Market Leaders Pick Their Market Leader: Who is the water industry boss you'd want on tap?
Wednesday 23 June 1999
Group Managing Director
IT IS difficult to pick out one player. I do have a lot of respect for Vic Cocker of Severn Trent and Graham Hawker of Hyder, but if pressed, I would have to choose a newcomer to the water scene. Rebecca Mark is chairman and CEO of Azurix, the global water business of Enron. She thinks big and is a real global player. The water industry needs people who are able to make big, brave decisions as she has done, to transform a traditional utility into an innovative, competitive and forward-thinking business. The water industry in the UK needs a fresh approach if it is to compete successfully in the lucrative international market and roll back intrusive regulation. Her roots are in the American utility sector but she has thought and acted globally from the beginning, pursuing asset development and privatisation opportunities around the world as she developed new business for Enron. Rebecca is definitely one to watch, a formidable competitor and I wish her well - but not too well.
Dee Valley Water
ACTUALLY, NOBODY really stands out in the industry for me at the moment, although the City does hold up South Staffordshire as a financial success. The whole business works through evolution rather than revolution, so it isn't really reliant on people to stand out as movers and shakers, it's more of a fine-tuning business. The water industry moves slowly and is slow to change because of the way regulation works. And we can't really change the way it works. Because it is such a highly regulated industry, we have to all provide a constant high level of service. I suppose that Ofwat really measures efficiency but the models it uses aren't terribly accurate as far as I'm concerned and the way they work changes over time. So, as I say, there isn't one market leader at present as we all strive to achieve the same level of competence.
Wessex Water Services Ltd and Azurix Services
I THINK that from the current crop of senior managers and directors Derek Green of United Utilities stands out. He has managed to stabilise the company and has got it focused back on the basics after a difficult period for them. He managed to turn it around and get it focused once more on the core business. This was a tremendous job considering the state of the business when he arrived. He has also been sensible enough to stick to his date of retirement. Of those currently running companies, he would be my market leader. If we were to look back over the industry for the past 20 years and ask what has it achieved, I think that WaterAid has been the water industry's greatest achievement so far. It is a charity supported by the water industry which provides water and sewage arrangements in developing countries and has helped well over 10 million people, and it was a chap called David Kinnersley who was involved in setting it up. He has retired now but it was his idea which has done so much good in the world. I am extremely impressed by what he did in the past, and the legacy he has left for the future.
Severn Trent Water
I SUPPOSE I'd have to choose two people from different sides of the industry but people who in their different ways are very impressive: Pamela Taylor, the chief executive of Water UK, and Bob Baty of South West Water. Pamela Taylor is chief executive of our trade association which brings together the water companies to speak with one voice. She has created a credible voice for our industry and has put an enormous amount of energy into doing so. She's organised and focused, has drive, energy and determination and is seen as a voice of the industry.
For the way he's turned around South West Water, I am very impressed with Bob Baty. The company was having very bad PR problems. It had implemented huge price increases to finance a massive sewage investment programme round the coast. It was also the target for take-overs. In fact, these takeover attempts were probably the spur that caused South West to get its act together. It became more open and started to deliver more complex investment plans. It has become more acceptable within the business scene and has been seen as not letting the side down, as it were. Much of the credit for these moves should go to Bob.
Sutton and East Surrey Water
THE MANAGING director of Severn Trent Water, Brian Duckworth, has played a tremendously important role in the water industry over the past two years. As the first chairman of the industry's new national body, Water UK, he's been instrumental in pulling the entire sector together, both public and private, in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. He's been the industry's most effective ambassador. What comes across when you meet Brian is his knowledge, his enthusiasm, and his ability to communicate. He can take very complex matters and turn them into something anyone can understand - a skill that's vital in a technical industry like ours. Being a figurehead for the industry requires diplomacy and tact, but that doesn't mean Brian's afraid to address major issues. If it needs tackling, Brian's right there telling it as it is.
South West Water
FOR ME there are three impressive characters currently at work within the industry. There is Brian Duckworth of Severn Trent, who is also chairman of Water UK. During a difficult period he managed to run his own company and articulate the views of the industry. I am very impressed by his flexibility and ability. Derek Green of United Utilities is also impressive. He stepped up to take the helm at a very difficult time for United and he has had a positive effect and made important changes. Finally, Colin Skellet at Wessex Water should be mentioned as he has looked after Wessex's interests and has marketed the successes of Wessex in an impressive manner. The challenge of the industry is really to recognise that we are working in changing times and operating within the political arena. The key to success is to recognise these influences and work with them.
A R Neve
Portsmouth Water plc
THIS IS quite a difficult question to answer as we don't really regard ourselves as being a part of the water utility industry as we are a water- only business. We try to maintain a strong tradition of public water supply rather than involving ourselves in diversification. We don't really have the funds to diversify and so don't really follow the lead of what one might call the market leaders. But certainly I would say that we find the immense effort and achievement of Pamela Taylor of Water UK tremendously helpful. She has given to the water-only companies their own identity and has really unified the whole industry to the extent of including the Scottish and Irish businesses. She has done a great deal for the industry and is therefore a key player within the industry.
Then there are the figures such as John Browning of Bristol Water, and Jim McGown of Three Valleys Water, who have both been figureheads in the water-only companies. They certainly played an important part during privatisation.
Three Valleys Water
IN THE past 10 years the UK water industry has been transformed. This is due to regulation and the people at the helm of the various businesses. The regulator, Ian Byatt, has undoubtedly played a significant part in the first decade of the privatised industry. Privatisation and tough regulation has propelled the industry in the country to a happy position where it is recognised as a world leader and a natural benchmark for others. Recently, Jean-Marie Messier, chairman of Vivendi, has shown the same sort of impact in the water sector. Within the UK, South Staffordshire Water had stood business on its head. While a lot of industry concentrated on striping out costs and on the core business, it has been particularly successful in developing a whole stream of revenue from non-core businesses.
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