We would like you to meet the people behind NBCC who contribute their knowledge and experience to make our chamber even better. Please meet Tom Selwood., a council member and one of the people we rely on to help us achieve this.
Hi Tom! Thank you for making time for this interview. Could you say a few words about yourself?
My name is Tom Selwood, and I am Head of Treasury at Aker Horizons. I have been in the Aker group since 2017 and now work in Oslo. I qualified as a Chartered Accountant in the UK in 2003 with PwC and then spent 2 years with EY in Dubai. I have travelled for business extensively during my career with frequent travel to Brazil, the US and South East Asia.
Why and how did you get involved with NBCC?
I represented Aker Horizons at an NBCC dinner where we were invited, to mark the signing of the trade agreement between the UK and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. I am a firm believer that cross-border collaboration between nations who share similar values is key to overcoming the challenges presented by the climate emergency so was keen for Aker Horizons and our portfolio companies to get involved.
What advantages can NBCC offer as a facilitator of trade between the UK and Norway?
Not only does NBCC offer great networking opportunities, but the management proactively works with members to ensure that events are tailored to meet their specific needs/wants.
What factors are most important for firms trying to successfully establish themselves abroad?
I would say take time to understand the culture. I remember getting a piece of advice from one of my audit clients when I first moved to Dubai. Having worked in London, I was used to being ‘efficient’. Draw up a list of questions, get them answered and then move on. That approach translated poorly. The gentleman in question, who was the CEO, said to me ‘That is not how we operate here. I will ask you about your family and you will ask me about mine. And when we are finished I will answer your questions.’ HSBC ran an advertising campaign on this theme some years ago which I thought was very powerful.
What are your thoughts on the relationship between Norway and the UK going forward? What could need improvement?
I think the relationship between Norway and the UK is very strong, not least given the events of the Second World War which saw King Haakon VII and the government flee to London. We live in highly uncertain times. We see war, we see the climate emergency, we see spiralling inflation to name but a few. It is therefore really important that like-minded nations work harder than ever to rise to challenges faced. I see Norway and the UK as two such nations and hope to see our respective governments going even further to strengthen the bond that exists.
With thoughts to members, clients and customers – which areas should the firm pay particular attention to in order to have good customer satisfaction?
I remember another old colleague of mine telling me ‘people buy from people’. And whilst you could argue that, in a world of e-commerce, this is no longer true, the fact remains that you will most likely have had some interface, be it in person or remotely, with a representative of the brand you are buying. So if you want good customer satisfaction, you need motivated employees who share the vision of management and get up in the morning (maybe not Monday…) with a desire to deliver.
How has your team embraced COVID and working from home?
COVID taught us all that working from home can be highly efficient. But, to me at least, what it showed in even greater part was that there is no substitute for in-person engagement. I see huge value in the intangibles you get when you are in a room with somebody. You are able to read them better and, as a result, may be able to extract the information you need more efficiently or to ask more pertinent questions. So for sure there is a balance to be struck but I had no idea how much I would miss the office environment until COVID occurred.
Do you have any advice for people who work with the Norwegian – British Companies?
Not really. I think your average Norwegian knows far more about the UK than vice versa so take the time to ask questions and explore. It is a fantastic country and the people are rightly very proud. Be prepared to talk about premier league football and understand that a ‘bad winter’ to Norwegians means something very different to the Brits.
It has been a pleasure talking with you Tom, and thank you for giving our members and followers a chance to get to know you better!