Archive for the ‘Cardiff Breakfast Club’ Category

We were joined for the first Cardiff Breakfast Club of the season by Ron Jones, Founder and Executive Chairman of ‘super-indie’ television production company Tinopolis. Ron has been awarded the CBE for his contribution to the media industry and is an advisor on the creative industries to the Welsh Government. His talk focused on the economic benefits of supporting the creative industries – particularly television and film – in Wales.

Ron began by explaining that all government worldwide are now realising that the creative industries are important in driving economic growth, and that in countries such as Singapore governments are ‘throwing money’ at creative projects, creating a highly competitive environment in which Welsh companies have to compete.

However, Ron stressed the fact that the creative industries are an area in which Wales holds its own thanks to the talent and expertise within the industry. The sector now employs 75,000 people – an increase of 50% over the last ten years. With the average weekly earnings for employees in the industry between £710 and £720 a week, much higher than other priority sectors, the contribution of those working in the creative industries to the economy is substantial.

Ron expressed concern that few Welsh companies were heading ‘for the high seas’ to compete across the world in what has become a global industry and emphasised the need for Welsh television to compete across the world. Ron’s own company, Tinopolis, has offices across the UK, LA, Middle East and Singapore and will have a turnover of £250million this year. He used Tinopolis as an example to show that Wales is not at a competitive disadvantage and that technology means
that there is no reason why Wales shouldn’t be a ‘global player’.
Cardiff Breakfast ClubRon also stressed the need for help and funding for the Welsh creative industries from the government, pointing out that;“Much of the growth has come from small micro-businesses of which some have the potential to become significant players. We need to match government funds to the needs of these companies.”

Ron noted that there are many talented and supportive civil servants working within the Welsh Government and that a good relationship has been established between the creative sector and the government, but that there is still obstruction to finding and support that needs to be addressed to help Wales become a global player in the industry.

The next Breakfast Club will be held on 23rd October with guest speaker Tim Williams, Chief Executive of the Welsh Automotive Forum. For further information and booking details, please contact or phone 02920 549597.

Simon Powell, Eysys

It was our last Breakfast Club of the season and we were joined by established Welsh entrepreneur, Simon Powell. Simon is currently the chairman and investor of four businesses in the travel and technology sectors, as well as the Managing Director of Powell Property Developments LTD, Founder of and CEO of Comtec Group. He has a wealth of experience, not only in setting up successful businesses, but also in turning around struggling businesses.

Simon began by stressing that, when setting up a business, it’s important to define what people want from it in terms of success. From something small and simple like running a successful corner shop to owning a fast car or becoming a billionaire, he believes that success is relative and what is most important is that people can define what it means to them and have a chance of achieving it.

He went on to list the things that he has done throughout his business career that most helped him to achieve his own success, in particular sharing equity. Simon recommended Finance Wales as an investor, but also advised potential entrepreneurs to share equity with their employees; “I think it is important to share equity, not just with financial institutions…but with the teams that are going to drive things.”

Simon also emphasised the importance of putting together a strong team to work together on the business, and making decisions quickly, fixing any wrong ones as soon as possible. He admitted that there are ‘no straight roads in business’ and that there will be bad days, but the important thing is to remain focused. He sees that his role in all of his businesses is to create opportunities, push through decisions, and make and maintain relationships.

Evidence of Simon’s theories being put into practice can be seen in his recent reacquisition of Comtec in October 2014. After a loss of £5m last year, the business is now projecting an Ebitda of £1.4m for this year.Breakfast Club

Simon is passionate about finding the next generation of talented young people to work in technology and highlighted the importance of working with schools to help inspire children to pursue a career within the tech industry. In particular, he talked about the huge potential within Wales and Welsh schools to produce skilled tech professionals, but emphasised the fact that not enough is being done to achieve this with current tech courses not tailored to business.

Simon concluded his talk by encouraging graduates who are thinking about setting up their own businesses to go for it, stating that there is lots of funding available and that “if you’re passionate and committed, you can do it”.

Dates and speakers for the autumn will be announced soon. For further information and booking details, please contact or phone 02920 549597.

Gareth Davies addresses the Club

Gareth Davies addresses the Breakfast Club

We were lucky enough to have been joined by Gareth Davies, Chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) as the speaker for this month’s Breakfast Club. An ex British Lion and Captain of Wales, Gareth has an illustrious sporting background as well as a strong professional and business record, and has previously held the position of Chairman of the Sports Council for Wales and Commissioning Editor for Sports and Events at S4C.

Gareth began his presentation by explaining that one of his first priorities when becoming Chairman of the WRU was to develop ‘greater unity’ within the organisation. In order to achieve this, Gareth is committed to making the Union more open and transparent, and improving communication between all levels, from club to elite.

Gareth believes that as the elite level is very successful, the WRU needs to concentrate on creating a strong grassroots foundation in order to develop players for the future. One of the projects currently underway in this area is the School Club Hub Initiative. The WRU has been working with 43 schools across Wales to establish Rugby Development Officers in each school. The project, which is half funded by the WRU and half by the schools, has been hugely successful, with the number of schools involved set to double in September.

Copy of Cardiff Breakfast Club Gareth Davies Image 3 - compressedGareth also discussed some of the issues surrounding the Millennium Stadium as an asset of the WRU. Now 15 years old, the ongoing maintenance costs are extensive, with the current priority being the need for all the Stadium seats to be replaced over the next few years, an enterprise which will cost the Union £4/5 million. The WRU are also looking to expand the footprint of the Stadium, and Gareth is looking forward to the Stadium hosting 8 matches for the upcoming World Cup as a key opportunity for the Stadium to be exhibited to the world.

Gareth concluded his presentation by highlighting some of the changes to the WRU Board itself. The Union has recently appointed two new non-exec directors and for the first time ever, its first female board member. Gareth also explained that they are looking to bring in more outside expertise and have created a special advisory board of 5 individuals from worldwide businesses who can use their business knowledge to advise the WRU on particular projects.

The next Breakfast Club will be held on 18th June with guest speaker Simon Powell, CEO of Eysys. For further information and booking details, please contact or phone 02920 549597.

Dr Drew Nelson, IQE

Dr Drew Nelson, IQE

This month we were joined by Dr Drew Nelson, CEO and President of IQE. With operations spread across the UK, US, Taiwan and Singapore and annual revenues of over US$ 200 million, IQE is the largest global supplier of advanced semiconductor wafers.

Drew began his talk to the Club by explaining the importance of semiconductor wafers in today’s world. Used in everything from every-day objects such as smartphones, computers and lights, to drones, satellites and electric cars, compound semiconductors are a vital element of modern technology. IQE is a world leader in the design and manufacture of these compound semiconductors and currently holds a staggering ‘48% of the world’s market for semiconductor wafers’.

Drew explained that over the past 20 years, the UK’s status as a top technology manufacturer has greatly reduced, with Asian-based companies now taking the lead. Drew believes that there is a strong need to bring back high technology manufacturing to the UK and he highlighted the negative impact that losing manufacturing, and research and development has on UK exports.

Breakfast ClubFollowing this, Drew discussed the vision to create a global high technology cluster of semiconductors in Wales. Drew believes that creating this would have a huge impact on the economy. ‘Every job in high technology creates a further four jobs’ and Drew estimates that the development of this technology cluster could create up to 5000 jobs. Plans for creating this semiconductor cluster are already underway and Drew is currently working in partnership with 18 leading technology firms, with backing from Cardiff University and support of the Welsh Government.

Creating this high technology cluster may be an ambitious project, but it is one which Drew believes to be a ‘once in a generation opportunity’.

The next Breakfast Club will be held on 15th May with guest speaker Gareth Davies, Chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union. For further information and booking details, please contact or phone 02920 549597.

Ioan Jenkins, Tidal Lagoon Power

Ioan Jenkins, Tidal Lagoon Power

This month’s Breakfast Club meeting was a particularly busy event with the topic drawing a lot of interest. The meeting was addressed by Ioan Jenkins, Development Director for Tidal Lagoon Power, the company which is currently developing the world’s first tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay. 

Ioan began his presentation by explaining the basics of the Tidal Lagoon project. He described their business as “capturing the energy in the tide” in order to provide “reliable home-grown energy for up to 120 years.” The company aim to eventually deliver a fleet of 6 lagoons across the UK, providing low cost energy for a large proportion of the country.

According to Ioan, the Swansea Tidal Lagoon will create a new UK industry and long term UK jobs, with over £30bn worth of investment.  1,850 full time jobs stand to be created during the lagoon’s three year construction period alone.  If permission is granted for all 6 of the lagoons then an estimate of 35,800 jobs could be created, with over 70,000 roles during peak construction times.

The project will produce a huge amount of renewable energy – harnessing the 7-9m tidal range in Swansea along the length of the 9.5km long causeway and will generate enough energy for over 100,000 homes. This amounts to 85% of Swansea Bay’s domestic use and 11% of Wales’ domestic use. It will also provide an annual CO₂ saving of 236,000t.

Ioan also explained that they are hoping to have planning approved by the Secretary of State for Energy by early June, to allow building to commence by the beginning of next year. On this timescale, we could expect to be receiving the first power from the lagoon in late 2018 or early 2019.

Concluding his presentation, Ioan suggested that the lagoon would reduce the cost of living, keep up with the UK’s energy demands and protect and enhance the environment, whilst providing the opportunity to boost flood protection. It will also have a significant positive impact on education and the tourist industry.

Tessa Blazey then took over from Ioan to discuss the potential plans for a Cardiff Tidal Lagoon, which would be on a much larger scale than its Swansea counterpart. Compared to the Swansea area of 11km² the Cardiff lagoon would cover an estimated 70km², harnessing power from an average tide of 9.21m.

This lagoon would have the ability to generate enough energy for the whole of Wales. Although discussions are in the early stages, Tessa suggested that current indicators are wholly positive.

Breakfast club meetings are held monthly at St. David’s Hotel and Spa with a range of guest speakers. For further information and booking details, please or phone 02920 549597.

I found the talk by James at today’s Cardiff Breakfast Club held at St David’s Hotel really inspiring. As founder and CEO of SuperStars, the child development organisation he set up nine years ago, he has grown the business to be a great commercial success, currently employing 240 staff and working with 80,000 children a week.

James’ awards are many, but surely the pinnacle was last year’s Institute of Directors annual national awards when he was crowned overall Director of the Year.

james taylorIn his talk, James outlined some key essentials of being a successful entrepreneur. From the £1000 he used from his parents to start his business, James explained that while academically not the highest achiever, he had an idea and saw a gap in the education sector which he subsequently exploited.  He was glowing in his praise of Cardiff as a super place to live, and of the ability for individuals to get help and access to politicians, and to those in positions to help a young business grow.

He gave numerous examples of the need to strongly believe in what you are doing, to be tenacious in selling your services/products, and to be absolutely passionate about your offer. It took him 10 visits to various schools before getting his first order!

James is equally passionate about supporting young people in Wales who seek to be the entrepreneurs of the future and sits as Chairman of the Entrepreneurial Board for Wales. He appealed for all networking events attended by business people to encourage young people with aspirations to be an entrepreneur to attend. He also confirmed the need for role models and mentors to visit schools/colleges to encourage youngsters to follow in his footsteps.

By hard work, spotting a gap in the market, and being passionate about what you do, even with the ups and downs which every business goes through, young people of Wales have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and bring prosperity not just to themselves, but to the wider society and Wales as well.

Keep up the excellent work James, 10/10!

At our first Breakfast Club of the New Year, we were joined by Rhys Herbert, Senior Economist for Lloyds Bank. Rhys works in the Economics Research Department for Lloyds, where he is responsible for analysing and forecasting trends in a number of the major G10 economies.

Global Output ImprovingRhys began his presentation to the Club by stating his prediction that we should “see this as a year that UK interest rates will start to turn around.” Since the recession, interest rates have been incredibly low but as the economy recovers, interest rates should increase alongside it. Rhys says that a key question that needs to be asked on the topic is “Should interest rates still be at the emergency levels they were at during the recession?” He commented that this is even more relevant in the US, since interest rates there are currently even lower than the UK, although they are expected to rise again this year.

Since the recession in 2009, the UK has seen a very hesitant recovery. However, the recent fall in oil prices is a key factor in the UK’s future recovery. Oil prices are currently at slightly more than pre-recession levels but significantly less than at any other point since then which is helping to bolster the economy.

Rhys also explained that he doesn’t see disinflation as a huge concern for either the UK or the US. The US is generally similar to the UK with a slightly hesitant recovery initially but their economy is now doing quite well. By contrast, the overall level of output in the Euro area remains low and inflation there is currently so low that deflation is more of a concern.

Rhys continued by explaining that UK inflation figures have fallen sharply over the past few months which would make it difficult at present to increase interest rates. However, the current domestic situation does point to good inflation ahead and we could perhaps expect a rise in interest rates towards the end of this year.

Rhys also noted the relevance of UK politics to economic forecasting with the upcoming General Election in May.  He explained that as the political situation in the UK is currently unusually uncertain, it is Welsh Economy Undeperformingdifficult to make economic predictions for immediately post election.

Concluding his presentation with a focus on Wales, Rhys said that the Welsh economy is recovering much more slowly than the UK as a whole. He also made reference an over-reliance on the public sector and a need for more investment in the private sector.

Breakfast club meetings are held monthly at St. David’s Hotel and Spa with a range of guest speakers. For further information and booking details, please contact or phone 02920 549597.

This month we were joined by Chief Executive of Sport Wales, Sarah Powell. Sarah was appointed in September 2013 and is the first female to hold this position within the organisation. She has previously worked on the Sports Council for Wales with the Welsh National Governing Bodies (NGBs) of sport as well as heading the Performance and Excellence department.

Sarah Powell

Sarah Powell

Sarah also authored and implemented Wales’ Elite Sports Strategy which provided the framework within which Welsh athletes broke all records of medals won at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Beginning her address to the Breakfast Club, Sarah stressed the need to embrace sport within Wales and break down preconceptions that “Wales is a small nation punching above its weight.” Wales should seek success, including a bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth games, and “cannot and should not embrace second best.” Sarah pointed to the success of Frankie Jones, the inspirational Welsh gymnast who won gold in her last ever performance during the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Sarah also explained that we are currently witnessing unprecedented times in Welsh budget cuts, with sport being one of the areas to be hit the hardest. She said that: “I passionately believe that for too long sport and leisure have been seen as the soft options for cuts. In my opinion this is short sighted when sport and participation have such a vital role in supporting the health crisis.” She also stressed the fact that Sport Wales are still delivering despite these cuts – despite decreasing investment they have hit every target set out over the past 2 years.

Sport Wales is now engaging and working with business more than has ever been seen before. Yet Sarah says there is still a need to do more to continue to develop even stronger partnerships. She also stressed the fact that “it is people we need to invest in, not just ideas.” Steps also need to be taken to make sport more engaging across a wider spectrum of society.

To conclude her talk, Sarah stressed her belief that it is vital to work with the aim of “building a Sportopia – a Wales where sport is valued.” Since the World Health Organisation have cited getting physically active as one of the key steps for a healthier nation, it is easy to see why.

The next Breakfast Club will be held on 20th January with guest speaker Trevor Williams, Chief Economist of Lloyds Bank. For further information and booking details, please contact or phone 02920 549597.

Ben Rule, Operations Director for First Great Western

This month we were joined by Operations Director for First Great Western, Ben Rule. Ben was appointed as Operations Director in June 2013 having started his railway career in 1997 with signalling and operational management roles in Railtrack and Network Rail. In his role at First Great Western he is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the railway and manages 3,500 front-line staff.

Ben began his speech to the Breakfast Club by explaining how First Group is one of the largest and most complicated franchises in the country, facilitating 97 million passenger journeys a year. The company currently provides 9,500 services a week, an increase of over 1000 since 2007. First Great Western owns one of the oldest and most diverse train fleets in the country, with a 125mph service operating between London and South Wales.

The company is currently implementing a number of timetable improvements, with the ultimate aim of improving performance whilst balancing factors such as cost. Ben explained that for customers, performance is the key factor. However, “upgrades mean long-term benefits but short term challenges”. This is true of a temporary closure of Severn Tunnel Junction next year and Ben explained how double tracks have been reopened between Gloucester and South Wales to ensure that accessibility is still at the highest possible level.


First Great Western are continually striving to improve services

According to Ben, First Great Western are not satisfied by their current 83% customer satisfaction rate, but acknowledge that it is a significant increase on the 78% that they were scoring in 2007 before the launch of their ‘I’m a Great Westerner’ campaign. Ben also made reference to new features aimed at improving customers’ experiences, such as free wifi on all trains by spring 2015. First Great Western is now also the only train operator in the country to offer a Pullman’s Dining Service.

Ben also spoke of the company’s plans to upgrade existing first class carriages whilst reducing their numbers, in order to increase carriage numbers in standard class. The company hope that by increasing capacity and continuing to offer incentives (such as decreased ticket prices) to travel at less busy times, overcrowding problems on some of their trains will be reduced.

Concluding his presentation, Ben explained First Group’s main aim of “trying to put ourselves back at the heart of communities, particularly in South Wales.” With continued improvements to services he hopes that rail travel will remain popular and provide easy travel for business populations throughout the UK.

The next Breakfast Club will be held on 11th December with guest speaker Sarah Powell, Chief Executive Officer of Sport Wales. For further information and booking details, please or phone 02920 549597.

Tim Williams, CEO, Committee for Sydney

Tim Williams, CEO, Committee for Sydney

This month’s Breakfast Club was another busy meeting and we were joined by guest speaker Tim Williams, CEO of the Committee for Sydney. Against the backdrop of Cardiff Bay, Tim gave an insightful and forward thinking talk on Cardiff’s future as a World City.

The Committee for Sydney is an independent think tank with members from all sectors of the city, and is recognised as one of the world’s leading urban renewal thinkers. Before moving to Australia in 2010, Tim was the senior Special Advisor to a number of UK cabinet ministers in the Department of Communities and Local Government, and also previously served as CEO of Thames Gateway Partnership.

Speaking on the first annual World Cities Day, Tim began his talk to the Breakfast Club by discussing global trends in relation to city growth and the significance that they have for city regeneration. He explained how in recent years people have been flocking to cities in what can be seen as the biggest demographic event since the baby boom. Contrary to the past, people are now trading off large homes in the suburbs in favour of homes close to city centres and all that the city can offer. This change can be effectively summed up by the slogan; “Smaller Homes, Shared Spaces, Bigger Lifestyles” and it is absolutely vital that this is considered when planning the future of developing cities such as Cardiff.

Tim also explained that female graduates are redesigning cities in a way which has never been seen before. According to Tim, 25-34 year olds are the key demographic to attract to cities in order to ensure their economic future and this is something that he believes Cardiff is already succeeding in doing.

Breakfast ClubTim believes that public transport development needs to be at the heart of city expansion. He was keen to stress his opinion that the “metro is a vital project” to connect Cardiff and the Valleys and to provide relief for the overused M4 corridor. According to Tim, more road space equals more cars and the proposed M4 relief road is not a sustainable solution to Cardiff’s congestion or accessibility problems. ‘Walkable’ Urban development is ‘becoming the market’ and this is something that Cardiff needs to be aware of and invest in.

Tim concluded his talk by stating that devolution to the Welsh Assembly is essential, but of equal importance is devolution from the Welsh Assembly to the city itself. Cardiff needs to have more power to make effective decisions for itself. Tim strongly believes that “Cardiff’s momentum is real and we need to unleash it further”.

The next Breakfast Club will be held on 19th November with guest speaker Ben Rule, Operations Director of First Great Western. For further information and booking details, please contact or phone 02920 549597.