The new CPA Ireland president
plans to use his tenure to advocate ways Ireland can stay globally
competitive. Geoff Meagher tells Carolyn Canham about the
importance of lowering the cost of business in Ireland, ensuring
credit is available for SMEs and promoting education

Geoff Meagher

Geoff Meagher has had a remarkably
diverse career for a man who worked at a single company for 44
years. The new CPA Ireland president began his articles with a
PricewaterhouseCoopers predecessor firm in the late 1960s in
Kilkenny, but the accountancy background was only ever a means to
an end.

“From a very early stage I wanted to be
involved directly in business and involved in the core phase of
making things happen in the business environment,” he says.

On completion of his articles, Meagher moved
into industry and in 1975 joined the Avonmore Group, a large Irish
dairy company.

Meagher worked his way up through the ranks and
in 1992 was appointed group finance director.

Following a 1997 merger between Avonmore and
fellow Irish dairy company Waterford, Meagher became group finance
director of the merged entity, which became the dairy giant Glanbia
Group. Meagher continued his corporate climb, becoming deputy group
managing director in 2005. He officially retired in June 2009, but
is currently advising Glanbia Co-operative Society on the possible
purchase of Glanbia’s Irish business units, which have a €1bn
($1.2bn) turnover.

“I come from a farming background so when the
opportunity arose to join the Avonmore Group, which is a very
substantial food company in Ireland, it was an offer I couldn’t
resist,” Meagher recalls. “I suppose I have been lucky in that
during my time with the organisation it grew and developed in so
many different ways. It was almost the same as changing jobs every
four or five years except that in my case it happened with one
company.”

Meagher’s work with Avonmore and then Glanbia
covered a variety of high-profile and demanding events. He was
involved in converting Avonmore from a co-operative into a public
company and helped with about 30 acquisitions and disposals of
overseas operations during a 10-year period. The merger between
Avonmore and Waterford was also significant.

“That was probably the biggest merger in the
Irish food industry and involved substantial rationalisation and
change over the following five years,” he explains.

“It has been a period of enormous change. I
have seen huge change and the opportunity to develop my career
within the one organisation.”

 

Quote from Geoff Meagher, CPA IrelandKeeping up

Ireland’s Celtic Tiger period of rapid
economic growth came to a crashing halt with the banking crisis of
2008 and the ensuing two years has seen the nation struggling to
find its footing.

Meagher plans to use his year-long term as CPA
Ireland president to advocate ways Ireland can regain and maintain
its global competitiveness.

First, he is keen to advocate the importance of
addressing the cost of doing business in Ireland.

“I am talking about energy, regulation,
services. There is a significant infrastructure cost in doing
business in Ireland,” Meagher explains. “The government has done
some work on it, but needs to do a lot more.”

Second, Meagher wants to draw attention to the
impact of the banking crisis on small and medium-sized enterprises,
particularly regarding the availability of credit and working
capital.

“We have accepted the logic of government in
terms of the bailout of the banks and the input of capital to the
banks, but I don’t think we have seen much in terms of a tangible
return to our investment yet,” he says.

“I think a fairly major area for the government
and the banks to tackle is ensuring that credit, which is the
lifeblood of businesses, is actually available and available at
competitive rates without an undue regulatory or administrative
burden in terms of acquiring it.”

Meagher’s third priority is an area of personal
interest.

“The education system in Ireland over the last
20 years has served very well, but I think we need to keep updating
that to ensure our young people are fully trained in the type of
needs and services that a modern Ireland in 2010 and going forward
will actually need,” he explains.

“The world is more competitive and is going to
become even more competitive – and unless we have the skill sets to
meet that, particularly with our young people, we are going to lose
out vis a vis other countries around the world.”

All three of Meagher’s priorities affect both
CPA Ireland members and their clients. These issues have been
addressed by CPA Ireland representations in the past, and will be
addressed again in the year ahead.

The challenges can be solved, but Meagher and
the wider Irish society certainly have their work cut out for
them.