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A Day in the Life: Jim Power, chief economist at Friend First Back  
Jim Power, chief economist at Friends First, starts his day on Eamon Dunphy’s breakfast show where he presents the Business Review. From there he goes on to give a presentation for Friends First where he says who the true originator of the term ‘Celtic Tiger’ is, and then finishes his day lecturing to a group of MBA students at Smurfit Business School.
6.15 am Alarm clock introduces me to a new day. I don’t always rise at this unearthly
Jim Power

hour, but at least one morning per week I do the Business Review on Eamon Dunphy’s excellent Breakfast Show on Newstalk 106. I generally cycle in to Mount Street to do this. I arrive in at around 7 am, spend 35 minutes reviewing the key business stories and then spend about 5 minutes discussing them with Mr. Dunphy. He is an absolute pleasure to deal with and is a great interviewer who lets you get on with it and doesn’t constantly interrupt. This morning I deliver a real clanger, by suggesting that my mobile reception is so bad at home that I would be better off on the roof of the house sending smoke signals. It was politely pointed out to me that the mobile phone operator I referred to actually sponsors the show. Good one Jim! The reality for many mobile phone companies is that getting planning permission for new masts is extremely difficult, so we will just have to live with poor signals in certain parts of the country.

Then back on the bike and I am home again by 8.15 am. This is a great start to the day, as I manage to get some much-needed exercise in, I manage to scan the important business stories and still be back home in time to have breakfast with my wife and two boys.

Three years ago, when Friends First moved from its city centre location to Loughlinstown, I decide to operate from home. Otherwise I would spend half of my life commuting. Given what I do, remote location does not create any problems. I am set up with the requisite technology in my converted garage, including an invaluable Bloomberg terminal. Working from home is great and suits my personality. No colleagues to worry about, no dressing up for work, no meaningless meetings and no office politics. In case I start to go ‘strange’ from the solitary existence, I set up meetings/lunches with somebody at least a couple of times per week, in order to keep my limited social skills honed. Working from home requires strong discipline, but if you have that, productivity soars.

8.55 am Drop the two boys up to the local primary school, which is literally two minutes from the house.

9.30 am I normally drop down to the Friends First office in Louglinstown two or three times per month. Today is one of those days. One of our sister companies within the Eureko Group, PZU in Poland, has a delegation in Dublin today and I have been asked to do a presentation to them on the Irish economy over the past couple of decades. I have done this particular presentation hundreds of times, so it does not require much effort or preparation. I hope that didn’t come across! They are fascinated by the remarkable progress Ireland has made in recent years and are particularly curious about the origins of the ‘Celtic Tiger’. I point out that Kevin Gardiner, who worked with Morgan Stanley in London at the time, coined the phrase, and not some others who claim to have done so. It is an interesting meeting, and as well as sharing insights on the Irish economy, I gain some useful insights on Poland and the issues in that country. After the presentation I drop up to see some of my colleagues in the company to discuss some client and broker presentations that are coming up shortly. I spend a lot of my working life on my feet doing presentations to clients, and I suppose like most economists working in this country with financial institutions, there is a huge marketing role involved.

12 pm On my way home, I drop into a restaurant in Sandymount to meet my former colleague at Bank of Ireland, Chris Johns, for lunch. He is now working for a UK equity house in Dublin. We occasionally work together on some projects, and have kept regular contact since we escaped from Bank of Ireland.

2pm I get home eventually and sit down to prepare a presentation that I am due to deliver at a Davis Langdon PKS property & construction seminar. I have been asked to assess the outlook for the Irish economy, interest rates and the residential housing market in 2006. There would now appear to be two types of individual in this country at the moment; those who believe that the Irish residential housing market is a bubble waiting to burst, and those who don’t. I am in the latter category. I believe that there are many fundamental forces in the Irish economy that are still very supportive of housing demand, and I tend to believe that the market is on the way to a soft landing rather than a sudden and very damaging crash.

3.30 pm I have to go down home to Waterford tomorrow to attend a meeting of an economic think tank that has been set up by the County Manager in Dungarvan to address the future economic development of the county. I have kept very close links with my native Waterford and tend to get down there on a frequent basis, not least to see the under-achieving hurlers in action. Enough said about that. The Group meets about once per quarter. It is a very interesting process, which has some very interesting and dynamic people involved, some of them based in Dublin, but all with Waterford connections. I quickly read the briefing notes for the meeting and write down any comments I have on their content.

4.45 pm I leave the house to go out to the Smurfit Business School in Blackrock. I am teaching Business Economics to the Executive MBA Class this year. Over the past couple of years I have taught Financial Management to 240 under graduate students in DCU, which is tough going, and given the numbers involved, one gets very little interaction. Furthermore, correcting that many scripts in June, is absolutely mind numbing. A smaller MBA class is a different matter entirely. Everything is questioned, discussed and torn apart and I emerge at 7.30 feeling utterly drained and mentally exhausted. However, it is a very fulfilling experience and really challenges one’s economic principles and beliefs. The class is highly motivated, intelligent and driven, and one needs to stand on solid ground before one opens one’s mouth.

8pm Arrive home, and have dinner with my wife and boys. It has been a challenging and varied day, but quite enjoyable. The thing I love most about working in the world of economics is the variety involved, and working from home is particularly good. I don’t believe I could ever again work in an institutionalized office environment, unless I really have to. There is now an insatiable public appetite for discourse on a wide variety of economic issues, and it is very fulfilling to be involved in this whole area.

10pm Read 10 pages of Harry Potter to one of the boys and then go to bed myself and read John McGahren’s ‘Memoirs’ until I eventually crash out around 11pm.

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