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Fenchurch Street.

Alastair Marsh reflects on his time at the helm of Lloyd’s Register.

Lloyd’s Register is a very different company to the one Alastair Marsh first encountered when he joined in 2007. As the LR CEO signs off on his 14-year tenure, five of which leading the organisation as CEO, he shares his reflections with Nicola Good, LR’s Global Head of Brand & External Relations, Marine & Offshore.

Rising to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, involving “months of really tough, high intensity work” to navigate the impact of lockdowns and travel restrictions on LR’s global professional services business will stay fresh in the memory of outgoing Lloyd’s Register Chief Executive Alastair Marsh, for many years to come. 

2020 has been a testing year for business leaders worldwide. Marsh picked up the virus while skiing in Austria in early March and was just getting back on his feet when the UK lockdown was announced. It triggered the start of a demanding period. The organisation had to coordinate its response as the virus spread around the world, with a huge impact on LR’s people, and its operations.

“Just trying to get our arms around what it meant for the business and how bad it could become was difficult,” he tells Horizons, Lloyd’s Register’s magazine for the maritime industry. “We had to focus on the financial implications over one month, three months, six months and a year, and it went back to real basics, managing resources and cashflow. There was even greater complexity when governments set out their guidelines and financial support, and we had to understand what this meant for us.”

Marsh says the LR team got to grips with things quickly. Central group functions and business streams pulled together, with multiple teams embracing remote service options, which enhanced their existing capabilities to support clients who were dealing with unexpected scenarios. “We proved that we can be very, very resilient but also very creative as well. And this underpins what I tried to set out to do in 2016 when I became CEO – to make LR a more agile organisation with digitalised capability at its core, with fewer silos.”

“Much of the work of the past four or five years was put into action, as we had no choice but to look at different ways of working. The implementation of new IT systems was a saviour because if they hadn’t been in place our employees couldn't have adapted as easily to remote working."

LR CEO Alastair Marsh at Fenchurch Street
Alastair Marsh reflects on his time at the helm of Lloyd’s Register.

Marsh is quick to stress he doesn’t see ways of working returning to how they were before the pandemic. He expects people won’t be in offices every day of the week, but face-to face meetings will return as “our business is relationship-driven. It is important for us to get back to travelling, as there's no substitute for in person meetings with key clients, particularly in Asia”, he says.

Another significant event in 2020 was the sale of LR’s energy business – now operating as Vysus – to Inspirit Capital, a London-based private equity firm. The successful sale, says Marsh, was an indicator of the resilience of the energy business throughout COVID-19, and during periods of extended oil price volatility. The decision to sell followed a thorough review of options for the whole Group, and after much action to set the energy business up for future success.

Marsh says the Lloyd’s Register he’s leaving is ‘unrecognisable’ from the company he joined in 2007. In 2012, Lloyd’s Register Group and Lloyd’s Register Foundation were created, sharing a common purpose to make the world a safer place. There’s been huge investment in digital systems. LR’s New Ways of Working programme created greater flexibility for LR people in their working lives. Meanwhile, he adds, “the best bits of LR - its safety culture, the recognition of legacy and the determination of its people to solve complex problems, remain firmly intact”.

So, does he have any advice for his successor, Marine and Offshore Director Nick Brown, who takes over in January 2021? “Nick knows LR inside and out and we have always worked well together. Like me he recognises that the pace of change is accelerating, and we need to be ready to respond. In terms of handover, it’s been a steady transition albeit a dynamic one. I have focused on the short-term issues and handed over the decisions that affect the period beyond the end of the year when he's going to be running the company. AllAssets and i4 Insight are part of a strong digital foundation and LR will reap the dividends of this investment in the future. All this will make for a busy start for Nick as he shapes his strategy for LR.”

For Marsh, the beginning of 2021 is likely to be a lot more relaxing, with an extended holiday planned before deciding what he does next. A few non-executive roles are under consideration, but he stresses that he will keep his options open until the right opportunities come up. There is one wish though; he’s keen to stay in shipping…

We proved that we can be very, very resilient but also very creative as well.

Alastair Marsh

LR CEO

Alastair Marsh on his drive for focused and effective action:

https://www.lr.org/en/insights/articles/alastair-marsh-drive-focused-effective-action/

Horizons September 2021

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