Business Irish

Saturday 23 September 2017

Niall Saul

ROISIN BURKE

HUMAN Resources expert Niall Saul has seen some interesting times at the industrial relations coalface, and at Fas. He recalls arranging to chopper out stock from Packard Electric in the strike-fraught Eighties, after an unofficial action blocked off the Tallaght factory for weeks.

Saul started out as a clerk at B+I Line in 1969 while still a teenager. He progressed into senior HR roles in the Eighties with firms including concrete business CPI (now Grafton) and National Irish Bank.

He became worldwide HR director at Waterford Crystal in 1992, during a harrowing period, with strikes and competition from cheaper crystal makers hammering profits. He devised turnaround programmes to help move the company from a position of €20m annual losses to €40m-plus profits by 1997.

He moved on to the top HR job at Irish Life. A key task was meshing together staff after the merger with Irish Permanent that formed Irish Life & Permanent in 1999, and then the Trustee Savings Bank acquisition in 2001.

Saul joined the board of Fas in 2006, chairing its audit committee. Its report uncovered serious failings in financial control at senior level. He says he felt there were "attempts to push the report under the table" from certain quarters in the agency and that in hindsight an external investigation should have been commissioned.

Bernard McNamara hired him in early 2007 to help with a planned doubling of his construction empire. Within six months it was clear that the industry was in trouble and the brief changed to restructuring. Saul departed in 2009.

He is now executive chairman of Symbio, a HR consultancy he co-owns with former IL&P colleagues. It advised the DAA on recruitment for T2 and is working on Enterprise Ireland's CLG project, a partnership with Stanford University and London School of Economics to coach CFOs of Irish companies.

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