Finance and focus can build strong foundations

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Causeway: Ireland Scotland Business Exchange hears from their Treasurer Sean Fallon about his business career and new role as Major Donors Manager for the Celtic FC Foundation and his passion for serving those in need.

SEAN Fallon has had a long career in banking and finance and has been involved with Causeway: Scotland Ireland Business Exchange, since it was launched—under its former name, the Irish Business Network Scotland—at Edinburgh Castle in 2016. Born and bred in Glasgow, like many from the city Sean is of Irish heritage, with a father who was born in Sligo and arrived in Glasgow in 1950, through his career as a professional footballer with Celtic FC.

For Sean (above), growing up in Glasgow with an Irish father who had played for and was Assistant Manager at Celtic FC, the Club became a strong part of his childhood.

“I started to attend matches when I was just five years of age and spent a lot of time at Celtic Park,” he reflected. “You could say that I was born into Celtic Football Club! My father played for Celtic throughout the 1950s, scoring the winning goal in the 1954 Scottish Cup Final and playing in the League Cup Final in 1957, when Celtic beat Rangers 7-1. Later in his career, he was Assistant Manager to Jock Stein until the late 1970s; an era where Celtic won the league nine times in a row and became the first British team to win the European Cup.”

Pathway and Causeway
Although they may share the same name, Sean’s career took a very different path to his father’s and Sean entered the financial sector by joining Allied Irish Bank’s Glasgow branch in 1989. In 1995, he moved to London to work at AIB’s Head Office as an underwriter, and later became a Chartered Banker, and was subsequently promoted to Assistant Manager at one of AIB’s largest business centres on Holloway Road.

Sean spent six years working in banking in London until 2001, when he and his wife, Pauline, decided to return home to Glasgow and Sean joined Royal Bank of Scotland as Business Development Manager, where he worked for seven years. He subsequently returned to work for AIB, which successively led to him achieving promotion to Senior Manager and running his own AIB Business Centre in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh in 2013. It was through this role Sean became involved with the other founders of the Causeway (then the Irish Business Network Scotland) and helped organise its launch at Edinburgh Castle in 2016.

Looking back on the early days of the Causeway network and the key role the network has today in linking Irish-Scottish businesses, Sean said: “I was involved with Causeway from the beginning. There was an obvious synergy with Allied Irish Bank, and I took part in the first strategy day at the Consulate General of Ireland in Edinburgh and arranged for AIB to sponsor the launch event at Edinburgh Castle, which provided a perfect opportunity to raise the profile of Causeway and AIB. Opportunities to develop AIB’s business in Scotland emerged from the launch.

“I have always enjoyed networking and the aim of Causeway is fantastic. When I help deliver on our objectives—helping Irish or Scottish businesses to expand and prosper—it is extremely satisfying. Being Causeway’s Treasurer and a member of the legal board, provides me with the opportunity to give a bit back—I won several customers from AIB through my membership of Causeway.

“Since the beginning, Causeway has been about sharing ideas and collaborating and I have found the network provides a great opportunity to learn from other professionals and business people. The learnings may reinforce that you are doing the right things, however, it may lead you to consider and implement adjustments to maximise your business. It also provides a platform to share contacts from the public and private sectors.

“What I enjoy in being part of the Causeway network, is hearing about the successes and challenges of being in business. I get a real kick out of being able to provide help, advice and support—Causeway provides the perfect forum for that. I enjoy meeting people socially and being part of a network that can make a difference.

“Causeway also greatly benefits from the support of the Scottish and Irish Governments—this, combined with the membership comprising of professionals and business people from a variety of sectors and differing scale, means that Causeway is able to add value in a meaningful way and is dynamic enough to tailor how the network can help.”

New opportunity
Although Sean achieved a lot during his time with AIB in Edinburgh, including taking it through a successful organisational restructure, after three years of commuting from Glasgow to Edinburgh, Sean decided to return to work in Glasgow when the opportunity to lead a business team with AIB there presented itself.

In 2019, after a long established career in banking, Sean then chose to take the leap and embark on a career change and join the charitable arm of the club, Celtic FC Foundation, where he is currently Major Donors Manager. Commenting on his approach to taking on this change of position and the value of the transferrable skills he brought to the role from his banking career, Sean said: “Unfortunately, I didn’t possess the skills to be a professional footballer, but I always wanted to be involved with the Club in some way, so when the role of Major Donors Manager at Celtic FC Foundation became available, I was delighted to be given the opportunity and I have loved every minute of working at Celtic Park and being part of Celtic FC Foundation.

“I am responsible for legacy giving, seeking investment for the projects we deliver, and our regular giving initiative, the Founders Club, which right now is very much a priority for us. The commercial experience gained in banking, combined with a strong network and a cultural understanding of the club, led me to believe that I could make an impact and deliver for the foundation and the communities it supports.”

Founders Club goals
So that the charitable arm of Celtic can continue to deliver initiatives such as the Football for Good Fund and help those most in need in the communities they serve, they have made raising awareness and enhancing the profile of their Founders Club a priority.

The Founders Club is a regular giving initiative that was established in 2012, around an event to mark the 125th anniversary of Celtic Football Club’s formation. Since its inception, the Founders Club has brought together a community of Celtic supporters who share the values of the club’s founding fathers and are invested in building the future of the club’s charitable arm. Members demonstrate a commitment to the development of the foundation by donating a minimum of £125 each month, and, in doing so ensure their roots are always at the heart of what they do. Explaining more, Sean said: “The support of our founders is fundamental to making the work of the foundation possible. By gifting a monthly contribution, members allow us to confidently plan for the future and make long-term plans for the communities we serve.

“The aim is that funding gifted to Celtic FC Foundation by our founders each month, in conjunction with the support we receive from Celtic Football Club, will allow us to cover the charity’s core costs. This will give us a zero cost income ratio, meaning that all the income received from fundraising, will be allocated directly to those that need it most.”

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