with airline industries can be made. It will take years to come back to a decent level and in any case lower than before March 2020.
The solution? Agility and adaptability, combined with light structure
The structure should remain agile and small to be resilient. At ATEL, an example I know well, we work on it for 6 months. It is a fantastic opportunity to innovate and to explain as well as justify why we are still necessary, why remaining member and paying subscription fees make sense. The quality of events should even be higher and the delivering adapted to new consumption of treasurers. The members want to have value for money paid. They know a webinar will not replace a conference. They will need more active working groups, magazine deliveries in different formats (i.e. hard copies, on-line magazine/soft copies, as well as e-magazine on all devices). They want more videos and education material easy to consume and to watch, short and clean. They expect more interaction on social networks and a more dual, combined, diversified offer of events and publications. That is part of our future… Belonging to European federation will be also a great “plus” to benefit from a large-scale activism to protect and defend our rights and positions. People always refer to the “world after”. As it will be different, we need to start changing our organizations to survive and become more resilient. As I tend to demonstrate, the health crisis impacted all sectors of the economy without any exception. We need to revisit our strategies and offer different services and products to fulfill our missions. I hope our members will help us in designing their future professional associations. The best is ahead, providing we are ready to evolve and to change. As Chairman of a corporate treasurer association, together with our Board, we will keep working on the best suited organization to face future post-COVID challenges and to become more resilient.
François Masquelier – Chairman of ATEL
Quotation: As an association we need to rethink our approach to keep serving properly our members, to maintain our member bases and to justify our “raison d’être”.
François Masquelier, Chairman, ATEL