Sheila Dean - Interview with Merger Market

Thursday 24 November 2016

By Sheila Dean, Equiom Global CEO meets with Merger Market magazine.

What are some of the key trends and challenges impacting Equiom?

At Equiom, we plan ahead to be able to meet future challenges with the correct funding and resource, so we usually start with the end in mind.  In recent years there has been a significant increase in the regulatory and compliance requirements within our industry – FATCA and CRS being two examples. This combined with the impending changes to data protection legislation has been the reason for a number of smaller businesses finding it more and more difficult to operate because they just don’t have the resources to cope with the additional administrative and regulatory requirements. 

Thankfully, we have the planning acumen, expertise and we resource accordingly within the Group to ensure that we are always ahead of the game in this respect. Equiom is an extremely progressive and adaptable business and we pride ourselves on the improvements and additions we continue to make to our service offering. In order to create an environment our clients can put their trust in, internal projects which ensure we remain compliant are of the upmost importance, and we feel this gives us a competitive edge.

Led by our ‘change team’, we’ve completed four acquisitions to date this year, and we are looking at other opportunities in the market. In order to ensure it’s always ‘business as usual’ for both Equiom and the companies we acquire, we’ve made several key appointments to oversee mergers, acquisitions and the subsequent integration period.

When we complete an acquisition, we will always fully integrate the people and clients coming into the Group. You can’t call it a successful acquisition without a well-executed integration period and this must cover all areas of business from internal communication with staff to ensuring a seamless IT plan is rolled out. Since Equiom’s secondary management buy-out in 2013, we’ve completed a total of 10 acquisitions, so we’re confident we’ve found the right balance but having said this, there are always ways we can improve our integration process because each acquisition has different needs and demands a tailored approach.

How do you plan to address these issues?

We always strive to be the best and being an industry leader doesn’t just mean we get to deliver a world class service to our clients - it also means we attract the best individuals, and in 2016 we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming a number of exceptional people. In the last year, we’ve made 51 additional appointments and we’re proud to say in the same time period, 25 members of staff have received well deserved promotions.

This focus on employing the best expertise and nurturing our people has resulted in a stronger than ever global work force. We continue to invest in our staff and this allows us the privilege of operating at the forefront of our industry.

Our IT and communications infrastructure is constantly developing alongside the business with a clear strategy to support a global business, and we are about to migrate to a global cloud solution enabling Equiom to function efficiently in multiple jurisdictions, and with the right level of capacity to grow further. The IT team works tirelessly to ensure that our systems, data and communications networks are integrated effectively post acquisitions, and these types of successes set us apart from our competition.

Furthermore, aside from the technical aspects of integration, we work hard to ensure that the acquired business and the employees are integrated into Equiom from a cultural point of view. We have a ‘buddy’ system where we pair new employees up with current members of the team at their equivalent level – sometimes in other jurisdictions - to ensure that they are made to feel part of the wider Group and to give them a point of contact for any questions. Training is an essential part of the process, as are the wider opportunities for Equiom staff to gain experience with secondments to other jurisdictions, giving global career opportunities to our employees.  Ultimately Equiom succeeds because of the people within it.

In summary, our approach to acquisitive growth is well planned and adequately resourced, resulting in a smooth integration period and a successful partnership into the future.

Part of Equiom’s growth strategy is to achieve scale and substance in every jurisdiction that it operates in. The acquisition of Heritage Trust Group certainly assists this goal, within Singapore, Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands. Can we expect further acquisitions in order to facilitate such growth ambitions? Which jurisdictions will you focus on next or are there plans to expand into a new market entirely?

Equiom has always viewed Asia as a key market to assist with the company’s ambitious growth plans, so there are plans for further growth in this region. Europe is also a focus, both onshore and offshore – with a view to increase Equiom’s presence in our current jurisdictions as well as exploring new regions which will give our clients more options and services at their disposal.

Would targets be of a similar size to the Heritage Trust Group? What sort of range do you tend to target?

Aside from the obvious commercials, when looking for potential companies to acquire or partner with, our focus is very much on finding the right business with the right people and similar core values, culture and philosophy to ours – the size of the company is a secondary consideration. Our priority will always be our clients so it’s critically important that any acquired company shares our focus on building partnerships with clients and providing the best service possible. With the acquisitions completed to date, we have spent a great deal of time getting to know the senior team behind the businesses to ensure they share the same ‘can do’ approach that makes Equiom a success.

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