This month marks Director General of Trade & Investment Australia & New Zealand Nick McInnes’ first six months in Sydney. We thought it would be a great time to sit down with Nick to chat about how he has settled into his new role, his views on the commercial relationships between Australasia and the UK and of course, who he thinks will be victorious when his beloved Lions take on the Wallabies.
How would you describe your first six months as Director General of UK Trade & Investment Australia & New Zealand ?
A steep learning curve. I have considerable experience of international business development work both within UKTI and in the private sector. However, I have not previously worked in Australia or New Zealand : the first six months have therefore been spent getting a better understanding of the business environment and building up my networks. I do think that the first six months have also demonstrated to me that there are real opportunities for strengthening the UK’s (already strong) bilateral economic links with both Australia and New Zealand.
What do you enjoy the most about the role ?
Interacting with business : I get a real buzz from seeing UK companies secure contracts and overseas companies take decisions to invest in the UK with support from UK Trade & Investment. I find that my current position gives me more senior access than my previous job as Director of Trade and Investment in New York which I can hopefully turn to the advantage of the UK’s bottom line.
What are the main differences between your role here and your previous position as the Director of Trade & Investment USA in New York ?
The twin role of Consul General Sydney and Director General UKTI for Australia and New Zealand is much broader than my previous position in New York which was purely a commercial job. Here I am the public face of HMG in New South Wales and have responsibilities for the consular and corporate services teams in Sydney. The UKTI network across the US is much larger than the team we have here in Australia and New Zealand reflecting the significance of the UK’s bilateral economic relationship with the USA. However, as I noted in answer to the previous question, I do think I can be more of a player in my current job and make a bigger difference here in support of UK commercial interests.
Who do you think will win the 3rd match between the Lions and Wallabies on 6 July ?
The same team that by then will have won the first two Tests : the British & Irish Lions.
What is the best advice you have ever been given ?
I fear that I am going to cheat when answering this question and quote what Sir Richard Branson has said was the best advice he ever received from his Mother – which I read recently and rather liked – and that was “never look back with regret but always move on to the next thing”. I suppose the corresponding message to me when I was young was that you can’t expect to succeed at everything but always try your best.
Why are there such strong business links between the UK and Australia and New Zealand ?
The answer to this question is in part due to the strong historical ties that exist between the UK and Australia and New Zealand and membership of bodies such as the Commonwealth. However, these considerations alone cannot explain the strength of the links : the fact of the matter is that our companies feel comfortable doing business in each other’s markets given that there is so much that is familiar to them – the size of the expat populations and the similar business environments and legal and regulatory regimes. The UK is the obvious springboard for Australian and New Zealand companies in Europe whilst an increasing number of UK companies are targeting the Asian market from Australia or New Zealand.
Why do Australian and New Zealand companies do so well in Britain ?
As I have said, Australian and New Zealand companies typically feel comfortable operating in the UK which offers them a business-friendly environment, a skilled and flexible workforce, access to capital and international connections. I think other reasons include similar consumer preferences and the innovation and dynamism of many Australian and New Zealand companies setting up in the UK : companies such as Tinyme – that makes personalised products for kids – Absolute Skateboards and Lanzatech – that has developed a gas-to-liquid fermentation process – that the UKTI network has helped set up in the UK for the first time in the last year. I am sure the fact that we speak broadly the same language also helps !
What is the best thing about doing business in Australia and New Zealand ?
There are many good things about doing business in both Australia and New Zealand. Both rank highly in global terms for ease of setting up and operating a business. Both offer stable business environments and have done better in recent years than most other developed markets. Australians and Kiwis have a reputation for friendliness – except when it comes to the sports field – whilst the climate and lifestyle make doing business in both countries even more attractive.
What is the highlight of your career to date ?
I have been very fortunate in my career – in both government and the private sector – and have met many famous people and enjoyed many memorable experiences. I have acted as Private Secretary to senior UK Government Ministers (Bernard in the ‘Yes Minister’ television series) and have been lucky enough to lead some GREAT UKTI teams in overseas markets. The highlight – in terms of meeting people – has to be (without any shadow of a doubt) meeting Nelson Mandela – who now is sadly so ill – but whom I had the privilege of meeting on several occasions – as Consul General in Johannesburg – when accompanying visiting VIPs from the UK who called on him.