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One to One: Ian Larkin, Co-group chief executive, Target Group

larkin_ian-targetgroup

Life under new owner Tech Mahindra, investing in staff and infrastructure, helping clients to succeed – and the appeal of kitesurfing in Cornwall

Target Group was bought by Tech Mahindra earlier this year. How has the firm transitioned under the new ownership?

There has been no change in the day-to-day feeling in the company. Before buying Target, Tech Mahindra was really impressed with our people, our strategy and our plans.

Tech M is running Target as a separate, but 100 per cent owned, subsidiary and the aim is for us to accelerate the delivery of our strategy. The values and behaviours in our two organisations are similar and this was important for both parties in choosing to come together.

We’ve been enjoying getting to know more about our new owner. For example, we were aware that the Mahindra Group was the biggest producer of tractors in India but it was a pleasant surprise for some of our team to be hosted at the Formula E Race in London’s Battersea Park, where Mahindra Racing was a founding team.

What have been the main changes at Target Group since the takeover?

The biggest change has been growth in the underlying business. When I joined we had around 600 colleagues; this year we have hired about 400 new staff, taking us to around 1,000.

However, so far there have been no substantial changes due to the takeover. The focus has been on continuing the good work we were doing prior to the acquisition but with an even larger amount of support, infrastructure and expertise to draw on in the background.

Do you have a particular ambition for 2017?

Our purpose is all about helping our clients to succeed, so the main ambition is for our clients to deliver on their strategic objectives.

We are also working hard, as our client mandates grow, to make sure our company is a great place to work. We’re investing in our staff and infrastructure.

How long have you been in your current role and where were you previously?

I have led Target for two years, prior to which I ran various businesses across Lloyds Banking Group.

Before Lloyds I was CFO at Virgin Money – the only place I’ve worked where a visit by the chairman got the staff giddy with anticipation and, better still, never left them disappointed.

Before Virgin I spent a number of years at McKinsey – less sexy but some of the most interesting years of my working life.

If you had not chosen your current career, what else would you have liked to do?

I have forever been in love with the sea. I grew up in Ireland, I spend a lot of time in Cornwall and, when my wife and I are planning holidays, I always lobby to go to the oceans. I have seen how ocean-based activities change lives.

So I could imagine running a business all about helping new people get into ocean-based sports.

Who is your all-time hero, and why?

I’m torn between Isambard Kingdom Brunel and my mum. I don’t need to tell you about Brunel.

When I was young, Mrs Larkin was passionate about education and development and she made lots of sacrifices so that we could make the most of them. She will be 80 in February and the only pity is that, in the world of her youth, women could not have a career. Ireland would have been a much better place if she and her peers had been treated equally to men.

Do you have any secret talents?

I like to think I have a singing voice. My favourite place to sing is in the shower.

I was in a cheap B&B on the Isle of Wight one weekend. The shower was spectacularly weak but that just made me sing an Irish ballad even louder. When I got to breakfast, the B&B owner was in tears. She said my song was the most beautiful thing she had ever heard. Does one hit in a lifetime count as a secret talent?

What do you do in your spare time?

I like to totally switch off from work and it is hard to beat kitesurfing in Cornwall. I took up kiting 10 years ago because it looked so difficult, and it still is. But when everything comes together, the whole feeling is just fantastic.

What is the best advice you have received?

Be yourself; everybody else is taken.

If you were chancellor for a day, what would be your priorities?

Reduce taxes, increase infrastructure spend, raise the pension age and stop fiddling with buy-to-let.

COMPANY PROFILE

Year established: 1979
Headcount: Around 1,000
Address: Imperial Way, Newport NP10 8UH
Tel: 0845 6506200

History
Established in 1979, Target Group is a provider of business process outsourcing and software products for over 50 financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Shawbrook Bank.

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