Meet Andy Spence, FIA board member and Joint Managing Director of Britannia Fire Ltd. He shares his entry into the fire industry, achievements like popularising the world's first composite fire extinguisher, and his vision for the future. Discover his insights, career goals, and the intriguing superpower he desires in this exclusive interview.

14 January 2024 by Charlotte Brill, Content Marketing Executive

My name is Andy Spence, and I am an elected board member of the FIA and Joint Managing Director of Britannia Fire Ltd. I also have a position on the BSI standards writing panel FSH2 for portable fire extinguishers. My passion is selling British manufactured products all over the world whilst making friends and business partnerships, that last and support each other.

Oh, and I love cricket, roll on April!

What initially attracted you to join the fire industry?

An incredibly good friend of mine, who sadly is no longer with us Mark Wardle, kept pestering me to join him working for the trade side of Chubb, TG Products. After much discussion and deliberation. I took the leap from Corporate Finance / Banking into the Fire Industry. You can imagine how impressed my parents were, leaving the Banking sector, to sell fire extinguishers!

I have been forgiven…. Just!

Reflecting on your life so far, what achievement or milestone are you most proud of, and why?

Taking a product to market and selling one that nobody thought would take off! Roger Carr who developed and designed the world’s first composite fire extinguisher, had faith in me to get the P50 on the map and here we are today.

How can the fire industry be improved and what does it need for this to happen?

New blood and people, people who want to make change, and change for the better. Look at the motor Industry, it thrives on technical advances and new products. Think about Apple and Samsung, and how they are striving continuously to advance, improve and deliver. Some people in this Industry would still have you going around on a horse and cart, whilst others will be going around in their electric vans. One thing is for certain, if you want to succeed in this Industry and you have the right attitude, you will!

In the next five years, what are your career goals within the fire industry, and what steps are you taking to reach them?

I was talking about this last week to my partner Tracy. I would like to explore doing some qualifications around FRA and have got it on my list to talk to Colin Todd about., I just need to set aside the time, for speaking to Colin, and doing the work, they would probably amount to the same! Only kidding Colin, he is the only person outside my family who calls me Andrew. I am certain he does it to wind me up.

Also continuing my role as a Board Director at the FIA, I was fortunate enough to be voted on for a second term and I am so grateful to all who voted for me, thank you. My first term could not have been better, being involved with the Northwich office and seeing the efforts of Ian and the whole team come together in such a short space of time was fantastic. They did an excellent job.

What's the most valuable piece of advice you’d give to someone just starting out their career, in the industry?

Get involved with working groups at the FIA, listen to the experience of the people in these groups and work with them to develop your skills, most people in this Industry will help you and want to see you succeed. So, take advantage and gain the skills and equally as important the contacts.

What is the most important area of work that the FIA are involved with (for you and the overall industry - if different)?

The whole buzz around the FIA and the Industry is amazing at present, with lots of amazing, intelligent, and talented people making some excellent products, and deploying those products too. We need to embrace innovation and keep pushing ourselves into the future. Nobody wants to be the next Nokia, Blockbuster, or Kodak. Fail to innovate and you will fail to survive.

The standards need to Innovate too. When I joined this industry over 25 years ago, standards took 5 years on average to write, this was before email, teams and zoom, at best you had a Fax machine and a BT charge card. So, with all this tech and speed of communication, why does it still take the same length of time?

What is your favourite hobby or personal interest outside of work?

My family and I are very fortunate to have some amazing little people in my life, Grandchildren who give me so much joy, the time you get with grandchildren is far more and equally more dedicated when you are that little older and have managed to slow down, from the 100MPH days their parents have. Plus filling them full of sugar and spoiling them rotten is payback to my kids for all the hassle they gave me as teenagers.

What superpower would you have and why?

I would love to be invisible; it must be the best superpower ever; you can gain so much from knowing exactly what is happening., more importantly, why, also imagine the tricks you could play on people!

If you could go anywhere in the world for a holiday for three months all expenses paid, where would you go and why?

Somewhere not too hot! I really struggle with the heat. But I would choose Australia, as I have never been and I have a particularly good friend there, who I keep promising to visit! Also, my love for Cricket, so coinciding with an Ashes series would be awesome. I would need to work on my sledging for the Aussies though.

Name 3 characters you would have to dinner for the perfect evening. One dead, one alive and one fictitious.

Robin Hood, as I live in the village where his tree the Major Oak is. Geoff Boycott, I have met him a couple of times and found him hilarious and his story telling is perfect and finally Steve Jobs, to get an insight into his thinking and passion that certainly delivered, also I am sure Geoff Boycott would teach him a fair bit about Cricket.