Kevin Dean, group managing director to Fraser Eagle, talks to Business Today about long distance co-ordination of London’s transport needs from Malta, including the day when terrorists attacked the underground
Foreign investment: Key words for economic success for any nation. Although economists may argue that Malta has edged a little bit further up the EU classification performance scale as per capita investment during 2005 and first quarter 2006, others would argue that much more could be achieved.
And when the issues, positive and negative, are indeed explained from who actually has come here to invest we all stand to attention and take notice . We do that because we love to hear what is good about us, but we also shyly admit our faults.
Kevin Dean, Group Managing Director to Fraser Eagle, Britain’s leading supplier of specialist managed transport and travel solutions, is on his umpteenth visit to Malta after setting up shop earlier this year through subsidiaries and a call centre in Mosta. He speaks highly about Malta and the Maltese, but also points out improvement areas that would make Malta even more attractive to foreign investors.
“When we set up in Malta it was not only the cost benefits we looked at, even though that is important when we compare wage bills in Malta to Britain. It’s the fact that Malta has a work force that is willing to learn, can be flexible and most of all, has an exceptional work ethic that brings us here,” argues Kevin Dean.
“We have found Malta an excellent place to invest and have received a lot of help and advice from agencies like Malta Enterprise. There are some exceptionally talented businessmen here in Malta that are forcing the pace of change."
But is it enough? With all this multi-million Lira activity, Kevin Dean earns himself a legitimate podium to speak out and explain those “fragilities” he believes, “frustrate” any investor, so I asked him what more could be done to make Malta a force to be reckoned with.
In a country that today is an EU member state, the game is completely different. It’s a question of entrepreneurship. “As I've already said Malta has some good businessmen, however many still need to come out of their shell and do business in a modern way. They must team up, form lobby groups and most of all trust each other for their own benefit,” says Kevin Dean. Can you think of going to the EU and argue on a position on your own, or simply dial a Minister’s mobile phone to intervene in favour of an issue?
Kevin Dean is explicit : “We don't want to be criticial of Malta, after all we have chosen to come here and invest and shown a willingness to work with Maltese ITC's. However, sometimes in small countries such as Malta politics and bureaucracy can hinder business progress. In Malta there needs to be greater co-operation between the public and private sectors but also a need for talented individual businessmen to get together and push for change.”
Putting aside the politics involved in this country’s economy, foreign investors express satisfaction at important improvements to the general infrastructure. But serious problems are pointed out in the transport sector. Public transport remains inefficient, roads are jammed, blocked roads with cranes, deliveries, and detours are the order of the day.
Kevin Dean, who through Fraser Eagle is by right a transport specialist, is adamant: “Transport is the key to any dynamic economy”.
Jams, detours, delays frustrate people on their way to work, it upsets their day, they perform less and consequently create complications. Transport is crucial to efficiency, and efficiency is vital to any economy. The equation is simple, he argues.
In a country where investors were ultimately ridiculed when proposing a tram or underground system to Valletta, or a park-and-ride system that still remains a mystery as to when or how it will eventually be operational, Kevin Dean dreams of the day when serious decisions will be taken to make transport work in Malta.
Fraser Eagle’s presence in Malta brings a breath of fresh air to a nation that is staggering in its transport debate. Just for the record, with an unrivalled understanding of the rail, air, travel and coaching industries, Fraser Eagle’s operational team is constantly developing innovative, new service solutions to support transport operators and corporate clients. Today, Fraser Eagle services are supported by state-of-the-art IT systems and one of Europe’s most advanced 24-hour control centre, on-call 365 days a year. It harbours a vast database of taxi, coach and executive vehicle suppliers and accommodation providers to meet all travel and transport requirements.
Fraser Eagle, probably known in Malta through its sponsorship of Accrington Stanley football club, recently promoted to the Football League in the UK, actually came to Malta under a holding company and two subsidiaries through sheer coincidence.
Browsing through a specialised publication during a conference in Frankfurt, Kevin Dean came across an advertisement by Malta Enterprise promoting investment in Malta. Dean seized the opportunity dialled up and contacted the Maltese agency and met up a week later in London with executives who led him through all the procedures. Within weeks, Fraser Eagle had registered ADFX Holding and its subsidiaries Eurologistics and Euromed Support Systems.
Eurologistics currently carries out call centre and control operations for Fraser Eagle Group. This is done to help Fraser Eagle deliver managed transport services to its UK clients, primarily train operating companies like Virgin Trains. These services include organising thousands of coach and taxi services across the UK for staff and customers, usually when normal rail services are disrupted. This work is expected to grow rapidly in the coming months as Fraser Eagle Group wins new contracts with train operating companies in the UK.
Eurologistics, with its state-of-art technology at the Cornerstone Complex in Mosta, will also soon begin carrying out call centre and control operations for other companies in the UK looking to outsource these functions to Malta. Eurologistics hopes many companies in the UK will continue to be attracted to Malta because of its skills base and growing reputation in the field of Information Technology, indeed reasons why Fraser Eagle Group was attracted to Malta.
Euromed Support Services, also wholly-owned by ADFX Holding, is the company that supplies Eurologistics with its staff. Currently 18 people are employed by these companies in Malta. These are a mixture of Fraser Eagle staff (usually based in the UK), British ex-pats, and Maltese. Eurologistics is looking to increase its number of Maltese staff as it wins new business with companies in the UK.
And that is not all! Fraser Eagle has also out-sourced a hefty IT contract to another Malta-based company. Faced with the imperatives of providing a new national computer system, “we are now investing in a new tailored system, taking account of the growth in rail business, the expanded database of suppliers on which we draw and the new services and products we provide”. Fraser Eagle has signed a five year IT development and support contract with Crimsonwing. Already hard at work, Crimsonwing is developing the new business software application which will replace Ferrit, Fraser Eagle’s current business IT system. The Ferrit Replacement Project demands a high degree of front end work. A dedicated team from Crimsonwing have been selected and somewhere in the order of 3,000 man days committed for completion of Phase One of the project, scheduled for July or August this year.
“This obviously represents a significant investment in our business and in IT in particular and clearly the Maltese compete very strongly in terms of cost, know-how and value for money,” he says.
Crimsonwing has been operating in Malta since 1996 and specialises in e-business and commercial systems solutions. This covers all aspects of IT from analysis of what’s needed to development, implementation and support.
A crucial case study that gives ample credit to Fraser Eagle’s expertise fell on London’s tragic morning of July 7th 2005. When the world was shocked as it watched the events unfold in London, and emergency services worked hard to save lives and rescue the injured, Fraser Eagle was at the forefront to coordinate all the transport chaos that followed as streets in London were closed off, and the Underground network suspended and main line stations closed.
Several companies invoked their incident management contracts with Fraser Eagle. This meant they were re-located to an emergency site by Fraser Eagle that morning. This was not easy in the context of a traffic snarled capital. However, Fraser Eagle provided 200 coaches, 500 taxis and 300 hotel rooms within the M25.
It can make a real difference to the impact of a civil emergency by helping people to continue working, with minimal downtime, at a location nearby, but also by moving people quickly and safely round damaged infrastructure.
Last year, Fraser Eagle booked 200,000 taxis for clients, and its round-the-clock, year-round operation ran over 60,000 coaches in 2005. Together, Fraser Eagle Group companies generated £50 million of turnover in 2005.