Donna Ahern talks to Owen Clifford, head of retail, Bank of Ireland.
How would you describe your role?
I am an advocate for the Irish retail sector, engaging with and supporting retailers on a daily basis to grow and develop their businesses.
What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
Picking potatoes – some jobs require a marathon mind-set as opposed to a sprint!
What do you enjoy most about your current job?
It is great to be able to travel around the country meeting retailers. I always learn something new from a store visit. What you can learn about a sector is very limited from behind a desk.
What is your advice to people starting out in the industry?
Take the initiative to meet and speak with people who work in the sector. Don’t rely on emails or video calls. Take a positive approach to building relationships and your network.
What do you think the government could do to help retail businesses in the current climate?
Firstly, I would acknowledge that the government was proactive in supporting businesses during the pandemic. Given the multi-faceted issues impacting the retail sector at present – employee shortages, rising energy costs, the decline in city-centre footfall, supply-chain restrictions, and proposed new environmental legislation – a cross-departmental, joined-up retail strategy would be a welcome development.
What three business people do you most admire, and why?
Denis Brosnan – Kerry Group, Brian McCarthy – Fexco, and Breege O’Donoghue – Penneys/Primark. All three have demonstrated how a thriving international business can be developed and nurtured in Ireland. Also, all of them have maintained a hard-working ethic, matched with a down to earth personality, throughout their careers.
What advertising campaign have you most enjoyed in recent months?
I would have to say Bank of Ireland’s financial wellbeing campaign fronted by TV personality Baz Ashmawy!
Who would come to your ideal dinner party (living or dead)?
My wife Eimear. We have three young children, including four-month- old twins, so the opportunity for a ‘date night’ together is very limited at the moment!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“To thine own self be true”. Courtesy of my mother, Eleanor, via William Shakespeare!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I try to go for a run a couple of times a week even though, at present, the majority of my weekly exercise involves pushing a double-buggy in a 1km radius around our house. I enjoy watching/attending a wide range of sporting events (especially GAA) and reading when I get some spare time.
How much time do you spend on social media in an average week?
One to two hours per week
Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?
Most likely to say?
“It is a privilege to support the world-class Irish retail sector on a daily basis.”
Least likely to say?
"Has anyone seen my Cork jersey?”