We were fortunate enough to speak to Samsung UK and Ireland’s Conor Pierce, who heads up Samsung’s IT & Mobile division in the UK. Taking us on a journey of growth and possibilities, Conor tells us about the challenges and opportunities of running one of Samsung’s major business divisions in the UK, especially when consumers’ relationship with technology is constantly changing.
Conor joined the business back in 2015 and today, he is proud to lead an outstanding team of 250 people at a time when the business (and the industry) is going through a huge transformation. He is ambitious, results-driven and has plenty of experience executing turnaround strategies for businesses across multiple geographies.
Conor is no stranger to political or business headwinds; but with the company reporting a new quarterly high in operating profit in its third-quarter earnings, the business is heading into 2019 with a positive outlook. Hot on the heels of several high-profile launches, and on the cusp of some exciting announcements which will propel the Samsung business forward into a new era of technological advancement, 2019 is shaping up to be a transformational year.
It seems Samsung has had a very busy 2018 and we’re hot on the heels of a number of new product launches right here in the UK. Are you feeling bullish about 2019?
Absolutely. 2018 has been a remarkable year for the business and certainly in this market, we’re reaching new audiences and pushing our innovation and technology further than ever before. This is in part due to the fact consumers are living their lives differently. On the mobile side, we’ve had several launches this year including our flagship S9 and S9+ smartphones followed by our most premium device, the iconic Note9.
We are also hot on the heels of a launch where we introduced the UK to our complete Galaxy range of smartphones. With a more expansive range of entry and mid-range devices, we want to ensure that customers at all price points can access Samsung’s flagship-like features; including Samsung Pay, which allows consumers to make seamless and secure transactions straight from their devices.
It’s also why we launched our new J4+, J6+, A7 and the A9 with the world’s first rear quad camera. And of course, devices such as the Galaxy Watch help meet increasing consumer focus on wellness by incorporating complementary services like Samsung Health. 2018 was busy, but 2019 will be a whole other ball game!
Your Q3, 2018 earnings were strong. What’s driving this growth and is it sustainable?
Q3 was one of our best quarters in terms of operating profit and this was largely driven by strong sales of memory products and OLED panels. The smartphone market remains competitive and we’re facing new competition on numerous fronts. However, we’re confident in our innovation pipeline and we’re powering ahead to drive the business forward. It has been a good year and the second half is shaping up well.
2018 has been a remarkable year for the business and certainly in this market, we’re reaching new audiences and pushing our innovation and technology further than ever before.
What are the challenges of working in such a fast-moving industry? How does Samsung mitigate the everyday complications it faces?
The technology industry is changing at such a pace that we can never afford to take our foot off the pedal. It’s why we continue to invest heavily in our R&D pipeline. Earlier this year, Samsung Group announced an investment of about $22 billion over the next three years in growth areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G technology. On AI specifically, Samsung will be increasing the number of researchers to 1,000 across its global AI centres in the U.K., Canada, Russia, US and South Korea. The end-user/consumer is at the beginning, middle and the end of every decision we make. Keeping focused on delighting customers is in our DNA
R&D is very much the lifeblood of the Samsung business; it’s what fuels the innovative products we bring to market each year and helps us stay ahead of the market curve in terms of giving consumers access to technologies which make their lives that little bit safer, smarter and easier. Our goal is to stay competitive in all of the markets we operate in by being agile with new product development and ensuring the quality of our devices end-to-end. It is why instead of outsourcing our production, we manufacture 90% of our products in-house. This helps us ensure we deliver great quality, provide a good working environment for our employees, cut logistics costs and protect patents, all whilst being able to react to market shifts much faster.
Competition is fierce in the technology sector; however, Samsung has become one of the most well-known technology and electronics companies out there – to what would you attribute this ongoing success and ability to stay ahead?
I don’t believe there is only one answer to this question – but I for one strongly believe that our continuous commitment to excellence is one aspect. From our increased investment in R&D to manufacturing 90% of all of our products in-house, we’re focused on staying ahead.
Samsung has a strong heritage of innovation, and we’re proud to be leading the way through an open and collaborative approach. Our breakthrough technologies are powered by Artificial Intelligence and smart tech, and can bring greater convenience to people’s lives.
When you are thinking of the smart home, we strive to eliminate complexity and enhance our consumers’ experiences while offering a level of security that gives them peace of mind. We expect interconnected homes to become the norm over the next few years, intelligently connected to the smartphone at its centre, we want every product and service we provide to be an intelligent piece of the consumer’s connected ecosystem that continually enhances their lives.
Are there any exciting up-and-coming projects or new technology in the works at Samsung that you can tell us about?
We’re committed to unlocking the power of Artificial Intelligence and 5G for our consumers. A testament to this is our new AI research centres across the world, including one in Cambridge in the UK. These centres will enable Samsung to design and develop user-centric AI to help make people’s lives easier in an ever-more intelligent, useful and personalised way.
2018 has been an incredibly busy year for us, we launched some outstanding devices, including the S9, S9+ and our flagship smartphone the Note9. 2019 will herald further exciting product launches, which we believe will be game changers in the marketplace and draw a line in the sand about Samsung’s leadership potential in the smartphone space.
We’re being bolder than ever before, and we look forward to seeing consumer reaction to our latest devices. We’ll also continue to promote our entry and mid-range devices on the back of the A9 launch – we are committed to ensuring our flagship features are not just reserved for our premium smartphones.
What is the process when dealing with brand new technology to bring it from idea to reality?
At Samsung, we take great pride in being innovation leaders as everything we conceive – either a product or experience – needs to look and feel like a bold object of progress. We now live in a world where breakthrough technologies are the norm, driving consumers to seek the next fastest, smartest most intuitive device for their next purchase. To get this done, we make bold and sustained investment in R&D – in 2016 we invested $14 billion – so that our teams can make exciting technological discoveries.
We always strive to ensure the new technologies we bring to market are grounded in consumer needs and wants; ensuring our technologies are human-centric. When we are committing to bringing a new technology from concept to reality, we are fully aware that our customers’ needs change constantly and that they can also differ dramatically from market to market. It’s why our global research teams are in place to analyse and pick up trends – even before they become mainstream – and provide us with deep consumer insights to ensure our new technologies are designed for real-world needs.
Do you have a personal motto that you live and work by every day? What advice would you offer to those in similar positions and roles to yours?
Samsung’s global platform is the phrase “Do What You Can’t”, in other words, showing how Samsung technology is opening up a world of possibilities and bringing them to people’s everyday lives. What may have seemed impossible in previous generations has become the new normal. I love this statement because it always reminds me that anything is possible and sometimes it’s empowering to define a new normal or chart a new course. In our industry, you often have to take risks to reap the rewards and this motto keeps me real and focused on the end goal.
What is Samsung’s philosophy when it comes to innovation?
Humans are at the heart of Samsung design. The combination of reason and emotion lies central to our culture at Samsung and we ensure this sensibility is embedded throughout the whole design and innovation process. To achieve these goals, we have three core design and innovation values:
- Balance of reason and feeling – science and technology but with a human touch
- Simplicity with resonance – devices optimised to make it naturally intuitive, attractive and simple for consumers
- Meaningful innovation – creating new values and cultures – design that delivers a new meaning and delight to people
When we gaze into the future, our vision is to provide our customers with easier, more convenient and more harmonised experiences across all of our connected devices. This is why we are focusing on areas like AI and the connected home and why we’re investing significant resources into each of these areas. We know that to be innovative we need to keep pursuing ground-breaking research as well as open innovation by working with partners and experts from all over the world.
Our breakthrough technologies are powered by Artificial Intelligence and smart tech, and can bring greater convenience to people’s lives.
What is your vision for the future of Samsung as we move into 2019 and beyond?
We’re anchored by an underlying principle that defines our vision for the future of Samsung Electronics – that principle is “Inspire the World, Create the Future.” This vision is at the very core of our commitment to lead innovation in technology, products and solutions that inspire communities around the world to build a better world full of richer digital experiences. From developments in IoT technologies, 5G, as well as breakthrough innovations in the mobile space, 2019 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for Samsung. We’re being bolder than ever before and setting out to disrupt the status quo in our sector. Consumers expect it and we want to rise to the challenge.
Our mission is to keep inspiring the world with our innovative technologies. We want to keep pushing the limits of what technology can deliver but wrap this in smart design. We want to continue being pioneers by developing more ‘world firsts’ to create the best products and services on the market today. As we move into 2019 and beyond, we will keep investing in R&D and new products to ensure we remain competitive and give consumers choice.
We are strong believers that a one-size-fits all approach doesn’t work. People lead different lives and therefore have varying needs from the technology they interact with – whether that’s the smartphone in their pocket or their smart fridge in the kitchen. At Samsung, we have the benefit of accessing technological advancements and innovations across multiple business divisions – it’s the way our business is structured. With every business division functioning almost as its own independent company under one roof, we are better able to take the pulse of the marketplace and make decisions which are rooted in consumer reality.
2019 is shaping up to be an even more transformational year for Samsung. We’ve weathered many challenges in our time but always come out the other side stronger than ever. We’ll continue to push the boundaries of possibilities, bringing meaningful innovation to people here in the UK and around the world. The product launches we have lined up for next year will demonstrate this in spades.