15 January 2023
Former EML Executive David O'Neil joins Miconex as Client Success Director
In January 2022, David O’Neil joined Miconex as Client Success Director. Formerly Director of Customer Success EMEA at EML, David brings a wealth of experience spanning retail and the gift card industry. Today, David talks about personal development, creating vibrant high streets and developing a framework for client success as Miconex continues its scale up journey.
“I was born and bred in the countryside near Glasgow. My dad didn’t go to university until he was in his 30s and I distinctly remember attending his graduation at 5 years old. It must have had an impact on me, because when it came to university for myself, I knew it had to be The University of Glasgow. I had an interest in how people are managed at work, and studied business and workplace psychology.
“After university I started up my own business. My cousin was living in Japan at the time and invited me out for a holiday. He said he wanted to go to an accessories store in Tokyo to get these new titanium embedded sports accessories. The store was well curated and I ended up buying 5 of their fabric wristbands to bring home as apparently they were great for pain relief. I gave them to my mum and her friends, who suffered from arthritis, without mentioning anything about their supposed pain relief benefits. After a few weeks, they’d all noticed an improvement. I contacted the owners, who had 30 stores worldwide at the time, and ended up becoming their UK and Ireland distributor.
“So there I was at 21 importing and exporting retail sports products, operating 30 concession stores in Debenhams and a number of independent sports stores. It was character building, chaotically brilliant, and I learnt from the many mistakes I made. There would be times, such as when I was talking to the Finance Secretary of the Scottish Government in a meeting, that imposter syndrome would kick in, but it was life changing for my confidence and experience. One of my favourite quotes is ‘everything you’ve ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear’. It was one of those moments when you just have to go for it, and I’m grateful I took the risk.
“As I’d started my business so young, I believed I was missing the knowledge of working in a corporate environment. I sold the business in 2007 and started with Debenhams, looking after regional sales management and marketing for stores in Scotland. Then came a 9 year stint with property development and investment company Hammerson. With an initial brief to implement and develop their commercial program for Silverburn in Glasgow, this grew to encompass Union Square in Aberdeen, then to a role as Head of Commercialisation across the UK and Ireland.
“It was at Hammerson, working across flagship shopping centres and alongside high street brands, independent businesses and organisations that I started to understand the fundamentals of placemaking; the whole holistic understanding of how important the right retail and leisure venues are to the success of a place. It was also at Hammerson that I first encountered gift cards and EML, the provider. After 4 years with Hammerson, I felt I’d taken the role as far as I could and moved to EML initially as Head of Operations, and then after a few months as Director of Customer Success EMEA.
“At EML, we grew customers rapidly, helping them to grow year on year. One of my clients was Miconex. I built a relationship with Colin and the team, and straight away I could see the passion that everyone had for the company and its products. The Town & City Gift Card and Downtown Gift Card product is a gift card for good. It was one of those situations where I ended up giving more time and attention to Miconex because I believed in the product and the team.
“When the opportunity came up to work with Miconex directly as Client Success Director, it was one that I couldn’t pass up. What gets me out of bed in the morning is working with companies and clients that have potential and opportunity to grow and support something bigger than just profits, and Miconex and our clients have that in spades. Visit any high street or downtown today, and you can instantly tell whether it’s cared about from how vibrant it is, how busy it is, how many independent businesses it has. Miconex’s gift card and loyalty programs feed into creating that vibrancy and success. For me, it’s a purpose-driven sell, something you can come into work and feel good about doing.
“Miconex is scaling up. My focus as Client Success Director will be creating a framework for what success looks like, but this is something that has to be adapted and adjusted on a fluid basis through continual feedback with our clients, retailers and places they inhabit. We have to ask ‘how can we make our products even better’ across our markets in the UK, Ireland, the US and Canada, becoming a trusted advisor. The scale of what we can deliver across these markets will be really powerful for places people love.
“This year, I started a new business called yaldi, a Scottish word that means excitement or joy. In 2023, alongside my role as Client Success Director at Miconex, I’ll be developing yaldi into a reward offering for corporate and consumer clients. Colin and team were instantly keen to support that and saw synergies with what Miconex are building, so I’m really excited to see both grow.
“More personally, I’ve always managed teams and I get a buzz out of working with people and helping them to develop so I’m looking forward to working with the Client Success team at Miconex. I live around 30 minutes from some of the best mountain biking trails in Europe and have completed 4,000km on my bike this year. I love running and completed a half marathon in November after setting myself the challenge for turning 40. I enjoy podcasts too, especially the High Performance Podcast and The Daily Stoic. They remind me to stay mindful and take things back to basics; you have to enjoy the journey. That’s something I try to pass onto my 4 nieces, who are my pride and joy, and I hope my journey in 2023 and beyond with Miconex and yaldi will inspire and encourage them to go on a journey and work with people and businesses they love.”
Ashton McGill founder and University of Dundee Entrepreneur in Residence, Alasdair McGill, joins the Miconex boardFind out more