Zone, the award winning London-based digital marketing agency is preparing for significant expansion thanks to a £6m investment of equity finance from BGF.
In January 2015, BGF took a minority stake in Zone which also has operations in Bristol, Berlin and Köln and employs over 180 staff across its four offices. The agency uses its industry-leading blend of content and technology to help brands communicate in a digital world.
BGF’s £6m growth capital investment will support the company in making a number of UK and European acquisitions, a number of which have already been identified.
Zone’s clients include Coca-Cola, Barratt Homes, Tesco and BT. The company has worked on high profile campaigns including Coca Cola’s Share A Coke, Tesco Eat Happy initiative and the launch of BT Sport.
Voted by marketing industry experts The Drum as 2014’s Independent Agency of the Year, Zone was founded in 2000 by CEO, James Freedman.
A quarter of Zone’s team are editorial experts with strong journalistic backgrounds, and blending these skills of storytelling with technical expertise allows differentiates them from other agencies and enables them to develop digital strategies and products for some of the world’s best organisations. They offer a range of services, including campaign management; designing and building user-centred websites; social media management; CRM; and content creation from videos to blogs to games.
In 1992 James and his wife Anna Kissin, Zone’s Finance Director, set up the first football club-affiliated magazine in the UK for Manchester United from their home using desktop publishing software. The magazine grew rapidly and by 1995 they were selling 160,000 copies per month. In 1999 the business was sold to Future Publishing and in 2000 Zone was formed with James recognising an opportunity to combine his editorial and content experience with the emergence of new digital marketing channels through the growth of the internet.
Zone has grown revenues consistently over the past 5 years organically and through acquisition, and is forecasting turnover of £17m in 2015.
At the same time as BGF’s investment, Zone has also appointed Jim Kelly as Non-Executive Director. Kelly, a founder of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, has huge experience as an entrepreneur building enduring agency brands as well as more recently working with digital start-ups. He stepped down from his role as Dentsu UK Chairman in 2013 and has since been working as an independent consultant to digital, advertising and marketing services agencies.
THE CONSULTING CONSORTIUM
UK’s largest independent regulatory consultancy set to expand with BGF investment
In March 2014, BGF invested £10m for a minority stake in The Consulting Consortium (“TCC”), the UK’s largest independent regulatory and compliance consultancy.
Headquartered in London with an office in Leeds, TCC provides specialist regulatory compliance services to FCA regulated firms in the financial industry. TCC has advised over 250 financial services clients since 2001, more than 140 in the last two years including a number of FTSE 100 and multi-national companies.
Entrepreneur Joanne Smith founded TCC in 2000. With over 20 years’ experience in the financial services industry, she began her career at the Financial Services Authority (FSA) before becoming a regulatory consultant for KPMG. In establishing TCC, Joanne sought to build a consultancy business that would provide a very different style of service to that of the traditional ‘Big Four’ firms. In what is still a typically male dominated industry, females account for over half of TCC’s staff and Joanne has been credited with a number of awards for her contribution to the industry.
TCC has experienced impressive growth over the last few years and in December 2013, TCC was ranked in 45th place on the 2013 Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100. Its turnover in the current financial year is approaching £12m.
BGF’s growth capital investment will focus on building the firm’s marketing, personnel and infrastructure. TCC is expected to grow revenues on the back of an increasingly active FCA and through capturing market share. The value of regulatory actions brought by the FSA/FCA during 2013 revealed that fines reached a record annual total of over £472 million (source: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer).
TCC has developed a ground-breaking proprietary risk management SaaS solution called RecordSure that monitors, records and analyses near real-time interactions between financial product sellers and customers to provide transparency, consistent reporting and compliance tools to address issues of mis-selling or other regulatory breaches.
Joanne Smith, founder and Chief Executive of TCC commented:
“BGF will provide valuable guidance and contribution in taking our company to the next level of growth. Given the ever changing regulatory environment, with financial services companies needing to remain compliant at all times with FCA regulations, our services are increasingly in demand.
“We have delivered impressive year on year growth without any institutional funding to date, but we wanted the right investment partner to help take the business to the next level. BGF stood out for us because their bank shareholders are the exactly the type of companies that we want to work for. They bring so much more than money to the equation in terms of expertise and a huge network of relevant contacts that we can access.”
Marion Bernard of BGF, commented:
“Our investment in TCC is a very exciting opportunity for BGF. The company has demonstrated its ability to deliver complex regulatory solutions and advice to major financial and consumer companies across the UK. The increased focus on maintaining high regulatory standards following a number of high profile incidents in the financial services industry over the past few years highlights the need for TCC’s expertise.
“We were also particularly excited by the new software product RecordSure, which has the potential to revolutionise the manner in which companies approach and monitor regulatory activity within their firms. We are delighted to be backing Joanne and the team, who are genuine experts in their field.”
Marion Bernard, BGF Regional Director for London and South East, joined the board on behalf of BGF.
BGF’s first investment in a business located in the East of England was in energy-focused firm 3sun Group, a specialist provider of products and services to the global energy industry.
Founded in 2007 by Graham Hacon, 3sun Group operates in the offshore wind and oil and gas sectors. It is an established service provider to offshore wind farms, providing installation, inspection and maintenance services. In oil and gas, 3sun manufactures, installs and maintains control panels for offshore subsea and topside applications.
3sun Group secured the £10m BGF funding following six years of consistent growth. The Group has continued to grow rapidly, now employing 240 people and 31 apprentices across its headquarters in Great Yarmouth, and its bases in Aberdeenshire, Bergen, Norway, Lubeck, Germany and Esbjerg, Denmark. The Group is on track to deliver revenue in excess of £30m in the current year.
The investment of growth capital from BGF, alongside the appointment of Les Dawson, former CEO of Southern Water and Chairman of Murphy Group, as non-executive Chairman, has supported 3sun Group’s plans to accelerate expansion in its Great Yarmouth base and advance further opportunities in the UK and northern Europe. The group have also recruited an experienced COO and in 2015 completed the acquisition of AID Training, further enhancing their leading training capability.
3sun Group is well placed to benefit from strong growth dynamics in its target markets. The offshore wind market is forecast to grow dramatically, both in the UK as maintenance contracts become available for Round 2 turbines and Round 3 construction commences, and in northern Europe.
BGF portfolio company broadbandchoices.co.uk targets mobile market with new acquisition
22 January 2014
- Acquisition adds mobile phone comparison platform to suite of services
- Acquisition latest in a string of strategic developments over the last 18 months
- Mobile comparison service to launch in Q1 2014
broadbandchoices.co.uk, the UK’s leading Ofcom-accredited comparison site for switching broadband, phone and entertainment services, has purchased mobile phone comparison site rightmobilephone.co.uk. The purchase is the first acquisition the business has made since receiving a £10m injection of investment funding from the Business Growth Fund in October 2012.
The acquisition rounds off an eventful 18 months for broadbandchoices, which saw it commence national TV advertising; gain traction in its European territories; and swell staff numbers to more than 70 in a recruitment drive that boosted several departments in the firm including marketing, IT, senior management and finance. Having acquired rightmobilephone’s platform technology, broadbandchoices will now launch its own mobile comparison solution in a move that will bolster the company’s position in the sector.
Michael Phillips, managing director at broadbandchoices.co.uk commented:
“We already have a solid footing in broadband, phone and TV services but mobile was the missing piece of the puzzle for us. The mobile phone market represents a huge opportunity for us and we are confident that our brand campaign will give us the edge in a competitive industry.
“It was important to bring the right partner on board and rightmobilephone’s technology is a natural fit for our business that will let us rapidly launch and further develop mobile comparison services for our customers both in the UK and abroad.
“I am relishing the opportunity to grow this part of the company over 2014 and look forward to the launch of our new mobile phone comparison service this Spring.”
The founders of rightmobilephone, Neil McHugh and James Zielinski, will join the broadbandchoices team.
PTS CONSULTING GROUP
BGF invested £8.7m of capital in London headquartered PTS Consulting Group (PTS), a global IT Consulting and Project Management company in October 2013. Established in 1983, PTS operates from 17 strategically located offices, enabling a ‘follow the sun’ service from Australia, through Asia, the Middle East, Europe and America.
PTS’s clients, which include 17 of the top 20 global investment banks as well as more than 30 Fortune and FTSE 100 companies, have mission critical, multi-territory IT project requirements and PTS has the local knowledge and world class skills to supplement their in-house teams. This project activity has resulted in PTS helping its clients move into some of the world’s most iconic buildings such as: the Willis Tower in Chicago, the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange, the International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong and the Mori Tower in Tokyo. In London, PTS is working with companies moving into 122 Leadenhall Street (the ‘Cheesegrater’), 20 Fenchurch Street (‘the Walkie Talkie’) and 30, St Mary Axe (the ‘Gherkin’). PTS also provided Audio Visual and Multimedia expertise for The Shard Viewing Gallery and the London 2012 Olympics Aquatic Centre and Velodrome. In total, PTS has worked in 80 countries and 320 cities.
PTS has recently invested in its Data Centre service, developing a consulting and market-leading accreditation platform, STARS, which has driven significant growth in the business. Data Centre projects have included supporting a global online retail and distribution company with an assessment of its Data Centre capability and working with a leading US financial institution to define its global Data Centre strategy.
CEO Kevin Perrett originally led an MBO of PTS in 1990 when it operated out of one London-based office with just eight employees. Since then, it has developed a presence in 10 countries employing 400 people, and has delivered 11,000 projects for 4,500 clients. The business is on track to generate revenue of almost £40m in 2013.
BGF’s investment will fund geographical expansion, in particular in North America, accelerate the development of STARS, and allow PTS to recruit additional high calibre staff. Funding will also be available for strategically relevant acquisitions.
Rob Pinchbeck has joined the Board as Chairman. Rob has extensive international business experience developed during a 40-year career in the oil and gas industry, latterly with Petrofac where he founded and led the Operations Services division and subsequently served as Group Director of Strategy. Rob previously acted as Chairman of Sparrows Group, and currently is a non-executive Director of IGas plc, Enteq Upstream plc and Severn Energy International.
Mark joined BGF’s in March 2012 and is based in Milton Keynes. He is responsible for deal origination, execution and portfolio management.
Mark previously worked at Hermes Private Equity and HSBC Principal Investments, investing capital across a number of sectors. Prior to that Mark qualified with KPMG as a Chartered Accountant, spending nine years in KPMG’s Birmingham and London offices in audit and transaction services.
When not at work or with his young family, expect to see Mark cycling at a rate of knots across the Chilterns.
“The best thing about my role as an Investor is meeting and working with teams who have exceptional energy and vision who have built something of value, typically from scratch. It is a real privilege to have the opportunity to help those teams achieve their immediate and long-term ambitions.”
- Olive Communications (Board Director)
- Rethink Group plc
- Molecular Products Group (Board Director)
- The Consulting Consortium (Board Director)
- 3sun Group
- PTS Consulting Group (Board Director)
- Broadbandchoices.co.uk (Board Director)