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There has always been a meeting management system in place here, and in fact we were using Boardpad which was bought out by Diligent. When this buyout took place, our Hong Kong office scanned the market for alternative software solutions and Convene was one of them. We have been using Convene for a year and a half now.
Convene were the only option on the market that offered an on-premise solution. The LME has gone cloud based because we are a smaller organisation, but the Hong Kong branch has approximately 10,000 employees, and a good 20% of that figure is IT. They have a large data warehouse they like to use. We have gone cloud based but owing to the nature of financial services in general in the UK and in Hong Kong, I had to jump quite a few hurdles to get there. I think that there is a wider market demand for an on-premise solution out there and Convene has been very clever to still be offering that option. From what I have been hearing, a lot of companies are still cautious about adopting cloud and are therefore doing it on a very slow and selective basis.
Like other Board portals, Convene stores the most confidential data there is. This is generally the last thing that people want to put on cloud. When we implemented Convene, their Director of Business Development Alasdair Mangham was involved in a lot of discussions with our IT division to ensure that they were 100% comfortable with how it was going to work. We had to be segregated and have a range of passwords. We can take over the system, but I think that had we had a larger technical team, with more staff to support the system, we probably would have gone on premise.
We have two operating entities, the exchange and a clearing house and there are 9 directors on each side, 5 independent non-executive directors, and four managers from the LME and the Hong Kong stock exchange. We use Convene for meetings at that level, and Board level committees, plus our Executive committees and it is also used by some of our risk committees for meetings management.
Board meetings take place five times a year. These are largely event driven; therefore, they don’t tend to be spread out very evenly across the year. So, for example we need Board meetings to coincide with Financial Year End, and then we have strategy periods which we try to fit into available meeting time. At an Executive function Convene is used for meetings on a fortnightly basis.
This is done by us within the Company Secretariat. We are a team of five and the original idea was that this would come under the fifth headcount but she has now taken up a PA role so essentially all meeting preparation is done by us collectively, with each of us managing different tasks when required. I joined LME about three years ago, and it was something I worked on very frequently.
We find Convene a very stable system as far as our operations are concerned, it stands up well against its competitors, for example, Boardpad and Diligent. It is quick in terms of the way it works, I use several screens and multiple documents which I drag and drop and the system is quick to upload them. I use it for agenda setting and this has a nice look and feel, and the process is smooth. It does what it needs to do for us. We just implemented Surveys into the existing function, but generally we just use it as a meeting portal, and it does that job well for us.
The main reasons for implementing a solution like Convene were time saving and efficiency. The software was rolled out before Hong Kong purchased the London Metals Exchange in 2011. Historically members of the LME were people from other companies, for example the big brokerages and banks would each have a representative on the Board. The previous Company Secretary would manually compile and bind Board packs before sending them out to the different countries, and so it was inefficient and time consuming. At that stage the Company Secretariat was a one person operation, which made it practically impossible to keep track of the workload, so having the Convene system in place at what I consider is a reasonable price has really benefited us at LME.
If we were doing things the old way, we would have required one extra headcount which obviously constitutes a cost, so Convene has paid for itself. The Company Secretary who I reported to made the original decision to introduce Boardpad on the basis of time and inefficiency. It was quite an early adoption of meeting software at that stage.
Diligent and Convene were the only providers we considered. For me and for the team, it was a case of asking whether Convene offered…
All the functionality we needed
Quick and efficient as a system?
Allowed us to produce a Board-packs in under 30 minutes?
All the papers convert well and be nicely readable on an iPad?
The tick list was quite simple and straightforward, so it was more a case of what the Directors were looking for in a system. A big selling point of Convene was the fact that it had an option of a single account under one password and username which Boardpad didn’t have. As we have people on multiple Boards, for example the Hong Kong Office and the LME Board, the problem with Diligent was that they had to have three separate accounts and three passwords and had to click in and out of each one.
From perspective of the London office it did everything we needed it to do. Of course, we were guided by the needs and expectations of our parent organisations. But from the London side, both Diligent and Convene offered similar set ups in terms of basic meeting software, but Hong Kong opted for Convene on the basis of its extra functionality as an on-premise solution.
The concern was that if the cloud was hacked, all data could be instantly accessible, so the issue was that we didn’t have control. We are able to control our own architecture, but we would not necessarily know if Convene was ever hacked. The normal cloud set up involves a lot of different accounts, with 10 computers using the same cloud. Convene overcame this issue by offering segregated clouds, with master passwords for our IT team. This meant that we could take full ownership of the cloud and take any action if required.
From a confidentiality perspective, there is central control of Convene from the Company Secretarial team. We only give accounts and permissions to select people. With Diligent, I remember that when an employee left, we had to contact Diligent to have their account deleted. If an employee ever left on bad terms that could result in issues since they would have access to the system while we waited for Diligent to delete their account having taken the extra step with our initial request to delete a user.
With Convene, we can do this ourselves. We also have the ability to control people’s permissions, so by default nobody is able to download anything unless they are an administrator within the Company Secretarial team, and this provides added security in the case of a bad leaver. User control in general is much better with Convene. Disabling a license is a quick one stop process.
If we were still doing things the old way with printing and binding, and didn’t have Convene, the situation under Covid would not have worked the way it has. With Convene, everything has been seamless. As a result, the increased level of remote working has not had an impact upon us on the admin or user side, and things are working at the same speed as if we were in the office
We had to work remotely prior to COVID-19 as Managers in Hong Kong would dial in from that location. It was often the case that 10% of the people who technically should have been round the table were not able to be there. They would either be in their office, working from home, or travelling so we would always have an element of remote working taking place. Our meetings are run on Webex so people have that on their computers with Convene running in parallel, so it is exactly the same as people being physically present.
The ICSA did release a calculator a year or two ago which you can run your figures through. These are then processed, and the system breaks down the time and materials spend. Convene has saved LME something in the region of 40-50K per annum. If we had to print and bind, it would be saving us closer to 100K per annum.
We have a green initiative at the LME. There is now a green working group in operation here, and actions are being taken to reduce print volumes, among other initiatives. For example, we have already saved 40% on paper by printing double sided.
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