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New FIDI President – new beginning

Jul 22, 2013
Errol Gardiner became President of FIDI at the Athens conference. Already serving as Vice President he expected to inherit, but the top job came a year early when Rupert Morley retired, for family reasons, after just a single year in office. Steve Jordan asked him about his role, and his ideas for the organisation.

With Rupert’s unexpected retirement from the presidential role, Errol had to accelerate his plans and adjust his duties at his company New Zealand Van Lines, to make time to perform a very hands-on role at FIDI.  “It will be a difficult combination,” he admitted.  “But I have some senior staff who are very good and I’ll have to learn the art of delegation I guess.”  Errol doesn’t expect a big escalation in the travelling requirements of the role from his time on the Board to date.  “There are four Board meetings a year, two of which are back-to-back with conferences and I expect to have at least weekly phone conversations with Michael [Cassiers, the FIDI general secretary],” he explained.  “I do want to schedule some time each day for FIDI that will enable me to be both reactive and proactive.”

Errol sees the role both as president and on the FIDI Board generally as a very active process.  He also recognises that, in Rupert, he has a hard act to follow.  “The last couple of years have been interesting as Rupert is a very strong leader who has led from the front.  It has been an inspiring and challenging time on the Board under his leadership.  But I am a different person, so we’ll be changing the emphasis a bit. I would like to see all the Board members becoming as proactive as possible.”

One positive development, according to Errol, is that the FIDI office has been strengthened in terms of numbers and quality.  “Costs have not necessarily gone up as we have brought in-house some services that were previously outsourced.  We have some new people joining us from outside the industry.  Although they have a learning curve to negotiate they do bring a fresh perspective.  Also the average age is coming down a bit and that can’t be a bad thing. We have a very good secretary general who is assembling a strong team around him that will enable him to delegate more.  So I would see that he and I would work closely together and bounce ideas off each other. That will give better quality productivity from the office as a whole.”

Asked about his opinion on the new FAIM 3.0 and the increased reliance on slow payers reporting to provide financial discipline, Errol acknowledges that some people will be reluctant to report their customers.  He points out, however, that companies have to make a decision.  “In the past we were only seeing the tip of the iceburg.  Now, if companies don’t report their slow payers after 90 days and allow FIDI to gently encourage the customer to pay, they will lose their rights under PPP.  Either you want to take advantage of this system, which is a good payment protection insurance, or you don’t - you take the risk.  In business you have to make commercial decisions. This is totally objective, totally dispassionate: do I want protection of my debtors and if I do, am I prepared to accept the risk of upsetting a customer.”  Errol has already made the decision as far as his company is concerned: “We are going to do it.” 

The FIDI presidency is very much work in progress.  “There are some initiatives that we have been working on for some time so I will continue the momentum on them.”  One such initiative, perhaps surprisingly, is the DSP programme that was shelved a couple of years ago.  “People don’t want DSP as an element of FAIM but we have a programme there, it’s a tool and there are companies that could well be interested in it.  We’ll probably make it available free to encourage people to participate.  Although FIDI is a moving organisation at the moment there is no question in my mind that we can’t continue to follow that narrow track.  Even if it’s just a couple of toes in the water that’s better than having our heads in the sand. FIDI needs to continue to evolve.”

I interviewed Errol at the FIDI conference in Athens.  Although an organisation like FIDI will always have its critics, the conference was in full swing and everyone seemed in a positive mood despite the difficult trading conditions in recent years.  There can be no doubt that, though never perfect, FIDI is still held in high regard by its loyal members.  Under Errol’s guidance, the organisation looks to be in safe hands for the foreseeable future.

Photo: Errol Gardiner

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