An exciting training journey (Sponsored)

Oct 01, 2019
The fast-growing Dalata Hotel Group offers excellent career opportunities for both trainee and qualified Chartered Accountants.

In just 12 years, Dalata Hotel Group has established itself as Ireland’s premier hotel group. With 40 hotels within Ireland and the UK, and nine more in the pipeline, the company has 5,000 employees and had turnover of €394 million last year – up from just €61 million as recently as 2013. “That is predicted to grow again substantially this year,” says Deputy CEO, Dermot Crowley. “We added 1,800 rooms to the portfolio last year and have a further 2,400 in the pipeline.”

Dalata was founded in 2007 by former JurysDoyle Hotel Group CEO, Pat McCann. “Pat McCann set up Dalata in 2007 after JurysDoyle had gone private and the management team went their separate ways,” Crowley explains. “One year later, everything looked very different as a result of the financial crisis. Pat saw an opportunity to create a niche for the company. Dalata became the hotel manager of choice for receivers. At the height of the crisis, the company was managing 25 hotels on behalf of receivers which generated the income to ride out the recession.”

Crowley worked with Pat McCann in JurysDoyle Hotel Group, where he was Head of Development. “I got to know Pat when I joined JurysDoyle Hotels in 2000,” he recalls. “I was part of the team that did the deal to sell the Ballsbridge site to Sean Dunne and we developed a number of Jurys Inns in Ireland, the UK and Boston while I was there.”

A Chartered Accountant himself, Crowley began his career at PwC – then Craig Gardner – back in the late 1980s before moving on to Proctor & Gamble in the UK. He got his first taste of the hotel industry when he joined the Shelbourne Hotel as Financial Director in 1995. That was followed by a stint at Bill Cullen’s Glencullen Group before moving to JurysDoyle. He then spent six years with Ion Equity before teaming up with Pat McCann again when he joined Dalata in 2012.

He believes the broad spread of experience offered by the hotel industry has been of great benefit to him in his career. “Every hotel is a complete business in its own right with sales, marketing, finance, operations and all the other functions,” he says. “Being exposed to all that is invaluable experience.”

He recalls the point when he joined Dalata. “Back in the summer of 2012, I met Pat McCann in the Leopardstown Inn and we spoke about the opportunity that Dalata had at that time. All those hotels had to be sold and there were no natural buyers out there for them. We hatched our plans during 2013 and went for an IPO (initial public offering) in 2014. We raised €265 million during the IPO and a further €210 million not long afterwards. We bought 18 hotels across Ireland and the UK from NAMA and a number of different receivers.”

The company subsequently acquired the Moran Bewley group for €453 million in 2015. Today, Dalata operates the Maldron Hotel and Clayton Hotel brands throughout Ireland and the UK, as well as managing a portfolio of partner hotels.

A hotel chain like Dalata offers excellent career opportunities and an exciting training journey for accountants, Crowley contends. “With a company like Dalata, you can progress to decision-making roles very quickly,” he says. “You get experience in all facets of the business, dealing directly with customers, branding, finance and so on. It’s a very fast-moving and dynamic industry that is constantly changing, not so much in customer experience but everything behind it. For example, there was no such thing as Booking.com 30 years ago, but how we book hotel rooms is now changing continuously.”

The company employs 70 qualified accountants across the group with a further six trainees on its Graduate Finance Programme, which is run in conjunction with Chartered Accountants Ireland. “We started the programme four years ago,” says Crowley. “We were one of the first companies to team up with Chartered Accountants Ireland to offer an opportunity to become a Chartered Accountant through industry rather than the traditional route of professional practice. We offer the same study leave and other supports as a professional practice along with help, guidance and mentoring from qualified accountants in the group. Programme participants have very high success rate in the exams as well as in their subsequent careers in Dalata.”

The programme offers broad exposure to the group with participants spending a year in internal audit, a year in a hotel and a year in central office with the other six months in a different area to round out the experience. “Six people have qualified through the programme so far and a further six are on it at the moment,” says Crowley.

And career prospects are bright for those who come through it. “Eddie Dore qualified 18 months ago and now works for the Head of Development and looks at new development projects for the group,” says Crowley. “He presented at the last two board strategy days. That’s great experience for a newly qualified accountant. Thomas O’Donnell is just qualified and is now full-time in internal audit. He has already been at four or five board and audit meetings. Very few companies offer that kind of experience to people when they are that young.

“Joe O’Grady is working in the Commercial Finance team, looking at where our income is coming from and helping staff to upsell and so on. He also gets to present to senior management. Fiona O’Leary works with the Financial Analysis team providing key management information on areas such as the profitability of food and beverage, room profitability in individual hotels and so on. That’s four examples of people who have just come through the programme and gone on very quickly to positions of responsibility.

“We are a very flat organisation and Pat McCann is on first name terms with all of these guys. It’s a great experience for accountants starting out on their career. We place a very strong focus on career development and like to promote internally. If people are good enough, they are old enough to be given responsibility regardless of how young they are. We also ask people how they think we can improve the business; we are always open to new ideas. Typically, programme participants are graduates straight out of college, but some have gone on to do something else before joining us. We are not just focused on results in college though; we’re interested in them as people and in their ambitions.”

The Graduate Programme is directed by Carol Phelan, Group Head of Financial Reporting, Treasury and Tax, using her experience from KPMG and Dalata to ensure that graduates get a well-rounded experience, excellent exposure and support while on the programme.

The group also offers excellent opportunities for qualified accountants who wish to move out of practice and into industry. “Niamh Carr, Investor Relations Manager and Rachel Cafolla, Financial Reporting & Treasury Manager both joined us from KPMG and are now integral members of our team,” Crowley notes.

“We are open to applications for our Graduate Finance Programme all the time,” he concludes. “We take applicants from throughout the country and are flexible in where they work and when they start on the programme. Anyone wishing to join the programme should email Áine Doyle, Group Learning and Development Manager, at adoyle@dalatahotelgroup.com.”

(This article is sponsored by Dalata Hotel Group.)