A report from the 2019 FIDI conference in Amsterdam, by Steve Jordan
FIDI stayed close to home in 2019, making the short hop from Brussels to Amsterdam for its annual conference. I confess that other commitments allowed me to stay only for a couple of days, but what I saw, I liked.
The conference theme was ‘Strength. Balance. Unity’. I never quite understood why conferences have to have a theme but, if they do, this trio of otherwise apparently unrelated words was as good as any other.
The venue was the NH Grand Krasnapolsky Hotel in Dam Square, right in the beating heart of Amsterdam. As a location it couldn’t have been better: a gentle stroll from Amsterdam Central Station, for those willing to trust the excellent Dutch public transport; and right amongst the maze of streets, canals, restaurants, coffee bars (some of which sell coffee), shops and bars that give the city its unique character (and aroma).
It was also nice that FIDI had booked the whole hotel, so guests were less likely to be sharing the public areas with, well, the public. You knew that everyone you met, or with whom you shared a lift, was a kindred spirit. Excellent. Although the hotel itself was not beautiful, it was practical, functional, the staff were lovely and the food delicious. Unless you are willing to pay for opulence, what more could you need?
The welcome evening was held at Beurs van Berlage, the former stock exchange building, with entertainment from Tanya’s Chill duo. It was a perfect ‘hug and handshake’ opportunity. The following morning I was able to attend the roll call. I always think they are a total waste of time but then find myself strangely drawn to the camera, as it slowly tracks the room, hoping to spot friends to see if they look as old as I feel, and maybe put a face to a name of someone I hope to meet. Dreary it might be, but we’d miss the roll call if it wasn’t there.
The opening ceremony involved a beat boxer who was undoubtedly brilliant, but I suspect his talent might have been lost on some of the (older) members of the audience, me included. Not sure the president and vice president really appreciated being dragged up to have a go either, maybe they did. Addresses from Jesse van Sas, FIDI Secretary General and Wiebe van Bockel on behalf of FIDI Netherlands, set the scene.
The evening was hosted by FIDI Netherlands. Everyone was bussed out to a disused sugar factory, which sounds a bit odd but actually worked very well. The food was supplied from stalls serving everything anyone could seriously desire, and the drink flowed freely. The ‘incidental’ music was anything but incidental and some might say wasn’t music either. It was supplied by a DJ in a VW caravanette and I am not really sure how it should be described. Whatever it was it wasn’t universally loved, not when it went on for over two hours anyway, though I realise I was not the target market. The band Boston Tea Party came on at 9pm and really changed the mood. Really good.
Time constraints prevented me from attending many of the business and social events, but it is fair to say that FIDI had a full agenda. Before I arrived the 39 Club had been in full swing fishing plastic out of the canal, partying at Jimmy Woo and holding its own conference. The charity bike ride that set off from London two days earlier had arrived, having raised a tidy sum for Operation Smile. FIDI even set up speed networking for a couple of hours to help newcomers get to know each other. Good idea.
I did see the keynote speaker Patrick Schwerdtfeder who spoke about technology in general and Blockchain in particular. I’ll bring you a full report in the June issue, but I can tell you now that it was fascinating. I remember writing about Blockchain two years ago, saying then it would revolutionise our industry, but nobody believed me. Seems Patrick agrees, in fact he said that the global moving industry was perfect for Blockchain. If you are not already thinking about it, it’s time you did.
Over the next three days FIDI packed in a series of regional meetings, a golf tournament, sightseeing tours, FAIM 3.2, Academy and digital marketing workshops and, of course, the gala dinner with Ebru Demirel, the new FIDI president, attending her first official engagement (see below). Business sessions I didn’t see were a panel discussion on technological developments and the guest speaker Katia Vlachos talking about how demographics affects the way movers do business. I was disappointed to have to miss them both.
What I saw of the conference was very good, what the attendees told me after, was equally impressive. FIDI, once again, can chalk up a success. Amsterdam made a few new friends too I’d wager.
Ebru becomes FIDI President
Ebru Demirel, from Asya International Movers in Turkey has been elected President of FIDI following her appointment to the FIDI Board in 2013.
Interviewed by Steve Jordan at the FIDI conference in Amsterdam, immediately before assuming her new role, Ebru said that the previous six years had given her time to learn more about FIDI, it’s Board and the operation of the organisation. “FIDI has a very functional office with some young, dynamic, multicultural people,” she said. “It also has an incredible Board. We support each other. The support I get from the Board and the FIDI office gives me great strength.”
She said that FIDI has evolved over the years into much more than just a networking operation. “One of our most important products is FAIM,” she said. “This is what differentiates FIDI from other associations. Every other association has a different and important role in the industry. We are constantly updating FAIM to keep it relevant to the business needs of our members. Their clients are comforted to see that we take care of anti-corruption, data privacy and supply chain management. We are very proud of FAIM.”
Ebru also spoke about the importance of the FIDI Academy and the FIDI conference but acknowledged that cost was a major factor for many members and that it was incumbent upon FIDI to keep the costs under control. “Everyone wants the best conference they can and are very quick to criticise if it’s not right,” she said. “We need to try to reduce costs by negotiating well and choosing our destinations wisely. If we do this we will be able to keep costs down without it affecting the quality of the conference.” She believes that networking is still an important part of affiliation to FIDI and wants to encourage as many people as possible to come.
Will it be different, being president rather than as a member of the Board? Ebru has great admiration for the FIDI Board and she said that she has never seen any president dictate. “For personal development it will be an incredible thing,” she said. “As president I will be more in the front, more visible, but it’s about teamwork. The meetings are very democratic.”
Ebru is one of three sisters who run the Turkish company. She realises that she is fortunate in having such family support which provides the opportunity of taking on her presidential role without it having a detrimental affect on the business. “As a Board member we have monthly teleconference calls and we meet four times a year face-to-face. We are busiest at conference time. That’s when I will need more support from my sisters. We will manage.”
When Ebru walked on to the stage for the first time as FIDI president, at the conference gala dinner, she was greeted by a spontaneous standing ovation. Any newly-elected president would, of course, be greeted with enthusiasm, but this was different. It cannot be ignored that Ebru is FIDI’s first ever female president and someone who is, with her sisters, running a successful business in a male dominated industry in a male dominated country. The applause was only partly in recognition of Ebru’s personal achievement. Her appointment is also a symbol of the increasing liberalisation of the whole industry in which women are taking on increasing prominence, to the benefit of all. Many in the room were probably thinking, ‘and about time too’.
Ebru, of course, takes a very pragmatic view. “I always thought that if you do something with good intentions and you love what you do, you will get there. I love this business and am really happy to do this job.”
The Oldies lunch
During the FIDI conference, seniors from the moving industry got together for a bite to eat and a glass or two of wine. The event was open to those friends who have a career of at least 25 years in the industry, are over 65 years old and enjoy the industry and its people. The idea was based on a reunion of the Bald Eagles group, which was active from 2002 until 2012. The number of Baldies present at FIDI however was somewhat disappointing, so Ed Van Bodegraven decided to start this new initiative instead. “I hope it will become a yearly tradition during the day of the official opening of the FIDI convention,” he said. Participation is by invitation only and subject to approval of the standing group.