“Nobody knows how Brexit will affect their business in Ireland.” CEO Q&A – PJ Byrne of Flexigroup Ireland

CEO Q&A | Wed 14 Nov | Author – Business & Finance
Matt-Beaman-(FlexiGroup Group GeneralCouncil),Lorraine Higgins-,Andrew Abercrombie (Founder & Chairman of FlexiGroup),Terry-Fleming (Irish Chairman of FlexiGroup Ireland-), PJ Byrne (CEOof FlexiGroup)

In our next CEO Q&A, CEO Q&A – PJ Byrne of Flexigroup Ireland  speaks about creating a strong employer brand, fostering innovation and talent and encouraging their team to thrive.  

Q. What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

My main priority in my role is to ensure that the team are happy in their day to day jobs and in turn, that the business provides the best service possible to Irish customers. I have always found truth in the saying “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients” and this is how we operate in FlexiGroup Ireland.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

One of the biggest challenges for any CEO in the Irish employment market today, is competition for talent. FlexiGroup strives to maintain a strong employer brand, fosters a culture of innovation and encourages our team to thrive. It is only through this we are able to attract top talent in this industry. We are constantly looking at ourselves as an employer and evaluating how we stack up against the competition. We have been proactive in this area by providing flexible working and educational incentives to our team.

Q. How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

I am exceptionally blessed with a team of remarkably talented and passionate individuals. The team have seen Flexigroup Ireland go from strength to strength and many were involved in the very early stages of Flexi-Fi (our no interest lending product) having input into the application process, the branding and even the naming of the product. This in itself instils a desire in the group to see the company succeed. When you’re in the inception stage of a company, it’s hard not to feel invested! Besides that, my door is always open and I encourage ideas, suggestions and constructive feedback from everyone in the office.

Q. What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

The entire financial services sector is becoming subject to more and more regulation. Of course this is something which is both positive and negative. Positive because it calls for financiers to be more cognisant of consumers, which in turn will make borrowing and lending more efficient. However, negative because the cost of implementation of some of these new regimes can cause smaller businesses to struggle.

Q. What new trends are emerging in your industry?

We are seeing a new generation of consumer spending. People are shopping again, businesses are making money and demand for products and services are on the up. With regards to marketing, digital influencers are on the rise. A.I. and machine learning trends are also affecting the business landscape recently and we are continuing to capitalise on this as much as possible with our totally digital application process for products like FlexiFi.

Q. Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

I think the recent changes brought in by the Central Bank with regards to the Central Credit Register and consumer lending have been very positive and will change the financial services sector for the better for years to come. To have a centralised register of accessible data from which you can assess creditworthiness is invaluable. I would like to see more initiatives like this one which can help to streamline the provision of consumer finance in Ireland.  

Q. As an employer are you finding any skills gaps in the market?

We are incredibly lucky to have a highly skilled workforce in Ireland. My team exemplify the level of education, training and skill in Ireland today. The issue is not that there are gaps, the issue is supply versus demand.

Q. How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

We arrived in Ireland in 2008 just as the crash was occurring so we had first-hand experience of the lows faced by Irish businesses. We did think about shutting up shop at that time, however we recognised that there was a need for our products in the market at the time, so we persevered. I suppose we developed our strategy based on worst case scenario because that is what we faced. We learned that through hard work, commitment and upholding our values, we can get through practically anything.

Q. How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

Nobody knows how Brexit will affect their business in Ireland. All of our customers are Irish, so the direct affect will be non-existent, however the indirect affect may not be so insignificant. Where there is uncertainty there is fear, and this may lead to a lull in the consumer spending that this country has seen over the last couple of years. We will just have to wait and see and hope for the best once Brexit happens.

Q. How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Success is a very personal thing I think. For me, getting up in the morning, having a roof over my head, clean water and near certainty of what the day will hold is success. In business, success is often quantified in numbers so of course that’s relevant. But seeing my team succeed is success to me. Seeing the company grow is success. Getting positive feedback from customers is success. Identifying issues and finding resolutions is success.

Q. What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

Treat your team with respect and they will treat your business the very same way.

Q. What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

It’s been a brilliant year. We won two awards in Sydney at the Irish Australian Business Awards and another just last week at the Harvey Norman Retail Awards. Along with us celebrating 10 years in Ireland, we couldn’t be happier.

Q. What’s next for your company?

World domination!!! Just kidding! I think we would like to perfect what we do in Ireland and when we have the recipe exactly right, perhaps we will look further afield.

Q. What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2018?

How long is a piece of string?

Treat your team with respect and they will treat your business the very same way.

Business & Finance, CEO Q&A

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