As part of the 21st CEO Survey, we sat down with Collinson Group CEO David Evans who, along with his brother Christopher, is the second generation to manage the family run private business.
With over 2,000 people in 25 global locations, the Collinson Group, is a global leader in travel enhancement programmes. These include loyalty, lifestyle benefits, insurance and assistance service packages which influence customer behaviours to drive revenue for their financial services clients. Their technology platforms have seen over $200m spent through earning and redemption schemes for their clients’ 20 million customers.
When we met, David shared his thoughts on some of the big issues facing today’s CEOs, including growing a business in uncertain times and how Collinson Group uses technology to drive growth, how they are attracting new talent to the rapidly growing business, and the importance of the family business culture and staying true to their core values.
“We will continue to see growth in globalisation, but the pace will start to slow for a combination of reasons. We will also see a more balanced global view than it was with the US and Europe dominating trade deals, and it will become more equal.
“Collinson’s business confidence hasn’t changed over the last 12 months. We are very diversified across our sources of revenue streams and almost equally distributed between our key regions, which helps us mitigate issues such as Brexit. However, I am concerned in terms of the broader confidence.
“We have got an interesting dynamic of what is happening with Brexit in terms of immigration and slow growth rate. The UK is 16th in the world in terms of output. Technology should play a huge part in redressing this, so let’s get ourselves back up the efficiency rankings in terms of output per capita.”
Even though technology can help workforce productivity, David recognises it may also be seen as a threat. “Technology has always been a threat because change is scary. But whether it’s the original industrial revolution, post-war or IBM I don’t think anyone will say the technological advances have been damaging.”
One area of technological efficiency Collinson Group has implemented is around marketing automation and they are looking into how Artificial Intelligence might be used in call centres. However, David is clear: “It’s not about reducing the workforce, but it can help mitigate cost growth and drive better margins for the business which enables us to make more investments.”
Technology skills are very much in demand. “We struggle to get the right skills. There is an employment market where people move around quite fluidly, and without a huge number of people with those skills, it drives up wage inflation, which I’m not saying is a bad thing for the bigger economy, but as a UK business, buying and selling competitively globally, it doesn’t help us be competitive in the global landscape.”
To try and attract and retain the best talent, Collinson Group is spending a lot of time understanding what makes them unique. “Being a privately-owned business, with that family connection, is something that differentiates us from big corporates. We’ve got to find people who are looking for something that’s a bit more personal, but at the same time we need to blend that personal with proper training and career development.”
As well as investing in training and development, they are also looking at their diversity. “Previously it was just there and, as a smaller business, we really didn’t have to talk about it. You could look around the office and be pretty comfortable that you were a diverse organisation, and that as a leader you really didn’t discriminate. What’s interesting for us is looking at unknown bias internally and putting procedures in place to try and mitigate against it.
“We were one of the first firms to sign up to the Women in Finance Charter and we have recently launched a Women in Technology programme after noticing that we are slightly weighted towards males in our technology teams. It’s something we are actively monitoring and giving greater opportunities and greater visibility in technology for women is something I’m very excited about.”
Since introducing these initiatives, David has had requests from other parts of the business asking if they can set up similar groups as well. “I do believe if you build it they will come. These programmes are still in their infancy and in the first 12 months can feel like a ‘tick box’ exercise but in the long run it will have a positive impact on our culture, and the talent we can attract.”
To read and watch more interviews from some of the UK’s leading CEOs on the big issues featured in PwC’s 21st CEO Survey, please visit our website: pwc.co.uk/ceosurvey
South East, PwC United Kingdom