Mr Hanif Lalani
Hanif Lalani is a British businessman. He spent over three decades working for the British multinational telecommunications company BT Group, starting as a graduate trainee and eventually holding a number of high executive positions including chief finance officer for BT Group’s wholesale division, chief executive officer of its subsidiary BT Global Services, chief executive officer of its Northern Ireland division, and finance director for the entire organization. He is currently serving as finance ambassador to Northern Ireland, and is also working on a number of high-speed internet initiatives focused on the emerging world.
Hanif Lalani was born in the year 1962 in Uganda. His parents were both successful entrepreneurs in the country, and he was raised in an affluent household until the age of ten when tensions in the country forced him and his family to flee. Leaving quickly in the night with only a single suitcase of belongings, they traveled to the United Kingdom in 1972 and eventually settled in a council house in Yorkshire, England.
When asked what it was like leaving Uganda for the United Kingdom, Lalani said it was “challenging” but that he worked hard to integrate with his new culture. He attended Wetherby High School, a secondary school and Sixth Form college in the Hallfield area of Wetherby, West Yorkshire where he was known as a good scholar and keen sportsman.
Lalani attended the University of Essex where he studied mathematics, operations research and economics. He graduated with honors from the university in 1983.
After graduating from the University of Essex in 1983, Lalani took a position as a graduate recruit at British Telecom, working in the international division. At the time there was a significant amount of disruption within the telecommunications sector in Britain, and the company was in the process of becoming privatized after the passing of the Telecommunications Bill. Lalani remained with the company through this transition, working for fifteen years in a number of roles of increasing responsibility as it built out its new business model.
In 1998, Lalani was made finance director of the Northern Ireland operations for the company (now called BT Group). In his first year in the role Lalani worked to improve efficiencies through cost reduction and increased output, and led the company to experience an increased turnover of 5.8 percent to £293.4 million.
Soon after he was promoted to chief executive officer of BT Group’s entire Northern Ireland division and was also made chairman of Ocean Communications, the joint venture between BT Group and the Electric Supply Board, the Republic of Ireland’s state-owned electricity company that BT Group had recently acquired 100% ownership of.
Lalani returned to England in 2002 to become the chief financial officer for BT Wholesale, BT Group’s division of the business that provided voice, broadband, data, hosted communication, managed network and IT services to communications providers in Great Britain. At the time, the company was working to implement its 21st Century Network (21CN) data and voice network transformation project, moving BT Group’s telephone network from the public-switched-telephone network (PSTN) to an internet-protocol (IP) system. Lalani worked in managing the implementation and growth of this project from a financial standpoint.
In 2005, Lalani was made finance director of BT Group. Also joining the board of directors and operating committee for the company, during his time in the role he reduced costs by £65 million and streamlined its operational structure. Other notable achievements in this role included overseeing BT Group’s £35 billion pension fund and creating a new regulatory compliance policy for the entire company. Lalani became known within the company for his high-efficiency problem-solving abilities and ability to create financial results while reducing costs.
As a result of his work at BT Wholesale, Lalani was asked to step in at BT Global Services, the division of the company that provided global security, cloud, and networking services. The branch had recently been forced to write off more than £2 billion as a result of overly-optimistic assumptions made on large international contracts, and Lalani was brought on board as chief executive officer to right the ship. Focusing on realistic improvements at a quarterly basis, he was able to help the struggling business reach financial goals and put it in a better position financially as a result.
After nearly three decades with the company, Lalani left BT Group in 2010. He has since began working on a number of projects bringing connectivity to emerging countries. Currently, he is working in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region for a private shareholder who owns assets in the mobile space to build fiber planning for bringing 5G, wifi, and fiber for Broadband to homes, mobiles, and other technologies in order to improve data affordability. He is focusing on providing the technology and infrastructure needed for innovation and growth that is now only possible through high-speed internet connectivity.
In 2010 it was announced that Lalani had been appointed investment ambassador for Northern Ireland. The role was created to aid Northern Ireland in becoming more attractive to potential investors, and Lalani is the first person to hold the title. Northern Ireland’s enterprise minister Arlene Foster said at the time of the appointment “this will complement Invest Northern Ireland's in-market activities which are focused on securing new inward investment and helping local companies exploit trade links in valuable markets, such as India.”
Lalani has said he is passionate about providing support for those wishing to enter careers in finance, business and entrepreneurship. He has given time and monetary support to projects aimed at encouraging this, including the financing of the Business Incubation Centre at his alma mater the University of Essex. Built in the Research and Enterprise office, the facility was created to provide students with a risk-free environment in which they can experiment with business, testing entrepreneurial ideas while also learning and preparing for the challenges that may be faced in the future.
For his work at BT Group, Lalani has received international recognition. The Confederation of British industry (CBI) named him its “Finance Director of the Year” in 2007, and he was listed as number 30 on the Institute of Asian Professionals’ Muslim Power 100 list.
Lalani is married with three children. In his spare time, he enjoys supporting Leeds United Football Club and watching Bollywood films.