Thursday, 6 August 2015

Bermuda Triangulation: Justin visits MBA graduate Ibou Barry

2013 MBA Ibou Barry meeting Justin O'Brien in Hamilton, Bermuda

During a family holiday to the idyllic Atlantic island of Bermuda MBA Director Justin was delighted to be able to meet up with MBA alumnus Ibou Barry who graduated from Royal Holloway in 2013.  

Over evening dinner in the picturesque wharf side setting, watching sunset over Hamilton harbour, Ibou reflected on his two years worth of working and living experiences since returning home stating "The MBA helped with understanding the bigger picture of business, I use concepts learned throughout the course, not just those specific to marketing."

Since graduating Ibou was promoted to be VP Sales and Marketing - Beer Brands for one of the largest beverage distribution companies, Burrows Lightbourn Ltd, on the island, where he has an exciting and varied role that encompasses developing business-to-business placement of the companies portfolio, which includes giant brew brands Sam Adams, Heineken and Coors.  Having just jetted in from a conference in Golden, Colorado, the famous Rocky Mountain home of US beer giant Coors, and outlining a hectic summer schedule of events and promotions, Ibou was looking forwards to being able to squeeze in a weeks vacation in late August, to spend precious time with his Canadian accountant wife and young daughter.  

Rather inevitably, after pondering the new English Premier League and the dual curses of fat Sam and new (Olympic) stadium soon to be experienced by Ibou's favourite team West Ham, the conversation got on to the local economic situation.  Business however has not been easy, with the population in decline, down 5,000 to just 63,000 permanent inhabitants, twenty months of consecutive negative economic growth and insurance industry job losses driven by consolidation and rationalisation.  On the positive, there have most recently been some signs of growth recovery.

The choice by reigning Americas cup winning team Oracle to defend their prestigious sailing title in Bermuda in 2017 is hoped by many to be a catalyst to re-float a listing economy that is underpinned by flagging global insurance operations and a lethargic air tourism sector.    However with four times sailing Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie leading the surge from the English challenger team, talk of hosting a second Oracle team defence on the islands is possibly a little optimistic.  Famously helicoptered in to rescue the US Oracle team back in 2013 the master tactician Ainslie clawed his team back from a near terminal 8-1 losing position to a win by just 44 seconds in the last race, bringing home an unlikely 9 to 8 US victory against a strong Kiwi team.

Bermuda, through its overtly centralised tourist board, offers a very traditional touristic proposition; surprisingly hire cars are banned and the high price premium once justified because of immaculate and colourful houses, jacket and tie dining dress codes, pristine pink sand beaches and a distinct colonial hospitality identity which includes wearing long socks and bright Bermuda shorts seems to have failed to keep pace with contemporary consumer preferences.  Although our family very much enjoyed no hustle relaxing in a safe, clean and beautiful luxury seaside holiday environment. 

In recent decades infrastructure innovation has been bogged down by slow and misguided tourism development that perhaps mistakenly chased after low spending cruise travellers, whilst neglecting higher value (longer, bigger spending) air travellers, who predominantly hail from USA's eastern seaboard and England.  With just one major hotel development since the seventies and a regulatory environment that rather precludes international investment, the positive allure of the "step back into the old world" has been over taken, as younger generations perceive low rise, quaint Bermuda as being both tired and rather expensive.  Newer, nearby destinations such as Turks and Caicos offer modern eco luxury and the Cuban novelty that is authentically under developed thanks to years of communism and a US embargo (now ceased).  A large multi-million Ritz-Carlton hotel is targeted for opening in time for the Americas Cup, with large cruise ships mooring up to offer crucial additional event capacity.  Taxi drivers were enthusiastically discussing the merits for a number of other proposed hotel developments that could see their protected April through October summer season boosted by additional visitors.  

Unsurprisingly over the course of the evening we certainly got to chew over a number of interesting issues and exchange island insider and visitor perspectives.  The curse of the MBA's business analysis mind ?

The question that had to be asked - what about the MBA return on investment ?    

Ibou very much felt his investment in the Royal Holloway MBA was worthwhile, even though it took him away from his wife and young daughter for nearly a year.  Whilst some aspiring MBAs he felt harboured unrealistic get rich quick salary expectations, the benefits of the general management masters programme were very much proven in the following two years, in salary. status and challenging and meaningful work.    

An example of the stunning pink sand beach at Horseshoe bay