The Player: Philip Swinstead, Chairman Of Parity: We want to lead the world in e-commerce

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The Independent Online
PERSONAL DETAILS: Aged 56. Lives in Newbury, Berkshire. Drives silver Aston Martin DB5 convertible. Hobbies include collecting classic cars and tending his vineyard in the South of France. A keen sportsman, he enjoys playing cricket, golf and skiing. Received OBE for his contribution to the UK software industry. Total salary/fees in 1997 of pounds 168,000.

CHALLENGE: To repeat the success of the past five years during which Parity's market capitalisation has grown from pounds 2m to around pounds 300m. Mr Swinstead says companies "always have to have a vision." He predicts that electronic commerce will be a major boom sector. "We are throwing our hat into the e-commerce ring" he says, and forecasts Parity "will be one of the leaders in the western world."

CORPORATE BACKGROUND: Mr Swinstead has been described by industry insiders as "the great guru of the IT services sector". He has extensive knowledge of the sector garnered from his 40 years in the industry. He led the management buy-in to create Parity in 1993. He had founded and run SD-Scicon for 22 years, turning it into one of Europe's largest software services companies. It was sold in 1991 to EDS, part of General Motors.

STRATEGY: When Parity was created five years ago its clear strategy was to create a significant IT business with two arms: international IT solutions and a high quality IT staff agency in the UK. This was achieved in 1998 with the two divisions producing combined revenues of pounds 290m. Mr Swinstead says Y2K issues and the impact of the euro are "not major factors". He is confident western air traffic control and nuclear systems will not fail as a result of the date change. He anticipates problems with some accounting, billing and City systems.

Parity is back on the acquisition trail after a quiet year in 1998. Three businesses purchased in the previous year were successfully integrated into the group. "We have a very clear idea about who we want to be'', he says. He would like to broaden Parity's geographic coverage in the US, outside its base in New York. There is also thought to be scope to acquire some niche businesses in Continental Europe in areas such as training and consultancy.

MANAGEMENT STYLE: Relaxed. The management of the group is a team effort, says Mr Swinstead, who spends much of his time on strategy, assessing the future direction of the company and any possible acquisition opportunities.

MOST ADMIRES IN BUSINESS: Philip Hughes and his Logica computer software company. Other companies Mr Swinstead rates highly include Admiral and Druid.

CITY VERDICT: Parity does not enjoy the lofty ratings seen by larger computer software companies such as Logica. This reflects the lower value placed by the City on Parity's staff agency business. But Mr Swinstead is highly regarded.