Welcome to your 2020 Alumni Yearbook
When diversity and inclusion (D&I) was chosen as the theme of the 2020 Alumni Yearbook, no-one could foresee the additional challenges that lay ahead. Mahmood Lone and Boyan Wells, Co-Chairs, Alumni Network.
2020 has been a year like no other: the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on society, businesses and individuals has been unprecedented and as extensive and damaging as it was unexpected. As we write, countries around the world, many of them home to our alumni, are working to keep both their citizens and their economies as healthy as possible. It’s a time of immense uncertainty that underlines the value of personal and professional networks.
At A&O, we’ve had to adjust our whole way of working across our global network, becoming a virtual law firm almost overnight. In this, we were aided by a major upgrade of our IT systems, which we had the good fortune of completing just before the lockdown, and the superhuman efforts of our people, and in particular our support staff, to make sure everyone could work remotely. It’s been truly remarkable to observe such a seamless transition with A&O still able to provide top quality services to our clients.
The lockdown has, of course, had a huge impact on our Alumni Network programme activities. Regrettably, we had to cancel all our popular in-person events. In their place, we significantly stepped up our communications with members to ensure that the network lost none of its vigour. You would have seen the Positive News bulletin that we created to highlight the many inventive and imaginative ways alumni were coping in the lockdown. We also set up a Covid-19 support network to assist vulnerable alumni in local communities and many of you logged into the webinars that we organised to hear the thoughts of senior A&O and alumni members on topical subjects.
We intend to continue developing online events that will be useful, productive and, above all, enable our network to keep in touch until the time when we can once again meet safely face to face.
The theme for the 2020 Alumni Yearbook is Diversity in action. Diversity and inclusion (D&I) has long been one of A&O’s strategic priorities: Wim Dejonghe and Gareth Price speak more about this in their interview.
In the summer A&O signed the Race Fairness Commitment, and you may have seen in the press that A&O is a founding signatory to the Charter for Black Talent in Finance and the Professions.
We have been recognised by the Investing in Ethnicity Awards as an Outstanding Employer for the strides we are taking to create a more inclusive environment for our ethnic minority colleagues. London Banking Partner, and Co-Chair of the Race and Ethnicity Committee, Paul Flanagan has also been named as a leading champion for change.
We’re delighted that A&O has been recognised by the leading LGBT rights charity Stonewall as one of the Top Global Employers for the third year running. Stonewall has also awarded A&O the Global Ally Programme Award for its LGBTQ+ network, A&Out. A&O has performed well in the Social Mobility Index this year and Alumni Manager, Joanna Hughes, received an award at the UK Social Mobility Awards 2020.
In November, it was also announced that A&O’s Return to Work Programme won the Gender Diversity Project of the Year award at the Women in Law Awards. Global Alumni Manager, Jenny Enever, was part of the A&O project team.
At A&O, we’ve had to adjust our whole way of working across our global network, becoming a virtual law firm almost overnight.
A&O’s global charity partner, Hope and Homes for Children, is working to end the institutional care of children around the world. The charity partnership was due to conclude in September 2020, but has been extended to July 2021 to provide further support during these difficult times. Find out more about the charity’s recent projects and its long-term goals.
D&I has been a key focus of the Alumni Network for some years. Judging by the personal stories of alumni we profile in this edition, it’s high on the agendas of many individuals too. You’ll also find more information on A&O’s commitment to D&I and the various networks that are open to alumni.
We were delighted with the results of our most recent alumni engagement survey which confirmed that the network continues to be well-liked and compares favourably with other programmes. The survey offered a number of helpful statistical findings and alumni comments.
We’ve listened to what you said and acted on it. For example, we’ve made more of our online content public-facing to allow for easier reading. In terms of content, survey participants told us that they like a balance between the personal stories and profiles, professional development and thought leadership. We’ve introduced virtual events on thought leadership and professional development themes and aim to include more of this type of content in our newsletters.
Finally, the Alumni team is very sad to be losing our co-chair Mahmood who is stepping down in early 2021 after five years.
A personal message from Mahmood: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being co-chair of our fantastic network. It’s been an absolute pleasure working with Boyan and our extraordinary Alumni team and playing a part in the growth and success of the Alumni Network. I will continue to follow the developments of the Alumni Network with keen interest.”
We hope you enjoy this year’s edition and a return to normality in 2021.