Oonagh Hayes, managing director, corporate and institutional services, First Names Group
Oonagh Hayes talks team collaboration and motivation at First Names Group.
First Names Group is a leading independent provider of private client, corporate, funds and real estate services, with offices in 14 locations.
In Ireland, the company’s main focus is on providing corporate services for clients expanding into the Irish and European markets. They deliver tailored solutions across three key areas: corporate structuring, cross-border structuring and structured finance.
Oonagh Hayes is managing director corporate and institutional services of First Names Group. She sits on several client boards and acts as company secretary for a number of client companies.
Originally trained as a chartered accountant at Ernst & Young (now EY), she went on to serve as financial controller for Woodchester International Leasing followed by taking on the role of managing director at IFG Group.
As head of a company that places enormous value on its people, Hayes takes a top-down approach to instilling this company culture: “I believe in leading by example,” she says. “My approach is collaborative, focusing on nurturing and equipping team members to stretch themselves and so progress professionally.” As a service-based industry, building client relationships and trust is at the foundations of what they do.
“In my opinion the team is critical to our success, especially as we are a service-based industry. It is vital that service delivery matches the initial business pitch; otherwise you are on the back foot straight away,” Hayes explains. “The only way this can happen is by every team member having a thorough understanding of clients’ requirements and their role in meeting those requirements consistently. It’s been our experience that a knowledgeable, well-motivated team will deliver every time.”
The corporate governance environment is also becoming more complex and so we need to ensure we are fully current so that our clients can make an easy transition into doing business in Ireland
When people are at the core of your business success, motivation is an important consideration, and creating the right conditions in the company for employees to thrive is central to Hayes’ leadership style.
“I am a very open and plain-speaking person,” she admits, “and so I think clear communication is critical so that people know the direction of the business. Once this has been established, then ensuring that people are suitably empowered to do the job is key. There is nothing more satisfying than creating an environment for people to grow and flourish and I see trust as a fundamental ingredient in empowering people to achieve this growth.”
As a firm that aims to ease the transition for companies wishing to establish a business in Ireland, one of the challenges First Names Group has to face is the negative attention brought to the country by tax loophole scandals. “Issues such as the current Apple tax case, and Lux Leaks, just to mention a few, and the associated media perception of these, can heavily influence the industry,” says Hayes.
“There are continuous changes to tax legislation at a worldwide and OECD level, which can cause companies to pause expansion plans in light of these changes. At First Names Group our goal is to ensure that we help these companies establish a presence in Ireland in the most pragmatic manner possible, whilst being cognisant of how these macro influences impact our clients.
As an industry, we’ve had to reinvent ourselves at several junctures along the way, so agility and the ability to change are vital in my view
“The corporate governance environment is also becoming more complex and so we need to ensure we are fully current so that our clients can make an easy transition into doing business in Ireland.”
When it comes to survival in a changing business landscape, Hayes is unambiguous on how to chart a course forward. “Clearly, delivering the financials are key for the business and for our shareholders, but building an agile and sustainable platform will ensure future success,” she asserts.
“I’ve been in this business for over 25 years and have seen considerable changes in that time. As an industry, we’ve had to reinvent ourselves at several junctures along the way, so agility and the ability to change are vital in my view.”
Business & Finance, A View from the Boardroom
A View from the Boardroom, in association with Irish Life Health, features Ireland’s leading decision makers in business – those who provide effective leadership and are capable of understanding potential risks.