Spotlight on Roger de Montfort
21 October 2015
This week the spotlight is on Roger de Montfort, Managing Director, UCL Consultants (UCLC).
What is your role and what does it involve?
I'm the Managing Director of UCL Consultants Ltd, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of UCL. We provide a one-stop service for the provision of academic consultancy, expert witness, testing & analysis and bespoke training and short course services to external clients on behalf of UCL academics and departments. Our objective is to make it as easy and productive as possible for our academics and external clients to work together by being the single port of call that connects them both.
As MD my overall remit is to grow consultancy at UCL for the benefit of our academic community and UCL. Consultancy is becoming an increasingly important way in which we can generate impact, develop relationships that can lead to wider research and knowledge transfer opportunities, increase individual and institutional profile and generate income for our academics and their departments. Of course we need to do that in a way that also protects our academics and UCL from associated risks, hence the importance of working through UCLC to benefit from our contractual expertise and professional indemnity insurance cover.
So my role really has two main areas of focus. The first is growing consultancy through raising internal and external awareness of UCLC and UCL capabilities, developing and marketing new service offerings and identifying consulting opportunities of potential interest to our academics. This involves working with colleagues right across UCL in faculties and departments and in the Enterprise, Research and Global Engagement portfolios to ensure that our activities are coordinated and aligned with the UCL 2034 strategy. It also involves profile raising and relationship building with external organisations we want to work with. The second is ensuring we deliver a high quality service to our internal and external clients, which includes managing the UCLC team of business development, contracting, project management and finance experts who do an outstanding job.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
Almost three years. I joined UCLC in February 2013 into a newly created role as its Managing Director. Prior to that I was a partner at the global professional services firm PwC where I worked for 27 years in a variety of roles and countries, with a particular focus on the public sector. I joined PwC's predecessor firm Price Waterhouse as a graduate from UCL so I have neatly bookended my career thus far!
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
Becoming a partner at PwC when I was 34 was certainly a career milestone but I'm most proud of the difference I have been able to make since I joined UCLC, by establishing a new strategy and then implementing it with the support of a very talented and committed team, the UCLC Board of Directors and colleagues across UCL, which has resulted in UCLC more than doubling its turnover, number of consultants and projects over the past three years. It is really pleasing to see how consultancy is becoming more embedded in the day-to-day fabric of our academic activities at UCL, and is being recognised for the value it can bring in terms of impact, contribution to research and teaching, raising personal and UCL profile, developing external relationships and, of course, generating income, whether for personal benefit or for departments. It's also fascinating to be involved in the sheer diversity of our consultancy activity, which spans the whole spectrum of UCL expertise, and rewarding to know that we are playing a part in helping solve real world problems.
Tell us about a project you are working on now that is top of your to-do list?
Traditionally, a lot of the consultancy we have done at UCL has been of an individual nature, i.e. professor X or lecturer Y providing the benefit of his or her expertise to an external client. We continue to support and grow that activity and it's really important to do so for all the reasons outlined above. However, we also have a fantastic opportunity at UCL to do so much more by harnessing the interdisciplinary capability we have, for instance through the Grand Challenges and institutes/centres that have been established, to create bespoke and distinctive - if not unique - teams and service offerings who can help external clients to solve really complex problems, and in doing so generate impact, income and all the other benefits of undertaking consultancy.
I call this 'project consultancy' and we are focusing a lot of attention on developing this across UCL. Examples might include identifying the opportunity and assembling an interdisciplinary team and consortium of partners to bid for a multi-million pound Department for International Development project in the Global South, as we did recently for a bid that involved over 20 academics from 6 departments across UCL, developing a bespoke credit-bearing public policy training programme for African participants on behalf of Vodafone, and exploring the potential for a new consultancy service offering in therapeutics that brings together a range of SLMS capabilities to meet an external market need. It's very exciting and will, I believe, offer a lot of synergy with our broader research objectives as well as generate income for UCL departments, which is useful in the current climate!
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
I'm a complete nutter for all things Pink Floyd, so it would have to be Dark Side of the Moon. My favourite film is a wonderfully funny and clever South African film from the 70's called The Gods Must be Crazy, about a Kalahari bushman who finds a Coke bottle in the desert, which causes ructions in his community so he sets out on a journey to throw it off the edge of the world. My favourite novel is a tough one, but let's go for The Past is Myself by Christabel Bielenberg.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
There were two cats preparing to race across the Channel. The English cat was called 'One, two, three' and the French cat was called 'Un, deux, trois'. They dived in and started to swim. Who won? The English cat of course, as 'Un, deux, trois' quatre cinq.
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
It could be a long list but let's start with David Attenborough, Oscar Wilde, Joanna Lumley and Charles Darwin.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Create choices for yourself and keep your options open for as long as possible.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I'm a global citizen - I have a French name, Irish roots and live in London. I was born in Sri Lanka and lived there until I was 11, and then my family moved to Dubai for seven years in the days when it was starting to develop from a small trading port, and in the course of my career I have lived and worked across four continents, in the UK, South Africa, Indonesia, Singapore and Canada. I'm also a keen photographer, particularly of nature and wildlife.
What is your favourite place?
A village called Castletownshend in south west Cork, Ireland. It's a small village by the sea, set amidst the most picturesque and rugged scenery, with a single main street that runs down a very steep hill to a pretty harbour at the bottom. Typically for an Irish village, it has a bar at the bottom of the hill and another at the top so there's plenty of liquid refreshment available to power you up and down!