“Gold is a global thermometer of risk.” CEO Q+A: Stephen Flood, GoldCore

Business, CEO Q&A | Wed 27 Feb | Author – Business & Finance

In our next CEO Q+A, Stephen Flood, CEO of GoldCore, speaks to us about the global economy, debt levels, and making the most of your personal strengths.


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

To provide a convenient, efficient and most importantly safe means of the transfer of gold & silver for clients who want to hedge financial and economic risks.

We believe that most investors are wholly unprepared for the next recession and any oncoming volatility.  We may well be on the verge of the next financial crisis, with risks building throughout the economy and global markets. And it’s for these reasons that we believe it has never been more important to have a financial insurance in the form of precious metals.

As CEO I share the common goals of the business which are:

  • To increase assets held in our GoldCore Secure Storage programme. Last year we grew the total assets by 24%
  • To increase awareness of precious metal ownership as part of a diversified portfolio of assets. Numerous studies confirm that gold can reduce investment and pension portfolios volatility and enhance returns in the long term
  • To use cutting edge technology to increase the efficiency for clients looking to buy, sell, take delivery and store gold and silver bullion.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

Finding enough time in the day!

One bug bear is the manipulation of search engines by other providers in our industry. The public are increasingly being herded by dominant “Disinformation Technology” companies. Often it seems that value and service are not enough to win and hold position, instead investing in search engine technology and online advertising at the expense of product development appears to be the core focus of some organisations.

Increased regulation is needed to ensure fairness in the market – as it is How 90% of searches can be dominated by one provider using a secret algorithm!

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

We are a tight team, communicating and interacting throughout the day. The best motivator is simply having respect and being honest. Empowering team members to expand their skills, understanding and backing them to take risks and take on new responsibilities is key.

Employees now see through many of the “perks” offered by larger companies and they ring shallow. I believe that 90% of the time I work for my employees, making sure that they have the skills and tools they need to realise their potential and play their role in our organisation. 10% of the time I set the tone for where we are going as an organisation.

Goals are 360 degrees and multi-faceted: increasing income, reducing risks, continuously improving our offering. I celebrate when an employee takes me to task without fear if I have dropped the ball – this is organisational strength, there are no sacred cows, although I have been called worse, I am sure!

Everyone in our company knows that building storage assets is our key commercial goal, but not at any cost. Since our foundation in 2003, our client’s welfare has always come first, and we also believe that our goals and that of our clients can and must be symbiotic.

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

Our industry is buffeted by a number of factors. The price of gold, crypto-currencies, government regulation, competitive forces and the changing face of consumer information sources have all served to drive up the demand for gold at various times. We operate in a very tight margin business, managing financial risks is key. It also makes life very interesting and we never have a dull day.

I would like to see more industry regulation as there are a number of cowboy operators who should not be operating at all and they see clients as nothing but fodder. We have seen companies selling what they claim to be pure gold coins which are in fact gold plated coins!

Q. What new trends are emerging in your industry?

Gold is a global thermometer of risk. We believe that debt levels are unsustainable, and the risk of a disorderly default is increasing every day. Economic inequality is increasing, and political systems are facing massive disruption. All of this occurs because of the corrosive effects of printed money which arguably tempered the worst effects of the Global Financial Crisis but have now been left in place due to political comfort and expediency.

Our global debt is now at 340% of GDP, up from 220% during the last Financial crisis – madness! History tell us this ends badly. The last time our economies were so unequal was in the 1930’s and we all know how that ended.

In terms of trends, we see the biggest test facing the EU is not from Brexit, but a disorderly exit of Italy. I see a new banking crisis emerging and spreading far faster than previously thought. This could come from the corporate debt market or China. Crypto money alternatives are a grass roots movement to take back personal sovereignty from what is perceived as a rigged system.

Opportunities will be considerable as those with expandable balance sheets will be gifted with cut price assets during any fire sale that ensues. The biggest opportunity globally will be the technologies that emerge from blockchain technologies – we are at the beginning of the next industrial and technological revolution. Our current systems and process will look positively antiquated when compared to the sheer enormity of what block-chain and its derivatives will bring.

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

I think some students come out of third level education without the practical skills needed in real. Creating apprenticeships within courses would be a great way of aligning the youthful creativity of newcomers, with the deep sector knowledge of industry. If, as I suspect, every industry vertical will be utterly transformed in the next 10 years as blockchain permeates, it will be those organisations with the most nimble, creative and competent staff that will succeed.

An education system run by professors and lecturers that are not also actively engaged in industry is not fit for purpose. Our teachers must be thought leaders.

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

In 2003 we saw the relentless build-up of credit combined with the fall in lending oversight as having obvious ramifications. Credit has a place, but when capital appreciation and credit availability solely drive purchase decisions trouble ensues. We were vocal in warning that an Irish financial crisis and global financial crisis were coming, and that gold would protect investors. This came to pass.

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

No one can really know the impact as the final arrangement has not yet been agreed. We suspect a cobbled solution will be put in place at the last minute. The real risk though is the precedent it sets and, in my view, it greatly increases the likely hood of an EU crisis and possible demise. It is important to watch Italy.

Currently we are seeing more demand for a Dublin Secure storage location. It is a high security vault that meets the Bank of England vault security standards. We will be able to store gold bullion securely for clients privately, as part of their pensions and also for companies. It will act as a deposit account in a superior currency. Interestingly, unlike bank accounts, the gold held will not be a liability for the client as it is not held on our balance sheet but rather it is held on the client’s balance sheet. We act merely as a custodian and not a creditor.

We believe with Brexit looming an allocation of least 10 % has never been more important. But bullion must be held in professional vaulted facilities where the gold is continuously monitored, liquid and competitively priced.

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

For me success is making the most of your own personal strengths.

Time and health are the most important resources we have. Applying yourself to your environment for the betterment of your community, family and your own development is a worthy goal. I find that many people spend their valuable lives beavering away on singular projects at the cost of everything else. In my 20’s I worked for Goldman Sachs in New York as a sales trader on one of the most powerful trading desks in the world. I decided that while it was an exciting place to be in my 20’s, and I loved every minute working with some of the most incredibly talented people I had ever met, it was not a life that would allow me to have and enjoy a family and to be a Dad. So I left and returned home, partnering with my friend in our own business in Dublin and have never looked back. I don’t work evenings, or weekends, I have breakfast with my kids and dinner most days.

For me mental health, productive work and a balanced life is key. The secret to happiness is not to mindlessly seek happiness all the time dwelling on what you need or don’t have, it is enjoying what you have and the relationships with the people all around you.

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

All business primarily comes down to one single formula: Taking unique knowledge from where it resides and delivering it to where it is needed. Once you understand this, you can approach any opportunity and decide if it is a worthy activity. Business is about the delivery of services and products, simply. Business needs excellent teams, with people who work well together and get the best from each other.

Knowing your customers, how they think, how they evaluate, where they go for information is also key. Never stop innovating but also don’t lose focus in the core offering. Let data inform decisions, but also trust your gut. Always challenge yourself and your biases and debate with people who you would not normally agree with.

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

Recently launching Dublin Storage has been great. It is a first in Ireland and we believe it will be instrumental in supporting the financial health of Irish consumers, investors and companies. We also launched the new site which allows new clients to buy up to €50,000 worth of gold in just 3 minutes on their smart phone or computer – a first in the industry and a real win for our User Experience approach.

Q. What’s next for your company?

We are ready for Brexit and related issues. We are currently working on an institutional gold investment offering in the Middle East which is really exciting. It will be the largest consumer bullion storage service in the region and has been designed by GoldCore and our local partners. We are also exploring how to get involved in the block-chain space.

Q. Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

We see ourselves reaching more and more Irish investors, pension owners and company’s clients through referral and word of mouth. Our Secure Storage programme in Dublin has turned a lot of heads and many financial and pension advisers are seeking to store their client’s gold in Ireland for the first time.

All business primarily comes down to one single formula: Taking unique knowledge from where it resides and delivering it to where it is needed.