Every company is a tech company
The current time has shown us all how important technology is to enable remote working. However, there is lots more to technology: it has helped countless businesses across myriad sectors to provide a better customer experience and open fresh efficiencies and opportunities. The experiences of Inflexion portfolio companies O’Neill Patient Solicitors and Marley illustrate this.
Founded in 1987 in Stockport, O’Neill Patient Solicitors (ONP) provides specialist conveyancing services to a growing client base. During its 30-year plus history it has grown to over 500 staff who process over 90,000 transactions annually. The market shift over the last few years towards remortgages over purchases positioned ONP well, given management’s expertise in this area and technology to cater to this. With around 90% of its work referred by lenders and mortgage brokers, the firm was clearly successful in its field. But management were ambitious to grow the company further.
Well established and seeing an opportunity to consolidate a market which is largely local and fragmented (even the largest players command just a 2% market share), management partnered with Inflexion in 2019 to back the next stage of its growth. Simultaneous with the deal, ONP purchased Staffordshire-based specialist conveyancing business Grindeys.
“As soon as Inflexion came on board, we looked at paperless,” recalls Andrew Taylor, Chief Technology Officer of ONP. “Prior to signing off a sizeable expense we looked at the potential ROI. We realised case managers were spending over half an hour per day walking from one cabinet to another, whereas automation equated to a large ROI on time saving within the 500+ strong workforce.”
The firm identified robotic process automation as a solution. “We looked at repetitive tasks, particularly with websites. We saw staff were logging into sites sometimes 30x per day to check redemptions.” Research revealed a robot costing around £15,000 would generate around £150,000, so it was an easy decision. “Some teams in the building assumed we had another team doing this extra processing, but it was really just a virtual robot.”
There are clear benefits to clients too, with customers repeatedly using words such as ‘smooth’, ‘efficient’ and ‘prompt’ to describe ONP’s services and giving the firm an enviable Trustpilot rating.
The business may reap further rewards as it harnesses data from digitisation: “If we can see some former clients’ leases are expiring within 85 years, we have the opportunity to proactively approach them for remortgaging. We can also use Rightmove to see when a previous client is moving again. This data-led decision making has already identified more than £4 million of new business opportunities just to existing clients.” And the acquisition trail is ripe for exploring further.
A pioneering spirit has long been at the heart of entrepreneurship, and that is no different today than it was one hundred years ago. Aware that roofing materials were in short supply after the Great War, a local roofing contractor, Owen Aisher, bought an early concrete tile press machine from Sweden for the princely sum of 27 shillings and began making concrete roof tiles. In 1924, he set up The Marley Roof Tile Company out of a cowshed in Kent.
His son Owen Junior then drove the company’s growth, eventually knighted for his contribution to the roofing industry. As trailblazers, Marley had to adapt machinery to suit its growing business: they introduced the first automated machine in 1961, achieved the Duke of Edinburgh Innovation Award in the 1980s for the development of the first dry fix roof and later became the first full roof system provider in the UK.
Nearly a century after the firm’s founding, Marley partnered with Inflexion to accelerate its growth further, with digital enhancement part of its journey. While technology had always played a part in the firm’s development, it had mostly been focused on production; now it was about using technology to create a better customer experience.
The first challenge was to carve the business out of its parent, Etex, which had bought Marley 20 years earlier.
“Inflexion’s experience in this space meant it was well placed to support management in the task, which included setting up an independent IT system,” says Sarah Harding, Marketing Director at Marley. “They were very helpful in the carve-out process and were able to make some valuable introductions, which helped with cost control and value-adding insights,” she explains.
Inflexion’s experience in this space meant it was well placed to support management in the task, which included setting up an independent IT system.
Then came the challenge of taking Marley on its next steps in terms of digitally enhancing the company. They’re off to a strong start: “We’ve made some good steps in that direction. We invested in a new digital platform around 12 months ago, a key enabler for our customer to self-serve with a range of design, specification and installation tools.”
The firm’s key priority is being easy to deal with, and digital should enhance the customer experience, particularly on the transactional front. The firm recently went live with new processing automation for orders and is impressed with the results. “The technology has allowed us to upgrade our customer platform so clients can see their orders and track their delivery. The investment cost of money and time in undertaking such a big step is expected to be offset once it’s fully up and running.
“We can process much faster, and stabilise the peaks and troughs, which saves us resources. Additionally, we can direct staff into more value-adding roles where the value of a personal customer interaction can be leveraged. So, we are transforming what employees are doing with the customer experience in mind, rather than just focusing on the automation.”