Jim Donovan

I am a Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Directors with wide industry experience, particularly in technology-based businesses, pan-industry bodies and the public sector. I began my career as an information systems engineer, progressing through project management, sales, marketing and general management in Britain and New Zealand. As a CEO, I led the transformation and expansion of several substantial technology-based companies: Electra, Fronde and Deltec. I have also advised corporations in New Zealand, Australia and SE Asia on business strategy and performance improvement, and I have an understanding of the machinery of government.

Current boards and other appointments

  • REANNZ: Crown-owned ultra-high speed telecommunications company serving New Zealand's research & education communities. Chairman.
  • Skylight: not-for-profit organisation supporting children, families and community agencies to manage stress, trauma & grief. Chairman.
  • Isambard: company for my professional services. Chairman.

Past boards, etc.

  • Tertiary Education Commission: administered ~NZ$3 billion pa. of government funding. Appointed to establishment board in 2002 and served 11 years (norm is 6 years) under both Labour & National-led governments.
  • Deltec: telecommunications products. Main board and subsidiaries in NZ and overseas.
  • Various early-stage companies: including Surveylab, now listed on NZX as ikeGPS (professional data-gathering & survey devices).
  • Click Suite: interactive multimedia design. chairman of parent company & subsidiary/joint ventures in smartphone and internet marketplace businesses.
  • Fronde: IT services & products local & international subsidiaries & joint ventures.
  • Electra: subsidiaries in electricity network construction & maintenance, appliance retailing, wholesale electricity market trading JV (alternate).
  • NZ Manufacturers Federation: industry council (merged to form Business NZ).
  • Electricity Supply Association of New Zealand: industry council.
  • Wellington regional economic development agency.
  • Institute of Directors: national council member, member of governance policy & practices committee and represented IoD in legislative reform submissions to government; establishment board director for IoD’s commercial subsidiary providing professional development training and board advisory services.

CEO experience

Deltec Communications Group
Invited to take over as CEO, having been an independent non-executive director. Restructured the business and introduced smarter business processes to support global expansion with a tighter product/market focus: making variable-beam antenna systems for mobile phone networks in large urban markets. In 3 years, Deltec trebled turnover and achieved very high profitability, with ~200 staff and contractors, and 95% of sales exported to Asia, Australia, the Americas and Europe. At the HiTech 2000 Awards, Deltec won the Growth Company of the Year Award, the Award for Investing in People, and the HiTech Company Supreme Award. Deltec was named by Unlimited magazine as one of the best places to work in New Zealand. Led the sale of Deltec’s business to Andrew Corporation (S&P 500) and managed the business transfer.

Electra
Led a mid-sized electricity business through corporatisation and restructuring, in a period of industry reform, complex ownership change, and intense public scrutiny. Electra became one of NZs most efficient power companies, with more effective customer services and business processes, and a strategic approach to capital asset management.

Fronde Systems Group
After rationalisation, management changes, and exit from non-performing services, refocused this leading IT services business on developing high-volume transaction systems for the finance, government, utilities and telecommunications sectors, delivered through client-centric teams. Took an early lead in mobile and cloud computing , while exploring opportunities for offshore expansion and spin-out of in-house software technology. Launched the company on Unlisted, New Zealand’s alternative share trading facility.

Strategic advice & project experience

  • Investment firms: evaluation and due diligence on potential acquisitions.
  • SE Asian telecommunications business: a major review of management and business processes, in preparation for an international IPO.
  • NZ telecommunications business: strategic planning and organisational restructuring in one of the country's most significant businesses during corporatisation and privatisation.
  • Government task force: on developing the NZ ICT industry.
  • Electricity businesses: strategic planning during wide-reaching industry reform.
  • Manufacturing and engineering firms: planning for expansion or ownership change.
  • Kiwifruit industry: recommended industry-wide reforms for onshore operations between orchard and ship (transport, packing, storage and stevedores).
  • Pork industry: recommended changes to increase producers’ market power, by establishing competing firms/brands to move beyond generic pork marketing.
  • Dairy industry: facilitated merger negotiations between two dairy co-op companies.
  • Industrial equipment & supplies: initiated & led transformation of national chain to modern trade retail network.
  • Apparel retail: advised national firms on strategy, restructuring and divestment.
  • Undersea minerals (industrial metals cargo recovery): advised on NZ secondary-market listing to consolidate multiple international syndicates (later listed on London AIM).
  • International private investment fund: exploring opportunities in vocational education for delivery in NZ and internationally.
  • Transport group: supported board during restructuring and divestment.
  • Economic development: organised & chaired multi-sector conference on industry development utilising NZ's maritime resources - minerals, energy, biota, technologies, knowledge, etc.
If you'd like me to call you, please email jim.donovan@isambardgroup.com with your contact details and I'll be in touch.