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Leaders in Business: Stuart Harvey, Datactics


Stuart Harvey

Stuart Harvey

Stuart Harvey

Data has never been more important, not only in the world of IT and technology, but right across swathes of business.

Datactics started life as a Queen’s University spin-out in the early 2000s, but now, has grown into a fast-growing tech firm employing more than 60 staff and working with big name, global, blue chip clients – from financial services to media.

The company provides data quality solutions for firms. Essentially, dealing with and bringing forth the technology for major firms to improve and clean up key business data in order for them to make better use of it in an ever-changing, burgeoning digital environment.

“Our clients are very international and typically have messy sets of data,” Stuart Harvey, Datactics chief executive, tells Ulster Business.

“The output could be a requirement to improve regulatory reporting, a desire to understand customers, or increasingly, around the space of predictive analytics.”

He said a typical customer may say that it’s “trying to make more intelligent predictions as to where we should deploy our resources to maximise efficiencies”.

At the end of last year, it was revealed the firm was investing £2.3m into the business, and creating around 18 new jobs as a result.

“All that relies on clean, well-resourced data,” Stuart says. “(The company) provides a platform to deliver that type of information. We are firmly in the customer’s data plumbing. It might not be very glamorous, but it’s essential.”

Stuart joined the business as chief in 2013, around 10 years after it began as a university spin-out.

“We wanted to concentrate on one vertical and be very good at it,” he says. “The classic challenge for any start-up is the distraction effect. You’ve done something well, then the phone rings, it’s a different industry, and you think ‘we’ll do that now’.

“We decided we wanted to focus on industries where compliance and regulation were the drivers. We knew most of our customers wouldn’t be in Ireland.”

He says the firm has now more than 50 ‘installations’, many of which are internationally recognised, including wealth management giant Brewin Dolphin and Thomson Reuters.

“The focus of the investment round is about growth and development,” Stuart says. “We have around 60 people and added 30 people in the last few years to get there. The focus of this round is on opening a London sales office, and of course, adding technical talent in the Belfast headquarters.”

He says the last financial year, which closed in October 2021, was a strong one. “It’s been an interesting time during the pandemic for companies like ours. There have been positives and negatives.

“Arguably a positive is that good quality data is important for most industries. I think the second is that there has been a move towards often remote development of technology in a very efficient way which probably didn’t exist two years ago. Those have all been advantageous to us.

“From the technology deployment side of the business, we have delivered clients internationally – rolling out a new one in Malaysia, and no one left the office to do that. Three years ago, we would probably have had a small team on a plane.”

But he said a lack of face-to-face contact amid the pandemic was one of the drawbacks, especially as a smaller firm competing with industry giants.

“The other challenge for a small company involved in innovative work, it has been important for us all to work as a team at the office in Belfast and we have made a pretty positive statement that we are that type of a company.”

In terms of how the company is run as a whole, Stuart says reliance on his team is key, including delegating responsibility and a strong senior leadership team.