We need to talk

FIDI’s decision-making process has shaped its development for many years, but it can be slow and complex. Secretary General Jesse van Sas asks if it’s time to review the process – and invites Affiliates to get involved

Usually, the FIDI President and I try to touch on different subjects in our columns, but I am going to make an exception, because we need to talk.

As Ebru states in her column on p5, we recognise that FIDI is slow in taking decisions. This is, in part, because of our decision-making process, which might need a long-overdue overhaul – and this is not something to be
taken lightly.

Why does it take so long for FIDI to make a decision? Of course, some items with far-reaching consequences need to be analysed and looked at from every angle, with exhaustive information from, and for, all stakeholders, a fair risk analysis and potential guarantees. But this sometimes takes on unreasonable proportions in the FIDI world – not because of a lack of analysis or information, but because we can’t get all the involved parties to speak up and vote.

The FIDI Board and I believe this is down to our governance structure. Based on the principle of indirect representation, our Affiliates are represented by local or regional FIDI Associations, which have the right to vote on key matters once or twice a year, during the General Assembly. 

They must also be involved in the discussions, the meetings, and the information sessions organised by FIDI; listen and solicit views from their local/regional Affiliates; bring matters, opinions and views to the FIDI governance table; debate; and inform their members of all the things being discussed, decided and implemented at FIDI.

Many FIDI Associations do this really well, and we are thankful for that. We try to help by communicating about matters discussed through webinars, virtual sessions, FIDI Focus, LinkedIn posts, and so on. It is equally true, however, that the organisation can get paralysed by FIDI Associations that cannot – or do not want to – take a decision, or that do not properly inform their members of pressing items that require feedback and a decision.

Basically, our democratic system is flawed. So, my question to you is: does this system of indirect democracy – whereby local/regional FIDI Associations represent the views and interests of their Affiliates – still work for us today?

The current governance system dates from a moving industry many decades ago, when access to FIDI was granted through a national association. But for more than 20 years now, access to FIDI only depends on passing the FAIM Compliance procedure – a process that is difficult, and that requires a lot of engagement and effort from the Affiliate. Their participation in the FIDI organisation, though, has to go through their regional Association; a filter, of sorts, which can be an obstacle to their participation in their association.

FAIM has become one of our organisation’s main pillars, and the guarantor of the quality of our Affiliates, yet we maintain the somewhat outdated structure of indirect representation, as if it were still the 1990s. It made sense back then, with fewer international communication channels, a market still defined by regions, and companies feeling a need to organise locally. But is this still the right way in our now very global and rapidly changing industry?

I would show false modesty if I said I do not have ideas on how to reform our governance and decision structure – but, as Ebru stated, this is an important exercise that must include wise people from our industry. What if we were building our association today, from scratch? How would we ensure a democratic decision-making process involving all of our shareholders (our Affiliates) and, at the same time, guarantee quicker, more agile decisions? 

I realise the weight and importance of FIDI’s history, and that we cannot wipe memories of how things were done before. But the story of a handful of active FIDI Associations deciding on FIDI’s future is perhaps behind us, and we need to come up with a new story – one based on FIDI’s building blocks, our global community of like-minded partners, and cooperation and support – for the benefit of FIDI, its members and the entire industry.

If you want to be involved in reshaping our governance bodies, please do let me know at: jessevansas@fidi.org
We need to talk.

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