Invest NI chief Kevin Holland to quit after two years in role

Invest NI chief executive, Kevin Holland, speaking during a media broadcast at Parliament Buildings in May 2020. Picture by Kelvin Boyes

THE chief executive of Invest NI, Kevin Holland, is to stand down after just two years in the role.

A former British trade diplomat to China, the Bristol native joined the economic support agency in October 2019, replacing long-time Invest NI boss Alastair Hamilton the following month.

His tenure was dominated initially by Brexit and subsequently by the Covid-19 pandemic, which hit Northern Ireland during March 2020.

In a statement last night, Kevin Holland said he had decided to pass on his leadership role, which attracts a starting salary of £160,000 to £175,000, “to focus on a new area”.

It's unclear when Mr Holland will officially vacate his position, but Invest NI chair Rose Mary Stalker said the process to recruit a replacement would be “initiated as soon as possible”, adding that “interim arrangements will be announced over the coming days”.

Paying tribute to the outgoing CEO, Ms Stalker said Mr Holland had provided dedication and direction during what she said had been “a particularly challenging time”.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons also expressed his thanks to Mr Holland for his “leadership and commitment during an extremely difficult period for Northern Ireland's economy”.

In recent weeks, Mr Holland spoke about the challenge of attracting inward investors during the pandemic, due to the impact on overseas travel, but he maintained that the pipeline of foreign direct investment remained “very strong”.

Mr Holland's business CV includes 10 years at Unilever and 15 years with US life sciences company Baxter. In the three years prior to joining Invest NI, he held the post of minister-counsellor for life sciences, health and social care at the British Embassy in Beijing.

In a statement, he said: “I have been truly impressed by the successful businesses and people I have met here, as well as the expertise and commitment of the Invest NI team.

“There are clear centres of excellence where Northern Ireland is truly world class.

“I am proud of the positive impact we made through both the pandemic and economic uncertainties arising from the UK's exit from the EU.

“Now, as Invest NI enters its next planning cycle, I have decided to pass on the leadership role and to focus on a new area.”

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