Ambassador, thank you for taking the time to speak to the Chamber.
Firstly, I would like to ask. Ambassador, what are some of your first impressions of Lithuania since arriving?
I arrived here with my wife Pascale in mid-September and have immediately been impressed by the vibrancy, energy and culture in the capital. We have previously lived in Helsinki (our daughter was born there) and have travelled to Tallinn many times. However this was the first time we have been to Vilnius and we have been surprised by how big the old town is and how many beautiful buildings, cafés, restaurants there are. Vilnius also appears to be a very green city. We are now very much looking forward to visiting the rest of the country and learning more about Vilnius as we have so far only been able to scratch the surface of all that is available to see here.
I understand your previous posting was on secondment to Lloyds Commercial Bank of London. In what ways do you see this experience advancing the business community in Lithuania?
My two years on secondment from the British diplomatic service to Lloyds Commercial Bank was an extraordinary learning experience. I come to Lithuania with a much deeper understanding both of the processes and constraints under which banks operate, but also the opportunities that a closer relationship between commercial banks and the public sector can bring. My job in Lloyds was looking at ways government could better delivery its objectives by using innovative banking products.
We made excellent progress particularly in the areas of overseas trade supported by UK Trade and Investment, in the health sector providing receivables purchase solutions for large numbers of pharmacies supplying the National Health Service, and in developing capital investment solutions for some big government infrastructure projects. We also worked closely with the Fintech sector on emerging technologies. All these areas have relevance to the business community in Lithuania where as in all other countries, it is the private sector that drives growth in the economy while the government needs to help set the conditions for businesses to thrive. I look forward to working with UK businesses in Lithuania and the government here to help achieve faster and stable growth in the coming years.
Could you describe some of your longer term objectives in Lithuania?
The UK is like minded on many issues with Lithuania in particular on foreign policy, defence, security, fighting organised crime and on trade. A key objective for me is to further re-inforce our bilateral relationship in these areas. In addition I should like to increase the level of support we can provide to UK businesses across all sectors. There is huge potential in the Baltic countries given the high levels of education and eagerness to embrace innovation. I see my role as the ambassador supporting many different UK government departments, to act as the catalyst to help businesses find the best investment and regulator solutions to achieve growth.
Away from Diplomatic life, what are some of your interests and hobbies, and what are you looking forward to exploring in Lithuania?
We are looking forward to our three teenage and ‘post-teenage’ children visiting during holidays and exploring the country with them. We enjoy a wide range of sports as a family including tennis, golf, and competitive running (the children not me). I am also making an attempt at learning some Lithuanian although I sense that might be quite a long journey.
On Cultural matters the British Chamber is keen on supporting links between Britain and Lithuania. We wonder what are some of your intentions in promoting these cultural links and how the chamber can work together?
On my first meeting with President Nausėda I presented the President with a copy of the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer which as a 14 century text was the first in the English language to refer to Lithuania ‘In Lettow hadde he reysed . . .’ History and culture are so important in binding together peoples and reminding us of where we come from. I look forward to working with academia, musicians and historians in exploring these cultural links still further. Through the Chamber of Commerce we have a huge diversity and depth of knowledge about British – Lithuanian cultural links which we would be delighted to hear more about, and to see if we can promote, for example, closer links between our universities to the benefit of future generations.
We do hope your time in Lithuania is rewarding and once again a warm welcome from the Chamber.