Meet Our People: Customs Support UK Operations Director Ian Barker
In our series #WeAreCustomsSupport, you will meet the people behind Customs Support. We value our colleagues and the work they do. In this series, we will interview the people who are always ready to assist you with importing or exporting your goods without worries. Next up in this series is Ian Barker, who is the operations director in the UK.
Who are you?
Hi! I’m Ian Barker, the operations director for Customs Support in the UK – working out of our Felixstowe branch. I’ve been in the logistics industry for over 30 years now, working in management roles across warehousing and transport depots, key accounts, freight forwarding, and customs clearance.
What does an operations director do at Customs Support?
I am responsible for coordinating not only the 140+ people that previously worked for UKCS, which is where I was when they were acquired by CSG, but also for the operations teams over every other acquisition in the UK. We are currently transforming from our individual businesses into a single UK entity, and I am responsible for supporting everyone as we adopt the CSG way.
What does a typical working day look like?
I am currently focused on the training of our people and the integration of CSG systems into our teams. We are also developing the lobster system here, which allows customer documents to be scanned and the data digitally collected for declarations. Our fantastic IT personnel have strong customs operational backgrounds here, so they’ve been able to lead the way in this area. Overseeing this project with them, our teams, and our customers has been an exciting focus for me. Digitalisation is king!
What do you like most about your role?
The thing that I love about my role is that I work with people who are motivated and enthusiastic about their jobs. Something that I’ve found extremely satisfying, throughout my career, is being with people who are passionate about what they do. You know that they want to do their best for you, and you want to do your best for them in return. I love the teamwork, and it’s a pleasure to facilitate an environment where people can enjoy their work.
You’re located in Felixstowe, England. What’s the best thing about your location?
I live in Ipswich, which isn’t far from Felixstowe, and I love the feeling of driving to the coast. There’s just something about it. The Felixstowe community provides an important service to the UK and Europe and, seeing the docks out of our office window, you really feel like you are a part of it.
What excites you the most about joining this network of customs experts?
The ambition and the openness of their [CSG’s] strategy to achieve it. The whole theory is that having agents in every country means that they can offer a simple end-to-end solution to their customers.
I love this because, no matter where I have worked, the best thing you can do for your customer is try and keep it simple. It isn’t always possible in the customs clearance world, but you can keep it methodical – and we do that. By maintaining and developing intercompany and intercountry relations, we can give customers a simple and safe solution.
What’s the next stage for the UK’s development?
The training and integration of systems for all UK staff is key right now, but we are also working hard with our colleagues across Europe to explore opportunities surrounding end-to-end clearances.
We have a couple of representatives in every branch of CSG that meet up each month and explore what crossover services they can offer to the other countries. With us [the UK] on the other side of the EU to Brexit, we have a lot of enquiries coming back from our EU counterparts, and vice-versa, so we are actively trying to ascertain resources so that we can service all our shared clients’ needs.
What’s important for us is that we support our people, our customers, our communities, and charities as we evolve, and I’m excited that we are able to do that.
Why is it important to have an office in Felixstowe?
Although we have offices around the country, Felixstowe is the UK’s premiere port. If you are a company of reputable size and looking to be a key player in the UK logistics industry, you would naturally look to have an office in the Felixstowe area – much the same as you would expect a company to have an office in Rotterdam in The Netherlands, Antwerp in Belgium, or Hamburg in Germany. CSG has offices in these ports, and in other key ports around Europe. It’s a good indicator of a company’s status that they are in the right place(s).
What do you do outside of work, and how does your outside life affect your work skills?
Family is really important to me. I have 5 children from ages seven to twenty-nine, and 2 grandchildren. I spend a lot of time playing with my kids and my grandkids, and I love sport as well.
I’m a former footballer and am an enthusiastic fan of Leeds United, who’ve given a phenomenal performance in the tail end of the season to stay in the Premier League. Nowadays, I play a bit of golf and like to keep fit and healthy – visiting the gym at least 3 times a week.
Having the time with family, and to have a healthy body, outside of work is important in maintaining my drive at work. I can give 100% because I have a decent work/life balance.
What do you think is the most important quality customers should look for in a customs broker?
Clear, concise communication lines: you’ve got to be able to understand each other’s expectations. What we tell our clients we will do, we must deliver on. In return, we must get clear instructions from the customer. It’s a two-way street, and there is no room for guesswork, so it has to be set up correctly from the start.
You are now part of a Europe-wide network. If you were to visit any CSG office, which country would you go to and why?
Italy. The architecture there is amazing, as is the food and the weather. I’ve heard wonderful things about it. I’d love to visit Venice, drink some wine with my wife, and see the sights from a gondola.