Peter Digby wins top IoD Director of the Year Award
15 Oct 2013
Peter Digby, managing director of the UK?based transmission technology specialist Xtrac, has been named ‘Global Director of the Year’ and overall winner of the influential Director of the Year Award presented by the UK Institute of Directors. The company he’s helped to grow, which celebrates its 30th anniversary next year, is headquartered in the UK with a hitech factory in Berkshire and additional facilities in Indianapolis and at Mooresville in North Carolina.
Simon Walker director general at the IoD said: “These awards recognise not just the tremendous success of Xtrac, but also the leadership and business skills that Peter has brought to bear. He is a truly worthy winner and we shall watch the continued success of
Xtrac with great interest.”
Peter Digby was presented with two of the IoD’s most prestigious awards in recognition of his outstanding leadership of an ‘exemplary motorsport and automotive business’ with 275 employees, and for the consistently high level of export sales this ‘UK Manufacturer of the Year’ has sustained since its formation 30 years ago. To win the IoD ‘Global Director of the Year’ award, not only must the enterprise be successful in exporting, but also committed to continued growth in the international business arena.
Xtrac’s largest markets are Germany, France, Italy and the US. More recently, South America and Asia have become increasingly important growth areas. The ‘Global Director’ award recognises directors of UK?based companies with overseas operations where a
minimum of 25 per cent of the company’s recent turnover comes from worldwide sales – in the case of Xtrac it consistently achieves 70 per cent export sales.
The IoD awards cover nine different categories and the winners of each category are all considered for the overall “Director of the Year” award. This top award is for the director who has shown outstanding leadership in the face of either difficult internal issues or tough market conditions, and who is able to point to outstanding achievements in their business during the course of the previous 12 months.
The IoD judges said Peter Digby was a consistently outstanding managing director who has delivered the company’s most successful financial year to date with a continually expanding order book, and clearly deserved the accolade that comes with these awards, which were presented at the Grange Hotel in London on Friday afternoon 11 October 2013.
“I am absolutely delighted,” said Digby. “This highly valued award means a great deal to my fellow directors, managers, every employee in our company and to me personally. To have been recognised as the Global Director of the Year was fantastic, but to receive the overall Director of the Year award is simply amazing and I have to thank everyone at Xtrac for their hard work and support for everything that we have achieved together.”
Peter Digby trained as an engineer with British Airways before joining the Williams Formula One team when he was 21. He left as production manager after six years having obtained a Masters Degree, and following a brief spell with the Team Haas Formula One team, joined Xtrac in 1986 – just two years after it had been established by Mike Endean. Under his leadership, Xtrac grew rapidly and in 1997 Digby led an unusual management buyout in the sense that it included all employees, who still make up 100 per cent of the shareholders. Xtrac is now the world’s most successful motorsport transmission company with a turnover of £40 million – having achieved its best annual sales ever.
One of the critical assessments made by the IoD was determining the systems Xtrac has in place to ensure on?going professional development of its entire staff – including the company’s apprenticeship training programme. “With hundreds of candidates chasing just a few positions each year, we have honed and developed our skills in selecting and training young, enthusiastic and extremely talented individuals,” says Digby. “Through our programmes, they attend colleges and universities collecting ONC, HNC, degrees and PhD’s, with Xtrac’s full support and financial backing.” “I have been greatly rewarded by being able to personally, and actively, encourage more than one hundred young apprentices, trainees and graduates to successfully enter the world of high performance, world class engineering, also working with the most advanced machinery in our 90,000 sq ft factory. Our employees are of course our most valuable asset, that’s why I ensured they could all become shareholders, which successfully engages and motivates everyone.” “Not surprisingly, we enjoy outstanding employee retention figures, especially amongst our most experienced staff, many having more than 20 years of service. This loyal, experienced and highly qualified group of engineers is however kept fresh by our award winning undergraduate training scheme. And we continually invest in the latest, computer?aided engineering and machine tools. This investment saves lead time and reduces costs, ever more important in a tough global economic climate.”
The IoD is not the only body to recognise the initiatives Xtrac has employed under Peter Digby’s leadership to encourage employee engagement across all levels of the organisation. Xtrac is now consulted by the Rt Hon Vince Cable at the department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), and other government departments, on how its experience can help the training needs of the UK’s engineering and manufacturing sectors.
Xtrac has also been selected, by the Motorsport Industry Association, to represent the industry on the strategically important Automotive Council Technology Panel, sitting alongside all major UK automotive companies. Peter Digby is also an associate member of the British Racing Drivers’ Club and a past chairman of the MIA. Congratulating him on the award, Chris Aylett chief executive of the MIA commented: “This is a well?deserved award for Peter, who has worked tirelessly to lead his excellent team at Xtrac into the globally leading position it occupies today. Xtrac is a shining example of a highly successful company operating in a tough global industry and successfully demonstrates the UK’s motorsport and high performance engineering capabilities. Peter has also been unstinting in his support of the British motorsport industry. His colleagues on the MIA committee are immensely proud of his achievement in winning these prestigious IoD awards. This highlights Peter’s exceptional leadership ability and integrity, Xtrac’s
world?class expertise and the motorsport industry generally.”
Commenting on the role of the motorsport industry in the broader automotive context Digby says it has realised its collective responsibility, and opportunity to help develop new fuel saving technologies, which Xtrac has fully embraced. “Motorsport is leading the way in creating smaller, lighter, more efficient engines and gearboxes, with a rapid rise in the introduction of kinetic and thermal energy recovery systems combined with advanced electronics. Many race formula regulations now actively reward efficient fuel consumption. Xtrac has placed itself at the forefront of these new energy efficient technology developments, not only by using advanced lightweight materials and gear designs, but also by designing and patenting revolutionary new engine and gearbox and electric motor hybrid powertrains.”
“These technologies demonstrate that high performance does not require large, multicylinder engines and that substantial fuel consumption and CO2 savings can be achieved with multi?speed lightweight drivelines. A change in public perception will take time but is now well underway, with Xtrac playing a leading part through our motorsport and automotive engineering divisions.”