My first full year as Director-General of the CBI has been marked by turbulence and uncertainty on the UK and global political stage, something that has provided challenge and opportunity for the CBI in equal measure.

In 2016 we also put in place a new CBI management structure which is overseeing a strategic transformation programme – something which is already starting to bear fruit. So despite the momentous changes we have seen externally and implemented closer to home, I believe the CBI is in an excellent position for the challenges of 2017.

Four themes are governing this positive transformation: putting our members first in everything we do; sharpening the CBI's focus and impact on key decisions; growing the CBI's revenues; and all supported by great teams within the CBI and across our membership. These important changes will ensure the CBI is fit to face the future and support our members in new and innovative ways.

The first two of these themes were tested to extreme after the referendum result of 23rd June 2016. What followed is an example of what I believe the CBI does best. Within hours of the result the CBI was speaking to members and, within a matter of days, more than 500 members had given their views on the short and long term implications of the vote. This put us in an exceptionally strong position to engage with the new government quickly and with unrivalled insight. In the months since, our teams have continued to consult and listen to members, engage with government and bring together the voice of business from across the spectrum of size and sector. As a result I believe our impact has never been greater.

Critical to this effort has been the strength of the CBI leadership team, where we made some exceptional additions during the year. In early 2016 we welcomed Josh Hardie as Deputy Director-General, Policy, and Henrietta Jowitt as Deputy Director-General, Commercial. Josh and Henrietta have worked hard to design and implement transformation in both of their areas to great effect. And, towards the end of 2016 we welcomed Charles Naylor as Corporate Communications Director. They have joined an already strong line-up, with our policy heads bringing great expertise and our membership teams strong relationships with businesses right across the country. So we closed 2016 with a new senior management team ready and able to face the new challenges that 2017 might throw at us.

We also saw a refresh of our Regional Councils and Standing Committees through a number of new Chairs in 2016. Our committees and councils are the lifeblood of the CBI and drive our key policy decisions, so I am delighted to welcome Andrew Livingston, Vivian Hunt, Alison McGregor, Sara Fowler, Michael Plaut, Marnie Millard, David Gavaghan, Jacqui Ferguson, Richard Howson, Scott Egan and Janine Juggins to their roles as chairs of CBI policy Standing Committees and Regional Councils in 2016. They join an already exceptional network that spans the UK, including firms of all sizes and sectors. The breadth of our membership is something I am immensely proud of, allowing us to speak with impact and authority on behalf of the whole business community.

Turning finally to finances, membership subscription income in 2016 was similar to that of last year - total income was just under £24 million, with expenditure slightly above £23 million. This left a positive operating result of £0.8 million after the costs of implementing the strategic review, largely driven by expenditure savings. As noted already, this strategic review is already bearing fruit. In cash terms, our cash balance of £7.4 million in 2016 is £1.6 million higher than the previous year – a direct result of the improved cash collection of 2017 membership subscriptions. This gives us great momentum heading into 2017, with the capability to grow revenues through a strong value proposition, underpinned by a robust financial position.

Looking ahead the CBI will continue to convene, campaign and problem-solve, offering more services, political insight and ground-breaking research to help businesses plot a course to a more prosperous society. We will continue our commercial focus that puts our members, front and centre of our operations.

I believe that 2017 will be a year of challenges - abroad as the UK seeks to build relationships with new trading partners, and at home with renewed constitutional challenges in Scotland - but 2017 could also bring tremendous opportunities for British business, and with your help, we can create the conditions needed for the UK to thrive. Thank you for everything you do and for all your support. I am very much looking forward to working with all our members for a prosperous and successful 2017.

Figure and caption

Carolyn Fairbairn
CBI Director-general

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