PROFILE: John Dickie, GPC Market Access - GPC picks up a Prima suspect. John Dickie moves from a smaller player to the premier consultancy ranks

John Dickie has had a lot on his plate since last week, when the public policy consultancy which he headed, Prima Europe, was bought by Omnicom-owned lobbying firm GPC Market Access. He has been propelled from the managing directorship of a small, specialist agency with a pounds 1 million turnover to the same post at one of the UK’s top four political consultancies with four times the turnover. He admits that the next six months are going to be hard. ’I feel excited but a little bit nervous,’ he says.

John Dickie has had a lot on his plate since last week, when the

public policy consultancy which he headed, Prima Europe, was bought by

Omnicom-owned lobbying firm GPC Market Access. He has been propelled

from the managing directorship of a small, specialist agency with a

pounds 1 million turnover to the same post at one of the UK’s top four

political consultancies with four times the turnover. He admits that the

next six months are going to be hard. ’I feel excited but a little bit

nervous,’ he says.



Dickie’s relatively short career - he is only 32 - has veered between

the City and politics. A committed Social Democrat Party supporter from

student days, he worked as a graduate trainee for Swiss Bank Corporation

for two years before joining Prima as associate director in 1989, when

it was little more than a three-man commercial think-tank with Liberal

Democrat leanings. He fitted in a part-time MBA before being appointed

director of the agency in 1994 and finally managing director last

year.



His work for clients including British Gas and PowerGen has earned him a

reputation as a committed, hands-on consultant. Mike Fulwood, former

director of price control for BG who worked with Dickie during 1995-6,

says: ’He doesn’t just dispatch words of wisdom, he was very much part

of the team.’



Dickie aims to lean on both his business and political experiences in

his new role, where he identifies two central priorities. ’I want to

spend time on the core management of the business, so that it doesn’t

interfere with the work people are doing, and keep my hand in with my

clients. Getting that balance right is going to be very demanding but I

am determined not to let either side suffer.’



Dickie’s brief at Market Access will certainly not be simple. He will be

managing what is effectively Market Access’s second shake-up in a few

months - it was merged with Canadian-based lobbying group GPC

International last year - and taking over from one of the most respected

and well-connected lobbyists in the business, Michael Craven, who

resigned as managing director a fortnight ago.



Industry sources also point to the difference in styles between Prima,

whose speciality is boardroom level policy advice to a small number of

clients, mostly in the utilities, and Market Access, whose services

range from monitoring to policy strategy and whose clients cover a broad

spectrum.



This may lead to added tensions in an already charged office

environment.



Dickie is confident this will not happen: ’Clearly, we are a smaller

company, they are a bigger company, we will always have different ways

of working, but I am not too worried about that. The staff at Market

Access are experienced professional people, as are Prima’s staff.’



Alongside his consultancy work, Dickie remains actively engaged in party

politics, although he has switched loyalties since his early Prima

days.



He was elected to London’s Camden Council in 1994 on a Liberal Democrat

ticket, only to cross the floor a year later and join the Labour ranks

because ’upon the election of Tony Blair, I thought Labour was the best

bet for social democrats like me’.



His colleague on Camden council, John Mills, who chairs policy and

research there, describes Dickie as a high-flyer. ’He has strong views

but he manages to persuade people of them.’ Mills expects to see Dickie

on the Commons benches before too long, although Dickie claims his

childhood ambition to become an MP has since been quelled by the reality

of ’a very uncertain and difficult career’ awaiting potential members.

He sees local politics and consultancy work as more rewarding ways of

achieving political change.



’Good government relations is about bridging the gap between commercial

strategy and public policy. You do very similar work in Government but

it’s easier doing it full time as a consultant than through being an

MP,’ he concludes.





HIGHLIGHTS

1987: Graduate trainee, Swiss Bank Corporation

1989: Associate director, Prima Europe

1997: Managing Director, Prima Europe

1998: Managing director, GPC Market Access



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