Cherries Conference 2023 – Our Summary

The second annual Cherries Conference took place last week in Aberdeen, with ‘Managing Change in an Evolving World’ being the theme of the day.

And the world of work certainly is evolving – and fast – so it was a great opportunity to discuss some of the hot topics currently at play.

The event sponsors and session speakers were Mattioli Woods, Burness Paull and Hunter Adams, with the key note session of the day delivered by Samantha Jayne Nelson, Vice President Risk Engineering at Marsh.

Samantha Jayne Nelson – Diversity & Inclusion

Samantha opened the day with her session, which was focused around diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Samantha told delegates her moving story, going back to her youth where she struggled with her gender identity, having been born male. Born in a pre-internet world, she tried to fight against her instincts and continued down the path she felt she should – starting a career in the male-dominated world of offshore oil platforms and getting married and starting a family. Almost inevitably, Samantha admitted there was only so long she could keep up the pretense and eventually she had to be true to herself.

The key themes of Samantha’s talk were around authenticity, vulnerability and the importance and impact of genuine LGBT+ allies both in and out of work. She acknowledged that workplaces have come along way in the D&I sphere but stresses that there is still work to be done, particularly in some traditionally male-driven industries, and she spoke about the ‘frozen middle’ in some organisations, this being the core of people who may be resistant to change. She applauded the efforts she is seeing companies make, but she fears there is still some “box-ticking” activity going on and urges businesses to really think about the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Samantha’s session provided delegates with an inspiring and though-provoking start to the conference, and throughout the day delegates were heard discussing how much they enjoyed the session and the impact it had on them.

Following Samantha’s key note address, delegates spent the rest of the day attending breakout sessions facilitated by the conference sponsors.

Sean Westwood – Employee Benefits

The Mattioli Woods session, delivered by Sean Westwood, explored employee benefits in times of change, such as following M&A activity – something that we are seeing a lot at moment against the current economic backdrop. Sean Westwood discussed the unique opportunities this presents in terms of rationalising, integrating and harmonising benefits across the workforce in a way that delivers great outcomes for employers and employees alike.

Jennifer Marnoch – Working & Evolving Behaviours

Hunter Adams Managing Director Jennifer Marnoch explored new ways of working and evolving behaviours in her session, Navigating Tomorrow’s World. Jenn touched on hybrid working, employee expectations, technology, productivity, leadership and engagement; ultimately concluding that flexibility and harnessing the right behaviours can help companies be competitive and successful in the working world of the future. Jenn’s session generated lots of lively discussion among delegates as they discussed what they were seeing in their currently own organisations and how they expected things might evolve. It was interesting to hear that not all businesses have embraced hybrid working, with several having reverted to pre-pandemic working practices, and to hear the reasoning behind this.

Andrew Knight – Protected Characteristics

Andrew Knight from Burness Paull led an insightful and interactive session around protected characteristics and occasions where these might be in conflict. The session centred around a role play scenario with religion and sexual orientation at odds in the workplace. Discussion was focused around whether one characteristic more important or more protected than another, and how these challenging situations might be managed in a way that best restores harmony and avoids claims.

Feedback from delegates both on the day itself and in the days that followed indicated that the event was very well received, with all speakers providing interesting and relevant sessions with unique insights and tangible take-aways.

A special mention must also go to Lang & Co who sponsored the exhibition and networking and provided a fabulous goody bag for each delegate.


As The Cherries Conference continues to grow and evolve, emulating the success of it’s more mature big sister, the famous Cherries Awards; we are very much looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this event – bring on 2024!