Name: Fergus Bailie
  College: St Aidan's College
  Subject: Law with Economics (LLB Hons)       
  Class of: 2001
  Location: York

Your Durham Inspiration

Do you remember why you first chose to study at Durham?

I went there for a visit in the autumn before my A-Levels. I looked at several campuses around the UK and when I saw Durham, I absolutely fell in love with it. The view of the Minster from the towpath blew me away – it wasn’t like anywhere else I had ever seen.

Tell us about any sports, societies or clubs you were involved in at Durham.

I played for the University football team for a couple of years (goalkeeper) and also played for my college. I played a bit of basketball too on occasion.

What work or moment were you were most proud of at Durham?

My dissertation was on restorative justice and the impact that could have on helping to reduce sectarianism and punishment beatings in Northern Ireland communities. I got to meet a lot of people impacted by punishment beatings in Northern Ireland and understand why they felt that members of their communities went to paramilitaries rather than the police. It gave me a massive insight into the depths of the divisions in Northern Ireland and how alternative strategies could bring them together.

What are your fondest memories from your time here?

Definitely spending time with my friends in the colleges. I made the best friends I have ever had and am still in regular contact with many of them today. I remember fondly the JCR nights, the formals, the socials – all great craic! I left Durham with a 2:1 degree, great memories and lifelong friends.

How has Durham inspired you to get to where you are today?

I learned how to think critically and to deconstruct problems. The analytical skillsets that law gave me has been useful and helpful every day. I can understand the legal framework that my company works within and add value to the business through that understanding. I also learned the discipline of individual hard work and study. I remember thinking six hours of lectures a week would mean lots of free time, but in reality it meant lots of reading time!

What have you been up to since you left Durham?

I worked for PWC for four years – completed my Chartered Accountancy qualification, spending three years with the Audit teams in St Albans and London and then a year in Merges and Acquisitions in Uxbridge. I joined CDS (a communications agency) in 2006, became Managing Director in 2010 and am now Group CEO of Bailie Group, employing 350 people across the UK and internationally.

What are you doing that is most meaningful to you now?

Running my own business with so many different services and people is fascinating. We have a communications agency, an engineering consultancy, a PR agency and a behavioural research agency. It’s really varied and the work that we do makes a real difference to people’s lives. We developed technology that was used to save lives in the Ebola outbreak, built a tool to help social workers connect with their patients, and are currently rolling out the world’s largest online crime reporting platform to every police force in England and Wales.

Is there anything from Durham that has stayed with you and still inspires you now?

I’m very proud to have been to Durham and had the experiences I had. The friends I made still connect to me and inspire me every day.

Tell us about your latest news or developments.

We just completed an acquisition of a company called SimpleUsability – a leading behavioural research and insight agency which we think will transform the way companies build digital products. On top of that we have completed the £1.3m refurbishment of a new building we purchased in Leeds on Granary Wharf, and in only a couple of weeks, it will become our HQ.

Personal interests

I signed up for my first triathlon which was unfortunately cancelled due to Covid. I have two daughters at primary school so most of my free time is spent with them (and increasingly ‘driving them’ places!).

What would be your top piece of advice for current students and/or recent graduates?

Make the most of your time and experiences. The friends you make there will be friends for life. University made me a more rounded person and I would encourage people to explore that and embrace the opportunities university life affords – you will have a long career but you won’t get your uni time back again. Oh, and find out which pub your lecturer drinks in as that buys you an extra hour for your assignments!

Is there anything that you know now that you wish you’d known when graduating?

I’ve always been a worrier. If I could send myself a message back in time it would be: “You’ll be grand.”

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