Meet the experts guiding Cardiff Capital Region’s investment strategy

Thought Leadership

Close to the heart of the Cardiff Capital Region’s decision making is the Economic Growth Partnership, which brings together representatives from business, the third sector, education and local government.

The EGP’s role is to advise the CCR Regional Cabinet on investment decisions, using its expertise to pick out those projects that fit the CCR’s objective of creating a more competitive region with sustainable jobs and resilient communities.

We asked six members of the EGP to tell us what they thought was distinctive about the CCR’s approach, what they hope it will achieve, and how their own background and experience equips them to help with the challenges of the region.

Kevin Gardiner

Kevin Gardiner is a global investment strategist at Rothschild Wealth Management. He thinks the way public and private sectors are working together in the CCR in pursuit of goals that are at the same time commercial, inclusive and sustainable is something special.

“Among the public partners, for the ten local authorities in particular to be cooperating in pursuit of shared objectives is I think really heartening at a time when people have perhaps become sceptical about the political process,” he said.

He hopes this collaborative approach will help the CCR achieve better living standards, improved connections and infrastructure, and more competitive products, which should lead to more jobs and better pay, all without damaging the environment.

Kevin studied economics to a high level and worked at the Bank of England before moving into the private sector. He has written extensively about competitiveness and capital markets. He wrote the “Celtic Tiger” report on Ireland, which he says remains the fastest growing (and probably most misunderstood) Western European economy.

He sees his role as to offer the “big picture, macro view.”

“I have always been interested in what makes some economies perform better than others, and I spend a lot of time discussing with global investors and businesses what it is that makes a region special,” he said.

“I grew up (very happily) in Ely, Cardiff, and still have close ties to the region (and the Bluebirds): it is a privilege to be able, in a small way, to influence the Deal’s investment framework. I like to think that I can translate economic jargon into common sense, and my background perhaps gives me a healthy sense of perspective.”

Andrew Probert

Andrew Probert is a former finance and IT director of Admiral Group. As employee number 7 at Admiral Insurance Group, a FTSE 100 company started and headquartered in south east Wales, which now employs more than 11,000 people worldwide and over 8,000 in Wales, he says he’s been involved in his fair share of economic growth and involvement from start up to mature multinational business.

Speaking of his hopes for the EGP, Andrew said:

“It’s unusual to be involved in a body that both takes a broad view of a region’s economy and needs, and applies that to pick individual investments that aim to enhance the direction of travel. I hope it achieves a more balanced and vibrant economy.”

Andrew Cooksley

Andrew Cooksley is a founder and CEO of ACT, the Cardiff-based training provider. He said the make-up of the EGP board allows for “big impact decision making” from a collective of experienced, highly knowledgeable people who know the region well, and hopes it achieves quick, high impact decision making and advice for the CCR board.

Andrew’s expertise lies in skills and people development. “Getting this right in the future will be crucial to transforming the region,” he said.

He added:

“I’m particularly keen to get over to the board what the skills delivery organisations need to be focused on. It’s more than just vocational skills, it’s about attitude, problem solving and being great team players. We also want our future workforce to be healthy, happy and motivated. Every employer wants people displaying those values.”

Cerys Furlong

Cerys Furlong is chief executive of Chwarae Teg, the charity dedicated to inspiring and delivering gender equality in Wales. As well as her expertise in equality, diversity and inclusion, Cerys also has small business experience as an owner of pubs and restaurants, and expertise in government relations and working across Welsh Government, local government and the UK Government.

Asked what she sees as distinctive about the EGP approach, she said:

“People around the table are not just the usual suspects, and not just provider or interest groups as is often the case with these types of forums. That means we can bring our wealth of experience and network, without just the organisation party line.”

She added:

“A true collaboration between the private, public and third sectors will best enable us to meet the challenging objectives we have set for inclusive growth in the region. Each voice with equal weight, and with a clear focus on doing things differently. We haven’t necessarily made things easy for ourselves, but we have to do things differently to get a different result.”

Cerys says her experience across public, private and voluntary sectors means she can take a strategic view of the challenges the region faces, and her particular experience in the field of equality and social justice means she brings a focus on the impact on different groups of people and communities to group discussions, essential if the CCR is not to repeat previous failures and achieve its aspirations of inclusive growth.

Simon Pirotte

Simon Pirotte is principal and CEO of Bridgend College. With 35 years’ experience of working in schools, further education and higher education at home and abroad, Simon hopes to bring that knowledge to the table “to help future proof our education system to meet the needs of local, national and global economies.”

He said the CCR has developed “a collaborative approach between a range of sectors, all united in working together to make an impact on the economic prosperity of the region and generating a positive social contribution.”

“The ambitious aims of CCR will not be realised without the upskilling of the current and future workforce. As we all know, the world is changing at a rapid pace and education and training providers need to be ahead of the curve if Wales is to keep up with global developments. There are great opportunities ahead of us and we need to make the most of them.”

“We have the opportunity to excel in certain sectors and need to build our infrastructures around that,” he said.

Chris Sutton

Chris Sutton is director of Sutton Consulting. His 30 years’ working as a chartered surveyor in South Wales, dealing mainly with industrial and office premises, has given him a strong insight into why businesses locate to different parts of Cardiff Capital Region.

He chaired the Welsh Government’s advisory board for the Central Cardiff Enterprise Zone and is proud of the contribution it made towards the capital’s development pipeline, which has seen over 1.5 million sq ft of office and other floorspace delivered north and south of the Great Western mainline.

Most of his working career has been spent advising on the industrial property market, delivering on new projects such as General Dynamics’ armoured vehicle plant in Merthyr Tydfil and the new-build CAF Rail facility in Llanwern. He has witnessed the trend towards off-shoring in the manufacturing sector over the past 20 years, which he says leads to a planning issue regarding the reuse of post-industrial sites – and still greater efforts to nurture and keep emerging industries and start-ups.

Of the CCR, he said:

“We are seeing collaborative working across the city region and this ‘larger than local’ approach provides a more strategic framework for investment whilst securing economies of scale in terms of delivery. Working with the HE and FE sectors, there is an ambition to improve skills and create higher value-added economic activity – however we must also deliver for our more disadvantaged communities.

Chris said he found it “satisfying to work with a team of leaders and other professionals on the EGP who are all focused upon delivering a stronger region.”

He added:

“Hopefully my experience and local knowledge adds to the skillset of this wider team. I enjoy being task-driven and would hope that this helps the team deliver.”

This week the CCR Regional Cabinet will decide on the latest investment recommendations from the EGP. The advice from the EGP’s experts will be a key factor in determining where the Regional Cabinet puts its money.


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