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East Midlands

Leicester Mercury Interviews IoD Leicestershire Chair Stephen de Looze

08 Jun 2016


Stephen de Looze will happily gatecrash a business lunch to catch up with a colleague and make a new contact. That's how we met.


After pulling over a chair in a packed Bistrot Pierre, he soon dispelled any concerns he may be an unwanted interloper.

He was affable and chatty and it wasn't long before he was talking about his new role as chairman of the Leicestershire branch of the Institute of Directors.

He spoke with passion, in his mellifluous South Shields lilt, about the challenges he faces at the IoD.

It was clear he not only takes the job seriously, he also wants to make a difference.

Don't be put off by his accent. He may not hail from these parts, but he is committed to Leicestershire, having spent nine years running his own freight transport business at East Midlands Airport.

Before that he worked in market development in the medical and surgical devices division of 3M Healthcare in Loughborough.

He also held group marketing and director roles at Reed Exhibitions, the largest exhibition organiser in the world, and part of publicly quoted Reed Elsevier.

These days he advises companies as an interim director, through his Ashby based consultancy firm eightyone.

Stephen stepped into his new IoD position in November.

He says it is not a paid job, more of an ambassadorial role, to represent the IoD's 400 or so city and county based members.

Stephen said: "My job is to represent the individual members and be the point of relay on issues of importance to the county, such as HS2, devolution and the Midlands Engine."

A new plan to make the Midlands an "engine of growth" was launched in December by Business Secretary Sajid Javid.

He said the so-called Midlands Engine could help create 300,000 jobs and boost the region's economy.

The project, supported by £5 million of Government funding, focuses on boosting the region in five key areas: trade and investment, transport, research and innovation, business support and skills.

News about the Government's proposals to drive growth across the Midlands followed an announcement about a planned devolution deal for the region, including £1 billion of Government investment in the area.

Stephen is concerned that people in Leicestershire remain uncertain about what the Midlands Engine is and what it means for Leicestershire.

He said: "From a Leicestershire point of view, we very quickly need to understand what the Midlands Engine is and what its effect will be from a business point of view.

"That means that we need to have clarity as to what the actual hard outputs are going to be.

"It is incumbent upon the Government to make that very clear.

"The Midlands Engine is a great sound bite, but in terms of nuts and bolts it's fairly unclear, particularly in respect of how it is going to impact on the Leicestershire community."

Stephen is "very clear" about what the IoD's Leicestershire branch could do to help translate the Government's big ideas into reality on the ground.

He said: "We need to provide an infrastructure at a local government level that does everything possible to promote the growth of business, both indigenous businesses and also provide an attractive environment for inward investment."

He said the IoD is in constant contact with the Government about issues facing business.

"From our headquarters in Pall Mall we are regularly in contact with various politicians and ministers across the political spectrum to make our views very clear."

At a local level, the IoD has been campaigning about HS2 and its impact on the area.

Stephen said: "When HS2 was first announced that it was going to come across from Birmingham to Toton, and then up to Sheffield, the initial view was that it could well be a good thing.

"But, purely from a Leicestershire perspective, I'm not convinced of the economic case for HS2 that is being made – though maybe the Government will link that into the Midlands Engine initiative."

One of Stephen's main concerns is that the Midlands Engine has a West Midlands bias.

He said: "My job at the IoD is to push Leicestershire's case, primarily by lobbying the powers that be on the basis of two things.

"Firstly, what it costs and what its outputs will actually be.

"And, secondly, to confirm that the Midlands Engine is in fact a Midlands Engine and exists both in the West and the East Midlands.

"The industrial infrastructure in East and West Midlands is relatively different and it's important that all aspects of the commercial lives of the Midlands are taken into account, because they all bring something different to the party.

"And we must ensure that all the benefits of the Midlands Engine spread across all sectors, whether it's SMEs, global manufacturing or consumer goods companies.

"We just need to understand what it looks like in its entirety and how that's going to benefit the area."

Stephen said it was his intention to engage with local IoD branch members "in a more active manner" so that he can more effectively represent their views.

He said: "People join the IoD for wildly differing reasons. People who travel to London a lot will join because they can use the Pall Mall headquarters as a base.

"Others are interested in the advice it provides to individual directors, for example on tax issues, legal liability and company insurance. The support network the IoD provides is geared specifically to individuals who quite often don't have access to all this expertise."

The Leicestershire branch of the IoD runs a series of meetings for its members during the year.

Its seminars address issues as diverse as crowd funding or cyber security, or the economic impact of Richard III.

Stephen said: "We're currently putting together a programme to meet both the professional and general interests of members, as a way of bringing them more into the fold so that they understand the value that their membership provides."

He is keen to attract new members to increase the branch's influence. "The IoD is very active in Leicestershire across lots of different businesses, from private companies to local government.

"We have quite a mix in terms of sector. But I'd like to see it grow among women entrepreneurs. I'm also keen that the membership reflects our very diverse business environment."

In his bid to broaden the membership, Stephen stresses that the IoD is very good at bringing business experts to the region.

He said: "We can bring some big-hitters on any aspect of the economy up to this region. We've had our chief economist up here, the head of our diversity unit, the head of tax and tax law.

"These are people right at the top of their game and they will come to our branch and give presentations, whether it's on the Budget, changes to dividend taxation or other issues that are particularly pertinent to directors of their own businesses.

"This brings a very wide perspective to the attention of the people working in local businesses, which is invaluable."



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East Midlands

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IoD East Midlands
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