Now that you are chairman, what is the outlook for the amalgamation of the two bodies?
Over the course of the remainder of this year, we’ll be working with the BJA, and representatives from each board are going to have occasional meetings. We are going to try to have a plan in place by the end of this year.
The amalgamation could be complete within 18 months. We are comfortable that we can find more than enough work for the staff of both the individual organisations, and whilst there are some obvious areas of duplication and saving, we will try to find new, useful roles so that there are no major changes in staff numbers. The way we plan to achieve this is through our intention to offer more services as a joint association than are currently offered by the two separate ones.
How much of your time is chairman taking up?
Being chairman hasn’t made a huge difference so far. There has been a bit of to-ing and fro-ing on phone and email, but that’s expected. Thanks to the boards of both associations being mainly directed by the chief executives, they are working together very well indeed. As chairmen, the BJA’s Gary Wroe and I have got a steering role, telling the chief executives what direction we want to head in, and letting them strategise to make it happen.
How much overlap of member services is there between the two bodies?
There is quite a bit of overlap, certainly in areas such as insurance and security. There is a full time membership services manager at the NAG.
Do you have a working title for the new association?
There are some working titles being discussed but I don’t want to jump the gun and start telling people what they are.
What is the shape of the membership now?
We’ve changed our criteria for membership at the NAG to be more inclusive, so our membership is growing, and it is not necessarily just about bricks-and-mortar anymore. We are more open to online commerce and direct selling and so on: we wanted anyone selling to the public to be able to a member as long as they trade in a professional and responsible way.
Will there be a strong lobbying function to the new association?
Definitely there will be a stronger lobbying function. Currently when we have dealings with the government, it is not entirely clear whom is ‘speaking for the industry’, especially since there are lots of other bodies involved too, such as CIBJO, Gem-A, RJC, the Diamond Office and so on. After the join-up, this will be clearer and should make it simpler for us to work together with other trade bodies.
Are there any implications in antitrust law for what will essentially be a ‘monopoly’ trade body?
I asked the question about monopoly, but as far as I’m aware there aren’t any difficulties there. We are not joining up with the intention of forming a monopoly, and there are other industries which have a single trade body and the monopoly issue is not a problem.
What will the difference be for the average independent jeweller?
At the start of next year, we will still be two separate organisations, so the jeweller will not notice much at the moment. They should start to see extra information and extra representation over the course of next year, but we want to minimise the amount of disruption in terms of how we present ourselves to the public – we want the transition to be smooth to try and avoid any confusion in the market about who does what and what the trade bodies are called. We also want to make sure we incorporate the history of both organisations. In addition, we want to work together to further improve the educational resources available to the trade and to build upon the success of our JET courses.
To what extent were the wheels in motion already when you became chairman, and how much influence will you personally have over what form the new body will take?
The merger had already come up as an idea several times in the past. I wouldn’t say that it’s me that’s the major force, I was vice chairman by the time it came up as a serious prospect this time. Similarly, it’s the people at the BJA, it isn’t down to any one person. We have been co-operating on magazines, SaferGems, and the Gold Standard, so even before being one association, we have been co-operative trade organisations for some years.