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Profile: Quentin Lowcay

Quentin Lowcay, 41, is a managing partner of Kensington Swan, a New Zealand law firm, and he heads their Abu Dhabi branch.

Quentin specialises in procurement and technology, with a focus on linking outsourcing, procurement and supply-chain management into an organization’s overall strategy. He is a leading advocate for increasing New Zealand and Gulf State business and a regular New Zealand government presenter on doing business in the region, where he has been based for over six years.

To cast some light on the world of procurement structures and to find out how a New Zealander is getting on in the UAE, ExecutiveSurf met up with Quentin for a chat.

How does a New Zealander wind up in Abu Dhabi?

Well, I started working in the UAE about six years ago, when DP World bought P&O; I had been the legal advisor to P&O for all their global IT projects. Over that time I saw the opportunities in the UAE and, as a firm, we decided to open an office in Abu Dhabi. We are the only NZ law firm off-shore and the only Australasian firm in the Middle East.

How does life in the UAE differ from life in New Zealand?

The UAE is a mix of the same and completely different lifestyles; Abu Dhabi is very cosmopolitan. Over 80% of the populace are ex-pats and the people you meet on a daily basis are mostly Indian, Pakistani, Filipino and European.

English is spoken by most people, but the accents vary. Supermarkets and houses are much like the ones back home, but the roads are something else…the locals drive very fast, very erratically and with little concern for others.

Work is far more relationship-based than in western systems, you need to invest time in building trust before work can commence; once you do this, it is very rewarding.

For those of us not specialised in the law, can you explain what you do? Your website says “I specialise in strategic sourcing; integrating commercial and technical requirements into legal frameworks. I have been involved in some of the of the largest and most complex technology projects, including ITO and BPO outsourcing, multi-vendor sourcing, systems integration, multi-national offshore software development and creating strategic sourcing models“. In layman’s terms?

I specialise in IT contracts; the buying and selling of computer systems, services and related technologies. Globally, these have become more complex and the growth of outsourcing as a means of helping a company diversify from its non-core services has given rise to a very specialised practice.

I spend a lot of my time advising companies, governments or suppliers on major outsourcing projects. In addition, procurement (buying products or services) has also become more sophisticated. Making procurement decisions fit in with the strategy of a company is key; so when you buy something, you also progress the overall strategy of the organisation.

A lot of professions hide behind obfuscating language; why do you think this is and what is the worst example of business jargon you have come across?

You are right, all professions do it, and I would say that my field, IT, probably has the widest and most prolific use of jargon. When you have a WAN, SAN and LAN in one organisation, have DMZs inside your DC, behind your FW, you know you are in a different world.

I think people use jargon generally, not to exclude others, but as a shorthand to communicate and to show you have a base-level of understanding, which is important in technology. Using jargon correctly shows you are ‘on the same page’ as the person you are talking to.

You co-authored a book, ‘Mallesons on outsourcing’, can you tell me about it, how many copies did you sell and do you intend to write any more?

Well, we looked at various topical outsourcing issues and it was essentially a thought-piece on trends and directions in the industry. I don’t have any plans to write another, mainly because the book took six months. It was part of a marketing exercise, so we ran an initial 500 copies and gave them to our top 150 clients; they were used for pitches and training really, no-one would buy it.

What is your favourite book?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

What do you do to relax in Abu Dhabi?

I go for a run along the Corniche at lunchtime, except when it’s over 40 degrees, which is too hot.

How is the economy faring there, and, also, in New Zealand?

The economy in Abu Dhabi is very resilient, mainly due to its huge oil and gas reserves (it has 10% of the world’s oil and 5% of the world’s gas). This means the government has banked huge surpluses over the past decade. The economy is busy diversifying from its petro-chemical foundation, into other industries, which is evident in the active government policies to create a private sector for commerce and industry. Previously there had been a high degree of state involvement in all sectors of the economy.

It is worth looking at the contrast between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Dubai has little in terms of oil/gas reserves and relied instead on property, tourism and the financial markets. All these areas were hit badly by the global financial crisis. Dubai has consequently been bailed out financially twice (officially) and possibly more.

In New Zealand, the economy is struggling a little, as an export-led recovery, based on primary produce, has been hampered by a strong NZ dollar. However, business confidence has risen throughout 2010 and there are expectations for small to modest growth in activity for the second half of this year and 2011.

Its outlook is still good though, with warmer and wetter conditions (due to climate change), improving growing cycles for produce. This is particularly relevant for dairy and sheep produce. In terms of energy, New Zealand is around the 70-75% renewables figure.

Who is going to win the World Cup?

I’m not sure; I’ll go for Italy…

Thank you

Kensington Swan UAE

Kensington Swan NZ

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