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26 June 2013

In an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with Martin Steele, MD of corporate services at BT, PFM hears how and why BT brought its FM services in-house. This is a glimpse of some of the topics covered - the full version will be published in the August print edition of PFM. In order to ensure you receive a copy of the August print edition, register here

Last year BT took over ownership of Monteray, a joint venture between three established FM companies, which was at the time its service provider. The new company is called BT Facilities Services (BTFS) operating as a wholly owned subsidiary of BT. While it comes under the umbrella of BT it remains a company in its own right. Martin Steele outlines the process that led to BT acquiring Monteray, and how matters have moved on since.

Some questions we asked Steele included how the relationship between BT and Monteray - the original FM provider - came about. He explains how things had changed by the time he joined BT in 2008 and when was the decision made to acquire Monteray in the first place.

He explains how the process towards insourcing progressed from then and - once the decision was made - why it wasn't publicised wholesale in the national press. Nobody was let go after the acquisition, and Steele points out the effect that naming the new entity BT Facilities Services (BTFS) had on all concerned.

Steele gives insight into the steps he took after the acquisition. ''Overnight, I was given the financial headroom to do the things we wanted - reinvest in the business, save money on the bottom line. We knew broadly what that would look like before we put the deal together.''

When asked whether BT brought every aspect of FM back in-house, Steele explains why this wasn't possible in some instances. ''Catering, for instance, has always been performed by a third party – Eurest, which is part of Compass – and that is still the case. I don’t believe that will ever be insourced because it’s a really specialist service, as you’ll appreciate.''

He explains how BTFS is working towards becoming more specialist in some areas, and provides his views on outsourcing in general. He also emphasises the importance of learning and development on his agenda and explains the career opportunities now available for BTFS employees. ''We’re putting a lot of money and effort into ensuring our learning and development programmes are top class. And we want our people to progress through the business; I want people in BTFS to get jobs in BT, and cross-transfer, and have access to wider opportunities across BT.''

Looking ahead, he explains where he sees BTFS' priorities. Of great interest to service providers however will be his views on FM contracts. He explains what he thinks is key to successful long-term contracts, and what FM service providers should be doing to retain clients’ confidence and business.

He talks about the importance of energy management when he insources, and says emotional re-engagement isn't possible without insourcing. ''I think the answer is you can't. If you want to go down that path, I'll be happy to help you down it, and maybe in three or five years' time we'll work with you to bring it back into your organisation, if you're big enough or if you have the right critical mass. What we have in BTFS is that geographical reach, and we can leverage that.''

Steele gives details of the portfolio of buildings for which he's responsible. ''My team is responsible for corporate services in BT’s global operations; this incorporates 7,000 properties in the UK and around 500 properties internationally. Within that range of properties we have contact centres with a thousand people in them taking calls about BT Sport, selling broadband services or answering emergency 999 calls.''

He talks about how work is progressing for BT on iCITY and how BTFS will be different.

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