Business

Invest NI begins formal process to land its new chief executive

The process has begun to hunt out a new chief executive at Invest NI
The process has begun to hunt out a new chief executive at Invest NI The process has begun to hunt out a new chief executive at Invest NI

THE process has formally begun to appoint a new permanent chief executive at £160 million-a-year arm’s length body Invest Northern Ireland.

Applications for the role, which commands a salary of between £160,000 and £175,000, are being sought between now and September 8.

London-based executive search agency Berwick Partners is leading the process to find the successor to Kevin Holland, who stood down in December 2021 after just two years in charge.

Mel Chittock has been acting as interim chief executive for more than a year.

Berwick Partners, part of the Odgers Berndtson Group, was appointed as executive search partner last summer following a public procurement exercise.

Part of its remit was to "warm up the market" and head-hunt a new CEO, and that process has been ongoing since last July.

The successful candidate will be responsible for the operational delivery of the body, which exists to deliver economic development across the north on behalf of the Executive.

He/she will be accountable to the board for Invest NI’s performance and delivery of outcomes and targets and will take responsibility for implementing the decisions of the board and its committees.

The new CEO will also be personally responsible for the day-to-day operations and management of Invest NI, which has offices in 23 locations and representation in a further 25, supporting companies to broaden their export base and promoting Northern Ireland as an attractive investment location.

The role includes ensuring the agency delivers on the Department for the Economy’s 10X Economic Vision and the City & Growth Deals.

He/she must also deliver on the recommendations of the independent review carried out last year by ex-BBC chairman Sir Michael Lyons.

That panel found that “dysfunctional relationships and tension” at the highest level of Invest NI has harmed its performance, and Sir Michael made 17 recommendations calling for “urgent and profound change” within the organisation.

And while he said the agency remains best placed to take forward the north’s economic development activities, the report said there is “considerable room” for reform and repurposing of its leadership, structure, operation, control and public accountability.

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In March there was a full sign-off by the board of Invest NI, its executive leadership team and the DfE of all the recommendations from Sir Michael’s review.

More than a dozen internal groups were set up to look at each recommendation and seek solutions via the ‘Double Diamond’ methodology, a design process developed by the British Design Council divided into four phases - discover, define, develop, and deliver.

It is not clear when that process is due to conclude internally, but is likely to be signed off as one of the first tasks of the new chief executive.

After a decade of relative stability until the leadership of Alastair Hamilton, Kevin Holland (now 58) was appointed as his successor in October 2019, but quit little over two years later in December 2021 “to focus on a new area”.

This, it turned out, was to join Newry pharmaceutical firm Norbrook Laboratories as chief commercial officer.

But as revealed in the Irish News in July, he has now left that position too.

Invest NI will hope that the new man or woman at the helm will usher in a period of calm at the agency, has recently been performing well.

Last month Invest NI published its 2022/23 end-of-year performance figures which showed that every £1 of its support brought in almost £7 into the region's economy (£73m of assistance contributing £489m of investment).

It said it helped nearly 1,100 companies export to new markets, innovate new products, skill up their workforce and create new jobs.

The agency said it also supported companies to create more than 3,800 new jobs, some 65 per cent of which are outside Belfast.

:: Candidates can apply for the Invest NI CEO role by visiting www.berwickpartners.co.uk/opportunities/assignment/