Graham Davies, Head of Transformation for Abellio London, started his career in the European division of Carphone Warehouse, where he was responsible for €3bn in annual financial accounts for 7 European subsidiaries—UK, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, and Ireland.
Within three years, he moved up to serve as Head of Accounting. During his time managing Carphone’s European finance operations, Davies transferred 26 accounting roles from London, UK to Lisbon, Portugal with no loss of financial visibility for the business, saved 5% on his annual €1m departmental budget and managed three teams of accountants.
After a strong start to his career, Davies accepted a Finance Manager role with London-based company SunGard. While he worked in the UK, he also managed 25 remote accountants in the Global Shared Service Centre in Pune, India, ensuring that all aspects of accounting and finance ran smoothly across international borders.
This experience might account for Davies’s people-centric approach to digital transformation. “You realise”, he explained, “that there are so many different people with different thoughts, feelings, and cultures across the world. And when you work internationally, I think it’s important to tailor your style… to not remain static”.
Eventually, Davies decided to accept an offer from Abellio UK. At their London office, he took full financial stewardship of their UK bus operations, managing an annual revenue of £200mn (€240mn). Over five years, he optimised headcount requirements for 2,200 driving staff, reduced payslip processing by 50%, and created significant savings by developing a fuel hedging strategy that minimised risk and reduced spend.
There’s little doubt that Davies’s range of UK, European, and Asian roles—from finance to digitalisation—have made him into the leader he is today. He knows that the best solutions are custom-built and centred around the people they serve. “The key driver for me”, he said, “is understanding and ensuring that any changes are appropriate for the people with whom I work”.
When COVID hit, Abellio’s data strategy was put on hold to cope with more pressing challenges, and Davies took charge of Abellio’s digital transformation. “We need to move into the 21st century”, he said. This includes adding 4G capabilities to Abellio’s bus fleet, shifting its bus fleet to electric and hybrid vehicles, and building systems that allow passengers and bus drivers alike to digitally track bus routes.
To sustainably digitalise Abellio’s transport systems, Davies now works with the company’s Senior Leadership Team to bring about data-led change across ten functional workstreams. To do so, he’s implementing new data analytics tools such as RPA Bots, ETL, Python, SQL, Snowflake, and Tableau.
Yet he doesn’t plan to achieve his career goals alone. “A great leader cannot lead by simply mandating change”, he told us. Digitalisation, one assumes, will bring about great change within Abellio, but the values that make Davies an asset to the company—inclusivity, proactivity, and professionalism—will remain the same.
To lead Abellio UK through the post-pandemic transportation environment will surely be a challenge. Yet after talking to Davies about sustainable digitalisation, COVID-19, and strategic leadership, we can’t think of a better man for the job.
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