Reflections on the HFMA WM 2020 Virtual Conference



This year’s HFMA West Midlands Branch Conference, “Festival of Finance”, took place just over a two weeks ago now – and for the 500 plus delegates that attended I am sure they would agree it was a great success. As a HFMA Branch committee member, I’m very proud to have played a small part in hosting this event.


Kevin Stringer, Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Finance Officer introducing Dr Clara Day, Consultant Nephrologist at University Hospital Birmingham NHS FT onto the Hopin Main Stage for a Session titled – Outpatient Transformation and System Working in Response to Recovery.


This year’s conference was a little different from previous years, for obvious reasons – which meant the brave decision had to be made not to postpone the event, but to venture online. The platform of choice was HOPIN, –a fully immersive and interactive digital experience which live-streamed content from the main stage to host speakers. I am biased, but this was a significant improvement from Zoom / MS Teams and other platforms currently in circulation.


The speaker line was diverse in subject matter, but also carried themes of

  • COVID-19 (which is not a surprise)

  • Leadership – System by Default

  • Diversity and Inclusion

I am not entirely sure if this was by design or coincidence; still, the blend certainly gave the audience plenty to think about and was a far cry from the technical accounting adjustments tutorials I’ve seen in the past.


Our very own Paul Sly delivered a session on “System Leadership in a Post COVID world”. Despite being in the middle of pandemic response, there was a general agreement that the “command and control” style of leadership which was in operation earlier in the year, only works for the short term. The requirement now must be to move to a more System by Default approach, where distributed leadership and empowerment of place-based working is encouraged.


Dinah Mclannahan, Chief Finance Officer for Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospital, delivered an open and compassionate session of how her Trust managed throughout the early stages of the pandemic. Covering the intricate management of PPE and supplies and the importance of personal accountability, kindness and giving recognition to the many staff who went above and beyond, one, in particular, being Dr Sarb Clare MBE ED and Acute Medicine Consultant.