New regulations the route to success for IT disposal company

Future Proof: Philip McMichael is managing director of IT disposal company Asset Management Ireland

Philip McMichael: ‘My family have a business in Ballymoney, so I always wanted to work for myself’

Philip McMichael: ‘My family have a business in Ballymoney, so I always wanted to work for myself’

 

Philip McMichael started his career running a computer repair shop on the Boucher Road in Belfast. He had just graduated from a business degree in Manchester.

“It was a much smaller company than what we’re working with now. There were always just two or three guys working in that business,” he says. “We saw the opportunity to develop the business by looking to the UK and emulating businesses there, but in Northern Ireland.”

With the owner of the computer shop as a partner, McMichael established Asset Management Ireland (AMI) in 2001.

“My family have a business in Ballymoney, so I always wanted to work for myself,” he said.

McMichael was operations director until 2014, when his partner retired. He then became managing director.

AMI has now grown to become a £4 million (€4.6m) turnover organisation with two facilities in Dublin and Newtownabbey.

AMI provides an IT disposal service. His team collects redundant computers from businesses and securely dispose of the devices. They also recover the value from the computers and old IT equipment.

“Our biggest focus is on security. We fully audit the equipment, track it through our asset tracking system and then we complete data processing. Then we refurbish the equipment or, if it’s old or broken, we provide a solution to recycle it and recover the materials.

“We make sure everything’s diverted from landfill,” he said.

AMI’s clients include “quite a lot” of domestic government departments and a few large international accountancy consultancy businesses though McMichael says he can’t give names.

“Everything we do is focused on the security of our clients. We advise clients as to what they should and shouldn’t do as well as getting rid of data safely and securely.”

The business currently has 40 employees, but McMichael said he sees this growing to 50. As it stands, AMI has twice the staff it had three years ago.

“When we opened in Rathcoole in 2007, it wasn’t a great time to do it. But business is booming down there again and we’re getting a lot of international clients from that base,” he said.

“We made a decision seven or eight years ago that really helped us in the business, and that was to focus on accreditation and being the best from a security point of view. The company ranks among the top seven companies audited worldwide by ADISA, the leading global IT disposal standards body.

“They can turn up on our doorstep at any time and do a forensic audit on our processes. We’re one of the seven companies globally that they audit that has one of the highest levels of distinction of honours for our processes that we have in place.”

AMI is set to benefit from one important development in EU regulations – the introduction of general data protection regulations (GDPR) which will force businesses to adhere to new rules about data management and processing.

“There will also be new fines. If there is a data breach, every company can be fined up to 4 per cent of its global turnover,” said McMichael. “It’s an opportunity for our business because, in the past year, we’ve seen so much about it and our clients are now starting to ask about it.

“What it means, among other things, is that end of life disposal will have to be taken care of properly. So that’s something that will be a big opportunity for us this year and going forward,” he said.

McMichael said that “horror stories in the press” about data breaches have forced businesses to focus on data and security. “Businesses have realised that computers and any electrical equipment should no longer go into the bin.”

Europe is generally first with new regulations around data protection, he says, but, even here, regulations were 20 years out of date.

“At AMI, we were ready for these regulations before they were even written. These regulations are a great endorsement.”

At the moment, AMI is focusing on supporting their clients to prepare them for the regulations. They’re competing with businesses that have a large footprint around the world, said Philip.

“How we manage to set ourselves apart is by being a leader in security. With clients, we can demonstrate that we’re fully audited, we’ve 11 types of accreditation for our services,” he said.

“I’m passionate about security. It’s important that things are done right and that we fulfil a customer what we’ve told we’re going to do it, whether it’s in security or business,” he said.

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