Minutes of the Meeting of the Finance Committee held on Thursday 21st
September 2017 at 15:00 in the Faculty Building Boardroom
Mr Chris Williams (Interim Chair)
Mr John Cullen (JC)
Professor Alice Gast, President (AG)
Ms Annabel Rudebeck (AR)
Dr Mahnaz Safa (MS)
Mr Muir Sanderson, Chief Financial Officer (MuS)
Dr Tony Lawrence, Director of Financial Management (TL)
Mrs Louise Lindsay, Director of HR & Organisational Change (LL)
Mr Chris Brinsmead (Chair)
1. Apologies were received from Chris Brinsmead.
ITEM 1 – Minutes
2. The Minutes of the Finance Committee, held on Monday 26th June 2017,
were taken as read, confirmed and signed.
ITEM 3 – New College operating model
3. The Director of HR and Organisational Change outlined the ongoing work
on the new support services operating model, in response to the
Committee’s request from the previous meeting. The objectives of the
work are to improve user experience and return time back to the
4. Previous attempts to address rising supports costs via recruitment
freezes and hiring management consultants have been unsuccessful. The
aim this time is to involve the organisation in redesigning the support staff
processes to ensure the change is sustainable longer term.
5. The current operating model is devolved, with headcount and functional
activity split roughly 50/50 between the centre and the Faculties. The new
operating model will consolidate the transactional activities to gain scale
benefits, group specialist support to reduce hand-offs whilst also
maintaining strong local customer support. Implementation will start by
implementing early opportunities for process and operating model change
which can then be refined further through system and on-line
6. The Transformation Investment Board (TIB) is responsible for overseeing
the change. Members of TIB are the Director of HR and Organisational
Change (Chair), Vice-Provost for Education, Vice-Provost for Research,
Director of Library Services, the Assistant Provost (Space), Director of
Operational Excellence, Director of Financial Management, Faculty
Operating Officer for Engineering (leading the Shared Services
workstream) and Chief Information Officer.
8. Another question related to whether the College had undergone any
benchmarking exercise, noting the different levels of support staff ratios
apparent across the faculties. It was felt it was difficult to compare against
other sectors, although benchmarking across the sector would be
considered once the new operating model had been implemented to
validate if the program had been successful or if there is opportunity for
9. The Committee asked whether there was a fixed timeline for the
implementation and questioned if milestones would be celebrated. The
Director of HR and Organisation Change responded that it would likely be
a 5-year program, but took the Committee’s point that milestone
successes should be celebrated along the way.
ITEM 4 – Finances of the university
10. The presentation circulated on the finances of the university was taken as
read. The discussion that followed covered the College’s sustainability
gap, debt covenants levels and where the Finance Committee can add
most value in subsequent meetings.
11. With regard to the sustainability gap, the presentation had demonstrated
the cross subsidies that were present between faculties and activities. It
also recognised unconstrained growth is not the optimal strategy to
maintain financial sustainability, with the desired future size and profile of
the College being a key question to be answered.
12. The President noted that a central part of Imperial’s strategy was to
encourage multidisciplinary research as only by bringing together
expertise from different disciplines can we solve today’s global
challenges. The size of Faculty was therefore driven more by its ability to
contribute to Imperial’s mission rather than pure financial return. This
didn’t excuse Faculties from having to also stay focused on revenues and
cost and the College still needs to be agile to take advantage of
opportunities quicker than competitors.
14. The Committee asked that for a review at the next of meeting of the
College’s projected cashflows, capital expenditure and performances
against debt covenants until 2025. This should be a range of scenarios of
how the College proposed to finance its longer term plans and maintain
financially sustainability. Reviewing the funding strategy alongside key
balance sheet ratios and sensitivities of the financial risks posed would
provide a useful narrative.
15. The next meeting is scheduled for 22nd February 2018 at 15:00.