As the world’s largest International Financing Institutions (IFIs) (the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, European Commission and European Bank of Reconstruction and Development) descend on Dublin for the upcoming Global IFI conference, September 23rd and 24th, at the Citywest Hotel, Charlie Swords, tells us her IFI story…
Meet Charley Swords, International Management and Business Consultant and one of Ireland’s biggest success stories in the IFI Funding arena.
We talked to Charlie about her journey with a view to helping Irish Interests to understand some of the pitfalls and opportunities.
Charlie was introduced IFI opportunities while working for The Bank Of Ireland Group in the ‘90’s. Though them she had an introduction to the space and worked abroad under their banner on a number of occasions.
Her experience gave her an invaluable kick-start when launching her own company Swords Consultancy in 1997. She went on to engage with International Consultancies and subcontract to European and American Companies.
18 years on Charlie is one of the few Irish consultants with direct relationships with IFI interests, she still subcontracts and gets contracts directly through Private Contracts with the Developing Countries. She has led people, projects and executive and management education programmes throughout Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
“I still love the work’ says Charlie, but its not for the faint hearted, you have to love what you do, accept other cultures, be prepared to step back, advise and Influence.”
We talk about the tendering process. Most tenders have about 7 applicants with usually three called to interview. Proposals need to be high spec and are often difficult to pull together, especially when you have a team of individual contractors involved. It’s a long process, 6-9 months from expression of interest.
“Experience is key- its best to subcontract at first to get exposure. When I bid, I have a team of trusted consultants from which I draw,”
She says. “ This is vital because if you don’t deliver you will not be asked back and it’s a demanding environment, you must be seen to add value.”
One of the key considerations is money. “You need cash flow,” she says. “There are circumstances where you will get your flight paid but generally you pay for everything, transport, accommodation, food, insurance. Your costs are refunded but you can expect to wait up to 45 days for invoices to be paid.”
On the good side, Charlie has always gotten paid for her work and speaks very highly of her hosting nations. “I’ve always been treated with the utmost respect and kindness, she says.
The golden rule is to avoid talking about religion and politics, you have to leave your culture behind you at the airport and accept the ways of the country you go to.”
In terms of the work itself, Charley says:
“You have no idea what’s involved until you are on site. You have to be prepared to find solutions with very little resources.”
Charley’s message to Irish Companies is a positive one.“The Irish have a fantastic reputation abroad, they considered to be very hard workers and are generally well thought of.
“The Irish have a lot to offer the Developing Nations and there is a lot of opportunity out there. It’s a two way street though and there are a lot of lessons we can learn from working abroad too.
Author: Helen Curtin, Shabang Video, www.shabangvideo.com
For information about Global IFI, please navigate to the official conference website, which can be found at: http://www.globalifi.org.
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