Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to the newest version of your browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of Construction News, please enable cookies in your browser.

Welcome to the Construction News site. As we have relaunched, you will have to sign in once now and agree for us to use cookies, so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Chief executives reveal their 2014 wishlists

The leaders of Balfour Beatty, Bam, Mace, NG Bailey and Wates share their highs and lows from 2013 and what their ambitions are for the next 12 months.

Nick Pollard

Chief executive,
Balfour Beatty Construction Services UK

Nick Pollard chief executive Balfour Beatty Construction Services UK

What has been your highlight of 2013?

I’ve been with Balfour Beatty for almost six months now and I’ve spent a lot of this time touring the UK and Ireland meeting my colleagues, many customers and our supply chain. I’ve learnt so much.

Our teams have secured some really significant contracts this year. We’re finishing 2013 with an increased order book, better margins and an improved tender success rate.

I’m greatly encouraged by the first class project teams we have out there delivering every day.

Only this month our project team’s delivery of carbon reduction on our M25, Olympic Park and A21 projects were held up as exemplars in the government infrastructure carbon review - this came during a year when the commitment of all of our teams is clear with our dramatic reduction of CO2 emissions, water and waste to landfill.

And low point?

This is a time of year when we think particularly of family and friends - and absent friends. We have lost an industry colleague this year who was working for an SME at our Langley Green School site and was killed in a tragic accident.

“I continue to express concern that the heavy infrastructure market has suffered from a lack of investment”

We also have colleagues who have been seriously injured on the M25 when a truck crashed into our Skanska Balfour Beatty road works. We, the industry with our customers, must find better ways to protect our road workers from traffic.

Has the industry has turned a corner in 2013?

Yes, there is no doubt that orders of around the £1m to £25m range have picked up over the last few months and long may it continue. However, I continue to express
concern that the heavy infrastructure market has suffered from a lack of investment.

It remains incumbent on all of the significant players in this industry to work with government and industry groups, independent regulators and local authorities to come up with and secure innovative funding solutions to move forward programmes of work.

What are your hopes for 2014?

To drive ways to stimulate the economy by encouraging infrastructure investment in the UK through engagement with industry groups, government and regulators.

To have all of our projects anticipating our customer’s needs, listening intently, gaining feedback and delivering action and change that enhances returns on investments.

Securing more work in growth sectors and regions at the right margins and increasing our order book through more and more repeat business and smart solutions.

Renew our commitment to engaging young people and increase our current population of some 650 apprentices and graduates or those in full-time training, as well as increasing our skilled workforce.

Mark Reynolds

Chief executive, Mace

Mark Reynolds chief executive Mace

What has been your highlight of 2013?

There have been so many, it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one! We were proud to be appointed delivery partner for the £1.5bn Gutenborg Project in St Petersburg and project manager in a joint venture with EC Harris responsible for the 1 km-high Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia.

We were also appointed construction managers on the iconic Battersea Power Station preliminary works, and supported the bid for Dubai’s recent Expo 2020 win.

Our new investment business saw the launch of its first two projects - The Great Northern Hotel and Assam Place - and 2013 was the first year of the Mace Foundation, which has been a fantastic success, donating £340,000 to our charity.

And low point?

Everyone will agree the number of traffic accidents involving cyclists and HGVs is still too high. There have been 14 cyclist fatalities on London’s roads this year, nine of which involved HGVs. This is unacceptable and requires both industry and transport authorities to take joint action.

Last month another member of the Mace team was injured while cycling and that really brings the issue home for us. That’s why from 1 July this year we asked all construction HGVs visiting Mace sites to meet the FORS bronze standard.

We’ll be working to raise that standard further in the future and we’re also working with the industry to develop a set of national standards for HGVs to bring down the number of fatalities and injuries.

Has the industry has turned a corner in 2013?

We’ve seen a positive change in the market this year and we’re picking up a distinct tone of optimism as clients plan their work programmes for 2014 and beyond.

“We are concerned about the fragility of the supply chain and the extreme shortage of qualified workforce”

The publication of the government’s Construction 2025 strategy has also provided a greater level of certainty and clarity for the industry, complementing the National Infrastructure Plan update published in March.

However, we are concerned about the fragility of the supply chain and the extreme shortage of qualified workforce, which will prevent us all from taking full advantage of future opportunities.

What are your hopes for 2014?

I would like to see clients and contractors working together to create better career opportunities for apprenticeships and trainees. We must continue to improve safety and reduce risks on our projects to avoid harming our stakeholders.

I would also like to see us strive to deliver our projects more efficiently, more consistently, and at a higher quality through the greater use of offsite manufacture and pre-assembled components.

David Hurcomb

Chief executive, NG Bailey

David Hurcomb chief executive NG Bailey

What has been your highlight of 2013?

We’ve completed a number of major projects and won a number of high-profile contracts, but my personal highlight was NG Bailey being named overall Supplier of the Year by Network Rail for the work we carried out at stations including King’s Cross, Birmingham New Street and Reading.

It’s not an award you enter; it’s decided by the Network Rail board after assessing all the companies in their supply chain, so to receive that accolade was a massive achievement.

Our Rail division has had a strong year - doubling sales, with an order book of £250m - and I think a key factor in that success has been our ability to combine our engineering expertise in the rail industry with our offsite manufacturing capabilities and increasing strength in services.

And low point?

I was very disappointed to see so many companies go to the wall as a consequence of the collapse in margins and taking on contracts they should have walked away from.

The regional players have been the worst affected, but the failure of MJN Colston shows that even national companies haven’t been immune.

Has the industry has turned a corner in 2013?

I certainly think we’re at the bottom of the cycle. There are signs the industry is picking up.

“I hope that in 2014 we start to see greater collaboration between main contractors and leading players in the supply chain”

The consultants, architects and PQS companies we work with are seeing a significant increase in their work, and that tends to be a good indicator that output will pick up.

But it’s going to be a slow recovery. I would expect margins to continue to be under pressure for the next couple of years, particularly in building construction. 

What are your hopes for 2014?

Over the past couple of years we have seen what a focus on lower and lower bid prices can do to companies in our industry.

I hope that in 2014 we start to see greater collaboration between main contractors and leading players in the supply chain to create strategic - and more sustainable - partnerships.

I hope we also see the public and private sectors investing more in infrastructure.

We are still well below most of the world’s major economies when it comes to infrastructure investment, and if we’re going to continue to be a global player that has to change.

Stephen Fox

Chief executive, Bam Nuttall

Steve Fox Bam Nuttall

What has been your highlight of 2013?

The highlight of 2013 is gaining recognition of our apprenticeship programme by winning the National Apprenticeship Award.

We have been working with Stephenson College in the Midlands for a number of years now and have established our own further education centre, which caters for apprentices at all levels from craft through to engineers and quantity surveyors.

We have more than 100 apprentices undergoing training through this programme.

And low point?

The lack of investment in renewable technology, particularly offshore wind farms in the UK.

Has the industry has turned a corner in 2013?

Overall the opportunities to bid for work in the civils market has remained fairly buoyant, albeit even more competitive, with many additional firms from overseas bidding for work in the UK.

“We hope clients will appreciate the advantages of utilising the services of contractors with their own highly trained direct labour force”

There is evidence to suggest that the workloads in some sectors such as rail are picking up, but other sectors still remain fairly static, with the majority of work still concentrated in London and the South.

What are your hopes for 2014?

We will be looking forward to a greater industry spend in the UK with opportunities in new road builds, the energy sector and major projects like the Thames Tideway and Northern line extension.

We also hope to see a change in client procurement with less onerous tender documents, and finally we hope that clients will appreciate the advantages of utilising the services of contractors with their own highly trained direct labour force.

Paul Drechsler

Chief executive, Wates
(leaving at the end of the year)

Paul Drechsler Wates 2013

What has been your highlight of 2013?

There are so many highlights in a great industry when you have the opportunity to work with such great people but, for me, winning crucial education frameworks and the opportunity to build new schools nationally is a fantastic achievement for us and life-changing for the young people who will benefit from better educational environments.

Safety, of course, is our number one priority and with 850,000 injury-free hours at Kirklees Better Homes Project, it is a great example of focus, teamwork and the team’s dedication to the common goal.

“The time between project approval and starting has been extending significantly, raising costs and squeezing margins”

I would also say that winning the National Business Award for Corporate Citizenship was a brilliant achievement, of which we are extremely proud, especially as we were against tough, high-calibre companies from many industries across the UK.

And low point?

Unfortunately, we all have low points and, for me, when we lose a bid to another competitor it is obviously extremely disappointing. The key is to learn from setbacks and then get back in the game.

Has the industry has turned a corner in 2013?

In terms of demand, we have certainly seen an improvement; however, the time between project approval and starting has been extending significantly, raising costs and squeezing margins.

What are your hopes for 2014?

Most of all, I hope that 2014 will be a great year for Wates’ business, customers and colleagues.

Ideally, more sustained and predictable demand and, of course, rising margins. For the industry overall: a rapid restoration in jobs, increasing employment, more apprenticeships and opportunities for all.

Graham Cash

Chief executive, Bam Construct UK

Graham Cash chief executive Bam Construct UK

What has been your highlight of 2013?

Bam being selected as the preferred bidder to build Google’s new headquarters at King’s Cross, London, because we sold them creativity, innovation, building information modelling for facilities management, and sustainability.

Even though the project has been delayed while Google works with the architects on a more iconic design, it’s been a great experience so far.

And low point?

In 2013 we saw, again, some of our subcontractors and suppliers, whom we have worked well with over the years, fall foul of the recession.

Has the industry has turned a corner in 2013?

I wish I could say it had. I am very glad to see positive signs in the economy, but it takes time to feed through to our sector and so I think it will be late 2014 or 2015 before we see the benefits.

“Bam’s focus will continue to be on becoming a leaner and more efficient business and offering value to our clients”

So Bam’s focus in 2014 will continue to be on becoming a leaner and more efficient business and offering value to our clients through creativity and innovation.

What are your hopes for 2014?

My main hope is that 2014 will be the last year of recession for everyone in our industry; for Bam, that we continue to partner with our supply chain to help us develop our sustainability, health and safety, and our BIM ambitions.

We will continue to pay our subcontractors and suppliers promptly despite the difficult climate, because we cannot meet our clients’ expectations without their support.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.