Q&A: Neil McFarlane, TH March

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Insurance MD on fighting crime, being taken seriously and Take That.

Neil McFarlane is a familiar face in the trade and this year was promoted to managing director at jewellery insurance specialist TH March and was also recognised for his work with security initiative SaferGems when he was made a Trailblazer in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012 in association with the Company of Master Jewellers. He talks to us about fighting crime, being taken seriously and finding time for Take That.

Professional Jeweller: We are preparing to bid farewell to 2012. What has been the best moment of the year for you?
Neil McFarlane: Becoming Managing Director of TH March is a highlight from both a personal and professional perspective and a culmination of 28 years hard work.

PJ: That 28-year journey must have hit some highs and lows. How are you at dealing with challenges?
NMcF: Life is full of challenges. To me it is important to try and take a step back and not make an instant or knee-jerk reaction. I also read many years ago that you shouldn’t sweat the small stuff and only worry about things you can influence, not those you can’t.

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PJ: TH March teamed up with the NAG to launch security initiative SaferGems, which has done some very impressive work this year. What have been the significant milestones for the project this year?
NMcF: Probably the most significant development this year has been the British Jewellers’ Association becoming actively involved within SaferGems as an Affiliate member. This enables an even greater number of jewellers within the UK to benefit from the alerts and exchange of information, thus extending the schemes reach even further.

PJ: You also work closely with the police on SaferGems. How has this partnership helped develop the concept?
NMcF: The police were always very supportive of the thinking behind SaferGems as they could see the obvious benefits a national crime reporting and liaison scheme could provide. With police resources becoming even more stretched, their appreciation of the link SaferGems provides across the UK between jewellery trade crime and suspicious activity and themselves, is even greater. This of course feels enormously satisfying and vindicates the time and effort initially put in by NAG and TH March, when many in the trade were quite sceptical.

PJ: You mention that the trade have been sceptical of SaferGems in the past. Do retailers value it now?
NMcF: For those who actively take part – absolutely. They appreciate the crime intelligence they receive in the alerts, which has enabled jewellers to prevent a number of thefts. It also shows trends, which again enables jewellers to amend their procedures where they have identified a weakness.

PJ: If you could have one wish granted that would make SaferGems more successful, what would it be?
NMcF: Actually there are really two wishes. The first is that more jewellers actively use the scheme. Many are already enrolled but haven’t taken the time to ensure their set up and contact details are correct. They therefore miss out on the alerts. The second is for more suspicious activity to be reported, rather than just report something after a crime has been committed.

PJ: How would you describe your work ethic?
NMcF: I am very much an ideas person, with a focus on the end result, rather than the detailed planning of the journey.

PJ: How does your typical day pan out?
NMcF: I like to arrive in the office reasonably early and leave as close to 5pm as is practical – work permitting. This enables to be home at around 7pm – trains permitting. I try not to bring work home with me, so that my home time is with my wife and four children.

PJ: And what occupies your time outside the office?
NMcF: Relaxing takes many forms, including exercise, watching sport, particularly motor racing and of course socialising with the odd pint of beer in my hand. I also love going to gigs, with the preference being rock, although my wife did make sure I took her to see Take That last year.

 

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