Despite the efforts of yet another Icelandic volcano to ruin the party for a second successive year, over thirty of our network friends from 16 different countries came together in Cyprus at the end of May to renew old friendships and make new ones.
The weather was a little unkind, with unseasonal rain and cloud instead of the usual Mediterranean sun and then a strong wind to turn our boat trip into a considerable challenge for good and bad sailors alike. But both the technical programme and the social events were huge successes.
A full day of presentations and panel sessions was sandwiched between two dinners and our maritime adventure. The emphasis of the programme was to look at how 2011 was turning out for insolvency practitioners and restructuring professionals. But we also explored a number of specialist topics, including the maritime piracy crisis, on which Simon Fordham and Liam Morrissey from BTG Global Risk Partners provided a hugely entertaining view. Andries de Vaal of Salon Consulting shared his lifetime of experience in the hospitality sector.
We had one panel debating the European real estate market and its many challenges and another looking at the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis. We were indebted to Peter Walker from BTG in London for running the first with input from Zoltan Tenk of Noerr & Partner in Hungary. George Bazinas from Bazinas Law Firm in Athens and Alessandro Scarso from Pluta’s Milan office provided two robust defences of the approach being taken by Greece to its problems and the relative strength of Italy (at least compared to the UK) in the second, despite a gloomy introduction from the Chairman.
Several members showcased their firms and their jurisdictions – Marios Kallias from Kallias & Associates in Cyprus, Waleed Hilal from Vision Consulting Group in Egypt, Joseph Gauci from KSI Malta and Tunde Ajayi from Babington Ashaye & Co in Nigeria, the latter giving a great insight into the realities of restructuring insolvent state-owned enterprises.
Pawel Kuglarz from Beiten Burkhardt in Poland managed to make the latest changes to the Polish insolvency law interesting, which was a triumph of good humour over a bad legal reform process. Martin Prager from Pluta in Germany gave us a fascinating and, as usual, very clear update on changes in the German insolvency system, set against the background of some illuminating statistics on the European business failure market over the past few years.
One of the highlights was a stimulating presentation on two turnaround cases from our Indian contingent – Ambarish Chatterjee, Rajiv Jaiswal and Sandeep Kumar Gupta representing Integrated Capital Services in New Delhi. For those of us with cynical views of the restructuring legislation there, this was a refreshing reminder that where there’s a will, there’s always a way to achieve a good result.
Probably most fascinating of all, amid all of these great presentations, was a wide ranging review of the different ways certain key aspects of the insolvency process work in jurisdictions around the world. This was Ofer Shapira of Shapira & Co in Israel sharing his experiences from his worldwide Leadcom insolvency, using questionnaires completed by a number of the delegates. This was a perfect example of what BTG Global Network can achieve in cross border cases and why we believe that it is the best and most comprehensive network in our sector.
This first class technical programme drew praise from all who attended for the quality of the speakers and their material, and also the range of topics covered. Our thanks go to all of those who gave up their valuable time to prepare and deliver such wonderful material. Their dedication was amazing, allowing for the fact that many had travelled long distances, some arriving just the day before or even in the early hours of that morning.
Away from the conference hall, we enjoyed two dinners – one an Italian buffet at the Amathus Beach hotel where the meeting was based and then a hugely entertaining traditional evening of Cypriot food, wine and dancing at the Istorikon Tavern in the old part of Limassol. These were not just very enjoyable occasions and great opportunities for professional networking, but also a chance for our members and their guests to relax together socially and for friendships to deepen.
The meeting closed with an experience that many of us present will take a long time to forget, when around thirty of us took to the Mediterranean on a luxury cruise ship for three hours of sailing around Cyprus. What nobody had anticipated was just how strong the wind would be. For the lucky ones, it was an fun exercise in moving around on the violently swaying deck without spilling our drinks. Unfortunately for others it meant severe seasickness, but mercifully this ended the moment we returned to the safety of the harbour. It was a great relief to see everyone smiling again as we headed back to the hotel.
My sincere thanks go to our host, Marios Kallias for his hard work and giving up his valuable time to make local introductions, negotiate deals and in use his language skills to sort out the occasional problem, notably the bus driver who couldn’t find the Istorikon Tavern!
One other person was fundamental to the success of the meeting through her tireless work and her consummate skills as a conference organizer. Our communications and marketing manager, Jo Hancock has been a tower of strength, dealing with all the administration and finances of the meeting, liaising with the hotel, making all the many other arrangements and pulling together the paperwork for the social and technical side, which is a huge and very difficult task. She never stopped smiling despite the many problems she had to cope with. We all thank you for an outstanding job very well done.
So we can look back to a highly successful meeting and look forward to the next time we can come together to celebrate the joy and the benefits of being members of the BTG Global Network family. This will be in London from the 3rd to the 5th of November 2011.
Julie is a law graduate who qualified with Price Waterhouse in 1994. Julie joined Smith & Williamson in 1997 and became a partner in 2001. With Mike Stevenson, Julie set up Middleton Partners offices in Salisbury and Southampton, both of which are now part of Begbies Traynor.
Julie is a member of the Insolvency Practitioners Association and is a Fellow of The Association of Business Recovery Professionals. Julie deals with all aspects of Corporate Recovery and turnaround work and takes all form of personal insolvency appointments.