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Fighter pilots & stand-up: five lessons from Citywire South West Retreat

Following another highly successful Citywire South West Retreat at the Marriott St Pierre, Chepstow, UK head of audience development Ian Horne rounds up some key lessons from a packed two days.

Lesson one:

It's not over until it's over

Friday’s keynote speaker, Mandy Hickson, one of the first female pilots to serve in a frontline Tornado GR4 squadron, provided a presentation that was entertaining and motivational in equal measure.

Having failed the computer-based tests that were compulsory for all potential RAF pilots, Hickson’s persistence and talent led to her being taken on for training as a test case.

Against overwhelming odds she passed through training, and went on to have a successful and storied career in the RAF. Not bad, especially considering her admittance as a test case was theoretically to see how far she could go, having failed the computer tests, before she was unable to go any further with the practical training.

Hickson’s example shows what a talented person can achieve with perseverance, determination and discipline.

For those who attended the conference, we also learnt how complex flight paths can be mapped out on modified bicycles, not that we expect to see any of you doing that any time soon.

Lesson one:

It's not over until it's over

Friday’s keynote speaker, Mandy Hickson, one of the first female pilots to serve in a frontline Tornado GR4 squadron, provided a presentation that was entertaining and motivational in equal measure.

Having failed the computer-based tests that were compulsory for all potential RAF pilots, Hickson’s persistence and talent led to her being taken on for training as a test case.

Against overwhelming odds she passed through training, and went on to have a successful and storied career in the RAF. Not bad, especially considering her admittance as a test case was theoretically to see how far she could go, having failed the computer tests, before she was unable to go any further with the practical training.

Hickson’s example shows what a talented person can achieve with perseverance, determination and discipline.

For those who attended the conference, we also learnt how complex flight paths can be mapped out on modified bicycles, not that we expect to see any of you doing that any time soon.

Lesson two:

Laughter is very good medicine

Our Thursday night was headlined by Jo Caulfield, a comedian many of you will recognise from Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You.

It is always appreciated when comedians do their homework before meeting a crowd, and Caulfield did not disappoint in this respect. Having inspected the websites of several attendees and fund houses, she offered some withering and tongue-in-cheek assessments of where they need to improve.

While this was carried out to brilliant comic effect, there was also a fantastic point made with regards to diversity. Multiple corporate diversity messages, taken from the websites (I won’t mention any names), were repeated back to the audience and then contrasted starkly with the demographics of the room.

Caulfield also observed that many corporate messages highlighted the importance of hiring women, seeing this as a cornerstone for diversity.

Strange, in Britain in 2018, that hiring from a pool of talent that is roughly 50% of the population is something to be championed.

 

Lesson three:

Seek out like-minded collaborators

Keynote speaker Guy Browning spent a large part of his Thursday presentation shining a spotlight on the sillier side of business, while also making some sage observations about how we can work more creatively and collaboratively.

One of the most memorable segments came from his presentation of five separate legal cases, and the following question: 'how many years would the combined jail sentence be?'

With answers in the room varying from under 20 years to 65 years, it is clear  intelligent opinion does not necessarily equate to consensus. Personality plays a huge role in judgment calls such as these, and Browning’s takeaway is that you are likely to work more effectively with people who share your values.

 

Lesson four:

Ethical investing may take the sharp end off a market downturn

On Thursday morning, bestselling author Mark Stevenson provided a challenging and insightful presentation on how we can invest for the future.

The message was twofold.

Firstly, we need to change how we invest, consume and live, to avoid the types of environmental catastrophe that we may well be on course for.

Secondly, an open embrace of the future, and new technology, could provide a better grounding for alpha than many of the strategies we observe on a regular basis.

Stevenson mentioned his own investments are based around his beliefs in how the economy needs to progress, for society to thrive while avoiding any self-inflicted calamities. He says this strategy has proven successful so far, and does not believe a market downturn would have a significant adverse impact on his portfolio.

Regardless of whether you agree with all of Stevenson’s positions, there is a lot to be said about thinking outside of the box and looking at where the economy and society is headed, especially if your investment outlook is long term.

After all, the wealth created in recent generations was not achieved by the search for a faster horse.

Lesson five:

CPD does not have to be dull

CPD events are not everyone’s favourite method of entertainment, and we would be lying if we tried to argue otherwise. Nonetheless, this year’s South West retreat was nothing short of a blast.

Three of our four mainstage speakers either are, or at some point were, stand-up comedians. The other, Mandy Hickson, gave us plenty of laughs too, and would probably do a sound job if she took that career path.

We take the educational aspect of our event seriously, though it was a pleasure to have a line-up that offered information with comedic asides along the way.

It is not something we can promise at every event, and it might not be relevant at every event. But for the two days spent in Chepstow it was exactly what was needed.

While you're here, do give our podcast a listen. Ian Horne shares his best moments from the Retreat with Ollie Smith at the end of this episode: 

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