BMC Members Open Forum March - Report

© Team BMC

The second British Mountaineering Council Members Open Forum webinar took place on 20 March. Recently-appointed BMC CEO Paul Ratcliffe, President Andy Syme and Chair of the Board Roger Murray shared updates on staff changes, new and ongoing initiatives, insurance policy changes and the current financial situation.

Members were able to submit questions in real-time and interact with the hosts and other participants in the call, which improved communications between staff and members in comparison to the December forum (UKC report).

CEO Paul Ratcliffe summed up his approach to 2024:

 'I believe this year is about re-establishing our base camp, getting things on a good financial footing and organisation will take some time. And then over the longer term, we need to build back better and build our reserves back up to a level that a business like ours, which really has a run rate of around £400k per month, we need to be moving it towards the three month mark of sustainable funds, but that will take a few years to get there. So that's been my priority in terms of trying to set out in a direction that everybody was bought into. As part of my role, I think it's really important to get a shared understanding within the leadership team, the council and the board as the spine of the British Mountaineering Council to move forward.'

Summary of recent staff changes:

New staff joining the BMC:

Paul Ratcliffe CEO
Thom Nixon Governance and Compliance Manager (+ Company Secretary)
Alex Zglobis Events Coordinator


Volunteers filling key roles:

Flavia Alzetta Independent Director
Tim Miller Chair the Safeguarding Group
Freddie Naish Chair of the Competition Climbing Performance Group (CCPG)
 

Staff leaving the BMC/GB Climbing:

Fiona Sanders - Non-Executive Director
Tom Greenall - Head Coach for GB Climbing
Lorraine Brown - Head of Performance (with Jon Garside filling in as acting Head of Performance up until Paris 2024, after which the role will be advertised)

Outdoor access and sustainability initiatives

Andy Syme outlined a number of new and ongoing access and conservation projects.

A new BMC film "Access Land" highlights the fight for better outdoor access, working to 'a future where access to nature isnt a privilege but a right.'

As part of the Outdoors for All manifesto, which seeks to expand responsible outdoor access in the UK, members of BMC staff recently travelled to UK Parliament and produced a video of the event, in the hope of lobbying leaders ahead of the next General Election.

Respect the Rock series - Tom Carrick (Access & Conservation Officer (Wales)) and Eben Muse (Policy & Campaigns Officer
(Wales)) have created another film in the Respect the Rock series concerning South Wales Sandstone. The BMC's "Green Guide" series highlighting the BMC's 'commitment to environmental stewardship and offers practical advice for minimising our impact as hill walkers, climbers and mountaineers.'

The BMC worked with partner Moors for the Future to plant sphagnum moss and increase biodiversity in the Goyt Valley as part of a staff volunteer day. There are more volunteer opportunities on offer: 'If you want to get involved with future #GetStuckIn volunteer days, we have a number of opportunities across sphagnum planting, path repair and invasive species clearing.'

The Access Team have worked with the authors of a new climbing guidebook to highlight seasonal restrictions and avoid disturbing nesting birds in coastal areas: 'We are passionate about securing access to crags for climbers by negotiating with landowners and conservation bodies on your behalf. At the same time, we must meet our responsibilities as climbers towards the local wildlife.'

A new BMC Green Guide to the Uplands includes essential information on how to care for our fragile upland landscapes, while the "Into the Hills' campaign has been extended by working with YHA and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.

Two new partnerships

The BMC has partnered with the platform HotelPlanner to provide members with discounted hotel rates, as well as All Trails, enabling members to claim free six-month access worth £18 and redeem a free 60 day trial of Strava plus regional map bundles on Komoot.

Sport and Community Development

The BMC's Your Climbing Counts survey has been launched alongside BMC partners Sport England and Sheffield Hallam University. The survey asks questions about people's motivations for climbing and the support on offer in order to 'reshape the climbing ecosystem.'

'Allyship in the Outdoors' fund in collaboration with The North Face - the BMC is supporting this 1-hour course offered to brands, organisations, coaches, instructors and volunteers, to increase understanding of the challenges faced by people of colour in accessing the outdoors.

Volunteer awards - The importance of recognising volunteers' efforts in the BMC was highlighted. BMC members are invited to nominate a volunteer for an award. Nominations are now open and the closing date is midday on 15 April 2024.

It was also announced that BMC and GB Climbing representatives would be present at the National Outdoor Expo in Birmingham last weekend (23/24 March) with talks, films, coaching workshops and a traverse wall set-up: 'We will be teaming up with Mountain Training and showcasing the BMC and GB climbing to a new audience.'

Online AGM

The BMC AGM will be held online on Wednesday 12 June to increase participation and save on physical AGM costs, with funds reallocated to other member events:

'The second-largest attendance of an AGM in the last 10 years was in 2020 (our first online AGM). It is hoped that by returning online many more members will be able to attend the AGM than are able to attend in person. A physical AGM costs circa £25k, whereas an online AGM is ~£12k.'

GB Climbing team selection and development

90 climbers recently attended GB Climbing team selection over two weekends. The team selected consists of 42 athletes, six of whom are eligible for the upcoming Olympic Qualifier Series, with Toby Roberts already qualified for Paris 2024. 

The GB Climbing athlete health policy was published, with added and updated information on growth plate fracture and RED-S processes:

'The purpose of the new policy is not only to ensure that the BMC meets the UK Sport Athlete Health required standards, but to also promote athlete welfare, performance optimisation, and early identification of any health issues so that a support plan can be developed.'

The BMC have also worked to improve their involvement in SkiMo, Ice and Para competitions. A UIAA Ice Climbing Event was held in Sunderland, followed by a 'come and try' day for people in the area.

Website improvements and digital membership portal

A new website with a Membership Services online (MSO) portal is in the works, enabling members to view and edit BMC membership details, view BMC Travel Insurance documents and manage preferences. The MSO will be rolled-out over the next month.

A new website with personalised content and improved search functionality is in the final stages of build and is planned to 'improve functionality, usability and members' journey.' A further update on the full migration to the new site is expected to be provided by the end of Q1.

Insurance

The speakers announced a reconsideration of underwriting options and described the impact on liability insurance premiums.

At the end of November 2023, the BMC was advised that its combined liability insurance premiums were increasing due to large claim following a serious injury of a club member while climbing outdoors. There will be a £264K increase in 2024, from £591k (2023) to £855k (2024). 

This accident, occurring not long after a 'catastrophic' indoor climbing claim in 2018, 'has placed significant pressure on the BMC's policy claims ratio and the level of risk associated with the policy.' 

This will include an additional increase in 2025 of circa £140k.

The BMC's liability cover limit remains £15m with three tiers of cover provided as follows:
£0-5m Hiscox
£5-10m RSA
£10-15m JRP

The BMC has launched a task group to find ways to keep cover levels appropriate while reducing premiums.

BMC finances and overspending

There was a 2023 GB Climbing overspend of £147k (most of this overspend went towards domestic competitions; Roger described this as an under-budgeting issue, rather than spending more on delivery), with an additional planned £200k spent on restructuring and £50k spent following the insurance issues.

The agreed 2024 BMC contribution to GB Climbing - covering domestic competition, selection events, a competition manager role, skimo, paraclimbing and ice climbing activities - will return to the October 2020 amount of £186k, which is a reduction from the 2023 budget [no figure was mentioned, but former CEO Paul Davies cited £196k in an interview last year].

The BMC deficit for the year is expected to be in the region of £250-£300k, with the auditing process ongoing. 'We think we're in that range,' CEO Paul Ratcliffe said.

Roger Murray underlined the need for absolute clarity on grant incomes: 'We have now put in a huge amount of work to get ourselves to a satisfactory place with respect to grant management.'

The BMC marketing budget has been reduced and many staff vacancies are not being replaced at the moment, while keeping the necessary budget for a new CFO in mind. An interim CFO is expected to be employed in the meantime.

Budget 2024

The BMC's approach to the organisation's 2024 budget was outlined. A key member of staff is dealing with a significant illness, which led to challenges in budget preparation for 2024, but the budget has now been signed off.

A conservative approach to budgeting will be taken, with income and revenue lines de-risked, based on a zero-growth projection in membership.

The organisation is aiming for increased clarity around costs covered by grants and those covered by the BMC, with a clear separation between grant funded vs BMC funded within GB Climbing.

The BMC have identified several areas where overall costs could be reduced and/or income increased. There will be an expectation of more focused activities and opportunities.

Budget preparation involved close scrutiny of GB Climbing funding, and highlighted a need for pre-agreement of the initiatives and programmes that the BMC should/shouldn't fund in 2024.

Regarding budget control and variance analysis, steps have been agreed with finance team, CEO Paul Ratcliffe and the senior management team to ensure 'tight and regular controls.'

2024 Budget considerations include:

  • The aforementioned +£250k insurance premium increase
  • Cost increases beyond the BMC's control (+£40k for office costs), plus cost of living increases leading to higher personnel costs.
  • Rebuilding the BMC reserves
  • Prioritising 'financial rigour and focussed delivery in key areas that will support income growth.'
  • Employing 'transformational initiatives' wherein it will be 'Appropriate for the CEO to have the opportunity to shape and prioritise.'

A team are currently working on a new membership model and developing commercial partnerships.

Human relations and communication

Further questions from members resulted in discussions about contract management and forum hosts highlighted the organisation's 'poor' track record in this respect. This is an area of focus, alongside a commitment to increased accountability for inappropriate behaviour amongst staff, members and volunteers to help foster a 'people-first' culture. Council members urged greater transparency on financial information.

Concerns about the GB Climbing selection criteria and lack of representation for young climbers in feedback or focus groups were also addressed. There is ongoing work to address these issues, including listening sessions and a working group to explore options for under 18-year-olds. Anyone with knowledge or expertise in the area is invited to join the working group to help inform proposals for the AGM.

The next BMC Members Open Forum webinar will take place on 22 May from 6:30 p.m.


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Another fantasy budget, £600k disappears from the Expenses line v 2023.

27 Mar

Not necessarily; various depatmental savings were identified last year in non-GBC areas of approx £240k annualised, not repeating the grant based expenditure errors in GBC gives approx £250k annualised, and not recruiting a new CFO until later this year will give around 9 months salary saving from that position, so its not too far to get from that to £600k with a bit of care and attention.

E2A - all figs approx based on details on various threads here and on BMC watch and "knowledge gained elsewhere".

27 Mar

For UKC/anyone who was there:

Membership revenue is shown as going up but the budget is based on no increase in membership. Is the cost of membership going up? UKS and SE grants have gone down. Was there a reason for this? (i.e. has the BMC failed in some way so receive a smaller grant, or has the total grant pot just got smaller due to outside factors and the BMC get the same grants a before, they are just worth less?)
27 Mar

The budget is a lot more conservative this year to avoid being dependent on new people joining to meet the budget was my interpretation of what Paul said.

Not sure about the answer for your second question.

Thanks for the detailed write up of the Open Forum Natalie! One thing I didn't see was Roger's response to Simon's question about the deficit, presumably as this was based on provisional figures?

27 Mar

Membership subs are debated and set late in the previous summer. Yes it's going up but less than inflation at that time.

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/british-mountaineering-council-announces-2024-membership-fee-update

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