Reducing risk, restructuring and accountability for day-to-day operations in a regulated business
Speedloan Finance provides alternative finance and money services and is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
It was purchased by private equity in April 2014 as part of a deal that also acquired the business and assets of Albemarle & Bond plc (including Herbert Brown), an AIM listed business that had entered administration.
Jon Park, a member of Collinson Grant’s senior consultancy team, was asked to support Steve Plowman, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who had been appointed to turn around the failed business. The initial tasks were to reorganize the top management team; understand the quality of the balance sheet; and introduce robust governance structures to meet the high regulatory standards set by the FCA.
There was also a priority to tackle a long list of challenges in personnel, some outstanding from the administration and TUPE processes, and others emerging with the formation of a new business. Later this brief was expanded to include accountability as the Chief Operating Officer; specifically having full accountability for the day-to-day management of operations in the 128 stores, responsibility for an operational staff of about 500, and the revenue and profit from six income streams.
The extended remit included assisting the CEO as a member of the small executive committee running the business; redefining the business strategy and creating a new three year business plan; supporting the preparation of the application for FCA approval; and, late in the assignment, directly participating in the sale of the SFL business following the extensive restructuring work completed. The key challenges included:
- Resurrecting a business whose pulse had flatlined and then consolidating operations into one administrative centre (previously 4) and 128 stores – reduced from 180.
- Directing and managing a new team of Area Operational Managers.
- Defining and embedding a set of acceptable personal behaviours and operational standards in the branches. This was a considerable challenge. Basic controls had failed and the need to obtain FCA approval raised the bar for acceptable standards.
- Introducing decision-making that uses data and analytics.
- Designing and implementing a revised three-year plan to achieve stability and an operating profit in year 1 (from an operating loss of £18m in the previous 12 months).
- Preparing the business for sale, discussions with investors and assisting in the negotiations. Closing the sale.
The business was stabilized through exacting cost controls and the successful introduction of new ways of working. A significant annual loss was returned to a positive operating profit. The turnaround was sufficiently well established that a sale of the business could be contemplated and subsequently executed successfully.
Steve Plowman, Chief Executive Officer, commented:
“Jon joined me at the very start of the turnaround programme and at the time we had no appreciation of the task we were about to undertake – the business was ‘broken’ at so many levels. Jon worked tirelessly, with a never say die attitude and professionalism at the highest level. His ability to translate his strategic input into workable tactics and action plans ensured I never had to worry about our agreed actions being executed. Jon is a ‘do the right thing, whatever it takes’ type of senior executive, I look forward to working with him again in the future.”