The Business On... Simon Walker, Director-General, Institute of Directors

Click to follow
The Independent Online

That posh club on Pall Mall?

Yes, though the private members' club is only part of the deal at the Institute of Directors. You won't be seeing Mr Walker serving the G&Ts too often – he's been hired for his lobbying skills. The IoD sees itself as an influential voice for business.


To a point. The seniority of its membership gives it a certain reach and it is listened to in Westminster. Still, it is outranked by the CBI, which has more influence – and a bigger team working on policy – and is prone to coming across a little too free-market if you know what we mean.

Tell us about Mr Walker?

Tomorrow, he succeeds Miles Templeman, the current director-general, who is standing down after seven years in post. He'll be expected to push at some open doors for business in Government.

The right man for the job?

His CV is impressive. He's spent the past four years running the British Venture Capital Association. It hired him in 2007 after finding itself at the centre of a storm over greedy private equity firms. Mr Walker arrived to steady the ship and did a good job rebuilding the sector's image. Vitally, he then helped the industry ensure the excesses of the EC's Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive never made it into law.

And before that?

He headed communications at companies including Reuters and British Airways. He also had a stint as communications secretary to the Queen and worked as a special adviser in 10 Downing Street under John Major.

Isn't representing business going to be a breeze after all that?

Don't bet on it. Though the IoD backs the Government's austerity drive, it has expressed its frustration about the policy response on growth. Mr Walker has to persuade ministers to do more to help businesses invest for the future. But he's also likely to run into flak from unions worried about deregulation. Then there are issues such as women on the board that the IoD's members would like to see kicked into the long grass. This is going to be quite a challenge.