GAI AGM and Conference gets a major Rethink

“The best AGM and conference yet. It felt like a meeting where everyone was involved and every idea could be discussed.” That was just one of the resoundingly positive comments after the Guild’s AGM on 21 May at Tortworth Court Hotel in Gloucestershire.

Embracing the theme of ‘Rethinking’, the event was significantly different to previous years. Instead of traditional PowerPoint presentations by the Guild’s president and chief executive, the meeting featured a dynamic Prezi-based view of key agenda items and a panel discussion which brought all the issues to life.

As Maria Powell, president of the Guild, said in her introduction: “My interest is in creative disruption to stimulate innovation and a radical shift in an industry. It’s time for us to rethink everything – starting with ourselves. And it simply would not be right to squander this opportunity to completely rethink our conference too.”

The formalities of an AGM have to be observed, of course. So the Guild’s officers were duly voted in for their second term – Maria as President, David Stacey as Vice President and Julian Newman as Treasurer. The Executive team was also elected, including three new members to rebalance the representation of architectural ironmongers on the board. [See info below] Julian also provided a healthy report to members on the state of the GAI’s finances, and members voted to accept a small bye-law change.

Once this was complete, a panel of experts took to the stage – Gary Amer, Chief Executive of the Guild; Rachel Tipton, Training and Development Manager; Douglas Masterson, Technical Manager; and Liz Male of Liz Male Consulting, the PR consultants who are helping to significantly raise the profile of the GAI and IAI.

Maria Powell interviewed each member of the panel, challenging each to report on progress on technical, education, marketing and community activities – warts and all. The result was a much more relaxed, open and informative meeting, and the questions and new ideas from members flowed more freely than at any previous AGM. [See key facts below]

Delegates also heard a message of support from Jerry Heppes, chief executive officer of the DHI in the USA.

Maria was also interviewed herself, telling members about the ‘One Future Vision’ group and its mandate to review all elements of the GAI and IAI’s future development.

This group is meeting for the first time in June, explained Maria, and is looking at the views and ideas that had come from members of both the GAI and IAI and which “could not be ignored”.

“It’s a complete strategic examination of where we go next,” said Maria. “Everything is up for grabs, and we’re open to new ideas from everyone.”

She reported to members that the group’s agenda would include looking at how to transform the status of the organisation and gain recognition as a professional body. This could include potentially unifying the GAI and IAI into one body, re-engineering every aspect of how it worked, rebranding and redefining its role and mission for all stakeholders.

But it could be a three to five year process, she warned. “We are taking the blinkers off. We’re starting with a blank sheet, and we will take time to consult, listen to members and communicate back at every stage.”

Stay curious

Following the AGM and continuing the ‘Rethink’ theme, members enjoyed an incredibly thought-provoking and stimulating talk by leading technology and gadget expert Laura-Jane ‘LJ’ Rich, whose fascinating perspective on how technology is shaping our future gave insights into how we can harness technology to add value and richness to what we do and how we do it.

LJ Rich provided sneak previews of new technical developments which had direct relevance to the built environment and the way we design and use buildings. This included areas such as ‘telehaptics’ (computer-generated sensations of touch transmitted over the net), the use of ‘invisible computing’ using radio frequencies to activate information projected onto surfaces as we walk by or move our hands, and even a brilliant multi-sensory door handle with built in functionality to safeguard dementia sufferers.

She showed how a 30 year old rollercoaster had been rejuvenated and transformed for the future by the use of virtual reality. She gave insights into how technology and people interact, how frictionless purchasing was transforming our expectations of buying goods and services, and how the most radical technological developments are already becoming completely normalised – think contactless payment, for example.

The future she painted was one where everything can be analysed and the data used to give every person a tailor-made experience and customised communication, not just great products. Technology was becoming faster, quicker and smaller, and businesses need “informed thinkers” to identify how they would continue to be relevant to an entire generation who switches on its smart tech within a minute of waking up in the morning.

So her message for GAI members was one that she was passing on from the former chief executive of Google, Eric Schmidt: “Stay curious”.

“Knowing about new technological developments and trends helps you plan for multiple futures, helps you explore areas for innovation, and create viable new business models which integrate the best of the new with your decades of industry expertise and experience,” she said. “You can’t stop tech, but you can be informed by it.”

GAI Executive Committee 2016/17

President: Maria Powell, Lorient Group

Vice President: David Stacey, DORMA UK Ltd

Treasurer: Julian Newman, Oxford Ironmongery Ltd

Steve Bewick, Kaba Ltd

Mario Del-Signore, CES UK Ltd

Paul Duggan, Exova Warringtonfire (co-opted member)

Wayne Harris, HARBRINE Ltd

Gary Hewitt, Spiller Architectural Ironmongery

Alistair Higgins, Allgood plc

Paul Johnson, ASSA ABLOY

Andy Matthews, HOPPE UK Ltd

Nish Mohamed, Em-B Solutions Ltd

Graham Shirville, Allgood plc

Kaz Spiewakowski, GEZE UK Ltd

Gary Amer, GAI Chief Executive

Honorary Life Members of the Executive Committee

Keith Moss MBE

John Planck

David Whitworth

Key facts and figures from the Annual Report


  • Launch of Education Hub has led to a 23% increase in Diploma students – 57 more than expected
  • 47% of students from overseas, a gradually increasing percentage year on year
  • GAI Diploma students from 25 different countries, including Sri Lanka, Canada, India, China, South Africa and the Gulf
  • 26 fast-track learners
  • 27 students retaking their exams this year
  • 2016/17 will see the first year of students to take their examinations online, under independent invigilation


  • More technical output than ever before – 66 pieces of technical guidance now on the GAI website
  • 32 CPD workshops delivered including video CPDs for members based in the Gulf and Hong Kong
  • New RIBA-approved CPD materials produced
  • 11 Guides to Standards published, covering key standards such as BS 8300, BS EN 16005, 1154, 1155 and others
  • New style Technical Briefings include the GAI Guide to BIM, CE marking of doorsets, hotel bedroom locking and opening forces on doors relating to the correct specification of door closers
  • Almost 200 technical advice sessions provided over the telephone
  • 29% of these queries were product-related
  • Technical expertise provided to a wide range of UK and International committees and standards groups


  • Sell-out Education Awards luncheon in November 2015
  • Hugely successful AGM for the IAI in March 2016, including the ‘ironmongers’ village’ with displays of new products and industry innovations
  • Facilitated workshops for both the GAI and IAI, leading to new ideas for the future

Marketing & PR

  • Distribution of the AIJ has doubled
  • More than 1,200 copies distributed of the GAI’s new Guide to the Specification of Door Hardware for architects since March 2016
  • New PR strategy to promote the value of Registered Architectural Ironmongers (RegAI)
  • 55 pieces of media coverage for the GAI in 2015, reaching 1.05 million people
  • These PR results have already been exceeded within the first five months of 2016