Interview with Martin Oxley, country head, UK Trade & Investment
Congratulations on your new role, Martin. What are you most looking forward to in the new job?
Thanks very much; most appreciated. Over the last few weeks I have received many letters and e mails wishing me all the best in my new role. I've also had the pleasure to meet everyone in the team and I can honestly say I am really looking forward to working with you. I'm joining UKTI at a very exciting time. A new strategy, a ruthless focus on enabling British companies to expand international trade and a time when we are focused on attracting increased levels of direct investment into the UK. For the next 12 months, Poland will be in the global spotlight – the Polish Presidency of the EU during the second half of 2011 and the UEFA Euro football championships in 2012 will act as catalysts to attract British interest in the country.
The British Polish relationship has huge potential – Poland is the seventh largest economy in Europe; the UK is Poland’s third-largest export market; last year we saw a 27% increase in the sales of UK goods to Poland and the tempo of growth has accelerated in the first quarter of this year. That’s just the beginning. The Polish economy is at the beginning of its growth cycle. It successfully navigated the recent economic turndown and has 40 years of sustainable growth ahead of it as the country converges with established European counterparts. What I'm most looking forward to in my new job is promoting Poland in the best way possible together with our stakeholders so that UK PLC makes the most of the British-Polish opportunity – so that we take full advantage of exports and we make the most of Poland’s increasing desire to invest in the UK. We have achieved a lot in a short space of time; there is even more to achieve in an even shorter space of time.
What challenges will you have to deal with?
As of today I see three key short-term challenges. The first is setting priorities for big and small business and identifying companies with high potential for Poland. Second, there is a key role which we can play in supporting the growth of British companies already in Poland. Third, there is significant potential to enable companies not yet in Poland to approach the market in the most appropriate way. There is a notable absence of British SMEs exporting to Poland. We need to work with our colleagues in the UK to ensure the Polish messages gets across and we create a seamless and sustainable route to market.
There is opportunity to work in consortium with partners from the British financial and legal services sector to facilitate market entry and growth. Corporate UK in Poland is a formidable team – there is a great opportunity to showcase Poland using its own success story!
A key focus is also going to be customer service. With the rapid development of digital media the world is becoming smaller and customer expectation levels are increasing. We need to make sure we understand our customers’ development needs, are in a position to understand a range of potential solutions and make proposals in a way which are aligned with their expectation. Customer sustainability is close to the top of my priorities. If we do a good job we will build a portfolio of loyal customers – companies which will repeatedly come back to UKTI to work in partnership with one aim in mind – our mutual success. This will deliver increased prosperity.
And what about the Embassy's relationship with the BPCC? How will that change now that you have moved on?
There is an immense synergy to be had by the Embassy and the BPCC working together. A key focus of the changing shape of UKTI is to adopt a more energetic, entrepreneurial and collaborative approach to enable it to achieve its goal – a wealthier, more sustainable British economy. I am convinced we can do that by working together with the BPCC. As a professional, membership-based organisation, the Chamber is a valuable source of feedback on opportunities, market environment and enhanced sustainability. Our working relationship is good and there is a solid platform to build on as we increase our focus on seizing new opportunity. The BPCC has achieved so much with so little – they are a great team and I know they want to work closely with UKTI for the prosperity of the UK. The Chamber also offers a valuable communication channel to Polish companies.
How your experience with the BPCC will contribute to the new role of UKTI Director?
Over the course of my career I have had the opportunity to lead five different companies in Poland and the broader CEE region. Over the last six years I have gained an immense insight into what companies go through when they expand in Poland. The BPCC has brought me a wealth of understanding into key sectors of opportunity. It has provided me with a regional perspective and has enabled me to engage at the top levels in the Polish government on aspects of trade and investment.
I have lived through the economic switch and also EU enlargement – two milestones in the country’s re-integration into Europe. We grew the BPCC to be a leader in its class; an award-winning, respected member-networking organisation. Business is about people – networking, communication and building sustainable business relationships. The BPCC is an excellent training ground for this.
What do you want to achieve during your first months with UKTI Warsaw ?
I am really looking forward to my first months
in my new job. First of all getting to know my new team is essential. You have significant experience, in many cases in different areas than mine. Our strength is how the combined team works together – in Poland and the UK. Next will be to understand from our customers exactly what they are looking for. British Polish trade is running at L10 billion; how can we get that to L15 billion with the balance tilted more toward UK PLC? How can we extend our relationships with existing customers – we are providing in excess of 500 services annually – how can we get that up to 700? A number of big British companies are also absent from the market – what can we do to attract them to one of Europe’s most attractive markets? How do we attract more high-potential British SMEs into Poland? What do we need to do to convince Polish companies that the UK is a great place to invest? The first few months are going to be very busy, exciting and dynamic in terms of mapping out routes to increased prosperity.
Have you got a message for UK firms doing business in Poland?
I have lived and worked in Central Europe since the early 1990s. The speed of change has been immense. The scope of the opportunity is unprecedented. Poland is the most attractive market in the region. Poland has the potential to be one of the most attractive growth markets in Europe. To build sustainable business there are three fundamental ingredients. First, align your strategy with the market’s development; focus on mid to long term reward – Poland is not a “quick win” market; harness the talent, charm and motivation of the people. If you get those three right, the sky’s the limit. Also remember that you do not have to be present in Poland to do great business in Poland. Above all, work with a leading, trustworthy and recognised organisation to fully understand the opportunity before you embark on seizing it. That’s where we at UKTI fit in. We look forward to hearing from you and we hope to play a key role in the UK’s success in Poland!
The BPCC team at the Royal Wedding