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Brand new goal

In his new role as SVP and President for the UK and Ireland for ABM, Richard Sykes tells Sara Bean his goal is to make the ABM brand as prominent here as it is in the US

The announcement in May that integrated technical and facilities solutions provider ABM had appointed Richard Sykes as SVP and President for the UK and Ireland, sparked a lot of interest. Arguably Sykes is better known in FM circles than the ABM UK & Ireland brand, but under his leadership he promises, that is going to change.

ABM has had up to now, a much higher profile in the US, where the multi-billion-dollar business is not only a member of the US Fortune 500, but draws key clients from over half of the companies on the list. Sykes’ role in the UK, Ireland and ultimately mainland Europe will be to draw on that pedigree to grow the business over here.

Says Sykes: “As a group ABM has around 100,000 employees, and around 350 offices around the UK, Ireland and the US. It’s a big business which was founded in 1909, has over seven-billion-dollar revenues, and is well known in the US but not so much in the UK, which is why we need to move the brand along and show customers what we can offer here.”

I first interviewed Sykes back in the noughties, where, as Facilities Director at Taylor Woodrow he eventually oversaw its sale to Vinci and he’s gone on to prove his acumen in the FM sector ever since.

He explains: “I completed the sale of Taylor Woodrow to Vinci and then went on to work at Carillion for four and a half years, then moved to ISS UK & Ireland where I doubled that business in four years.

“I then moved to cover ISS in Western Europe, Benelux, Portugal, France, Spain, and later its Northern Europe market, which is the largest part of the ISS group. I then took on a strategic transformation role, where we ran a filter across the 52 countries in ISS as part of a decision to divest 12 of these and reinvest the proceeds back into the core focus of the business.”

Tiring of the endless international travel involved in the role and keen to experience a different sector, he took the opportunity to go into private equity for M Group Services, an infrastructure support services business. However, after a couple of years he was drawn back into FM by ABM Chief Executive Scott Salmirs and COO Rene Jacobsen.

Says Sykes: “They’ve big ambitions for the UK and Ireland and Europe and appreciate they have massive opportunities here. Being so big in the US, with half the Fortune 500 customers in their portfolio there’s already growth potential on the back of that customer base alone.”

ABM he adds are also big players in key areas around energy solutions in the US where they are market leaders in sustainable infrastructure, power, and bundled energy solutions, with services across eMobility, EV and electrification, all of which could be applied in the UK.

Sykes also adds: “ABM have a huge technical services offering which we are not as well known for in the UK, so that was a big attraction for me. With Scott and Rene’s question to me being ‘how do we accelerate the growth of the UK & Ireland business?’ I realised it was a challenge that I really wanted to do.”


Prior to Sykes’ appointment, ABM has been busy with a spate of announcements, including the acquisition of Dublin-based Momentum Support last year.

Says Sykes: “Up to now Momentum had been kept mostly separate so my aim is to integrate it more now into the rest of the business. Aside from that our core businesses in Ireland remain aviation, healthcare and a growing life sciences sector and we’ll maintain those as our focus but will add new sectors as well.

“For example, we’ll keep going after public sector work, and corporate real estate will also be a key area of growth. We’re also quite big in manufacturing and distribution in the US so we’ll open up that market here too.”

In terms of service lines, the focus of growth he explains will be on the technical side, as the business already has a strong soft service presence, including cleaning, waste management and security.

Currently ABM’s European market is pretty small, consisting mainly of data centres in Northern Europe and Sykes advises: “We’re not going to run off in that area at the moment as I’m still getting to know the business. Phase one will be UK and Ireland growth and then we’ll start looking at where and if we need to expand into Europe. It’s a big playing field which I know from my experience, so we’ll be selective in which markets we may choose to go into.”

About Sarah OBeirne

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