Human capital: Connecting businesses with trained talent
People are at the heart of every business, so finding, attracting and retaining the very best is key to long-term success.
Helping businesses to do precisely this is at the core of a number of companies, with Inflexion’s understanding of the critical nature of this behind some of its biggest successes over the last 25 years including Red Commerce was the Firm’s first investment in the sector in 2005, with its backing FDM – ultimately a hugely successful partnership – commencing just four years later. More recently Inflexion has been working with a number of firms specialising in human talent across the globe headquartered in the UK, Netherlands and the US.
“Inflexion has a long and successful track record of investing in the specialist human capital market and has helped to scale a number of ambitious businesses in this niche. If anything, the demand for such businesses – particularly offering IT specialists – is increasing with time, so we’re able to use our experience to help businesses address this,” comments Isabelle Pagnotta, Head of Services at Inflexion.
- In December 2022, Inflexion made a minority investment into YER, a Netherlands-based specialist secondment and recruiting agency, and is supporting management to expand internationally.
- In 2017, Inflexion provided minority funding to K2 Partnering Solutions, a global technology staffing and consulting specialist. Inflexion re-invested in 2022 to remain part of the company’s continued growth.
- Sparta Global has been working with Inflexion since 2020. The innovative technology training services provider delivers relevant skills to graduates and then deploys them into roles with clients'
- Inflexion backed the buyout of Dutch outsourced IT recruitment and training services specialist Calco in 2018, and since then have been helping to successfully scale its recruitment and marketing engine and to keep pace with increased student supply.
- Inflexion led the take-private of IT services company FDM from London’s AIM in 2009 and five years later floated it on the London Stock Exchange, generating a 16.2x return.
- Red Commerce partnered with Inflexion in 2005 and went on to open four new international offices together, helping to boost profits 125% and headcount 85% before its sale in 2011 which generated a 4.4 MoC for Inflexion’s investors.
- ICS chose Inflexion as its partner to scale across more of the UK in 2008 and grew its complex care business by 40% in under two years.
The end of 2022 saw Inflexion provide minority Partnership Capital to YER, a Dutch recruitment specialist. Inflexion is working with management to support YER’s growth by further developing existing and new customer relationships and through continued international expansion, both organically as well as through selective M&A.
Founded in 1987, YER offers high scarcity talent in undersupplied fields such as engineering, IT, public sector and finance to a range of specialist end market verticals. The business has over 950 clients including Bosch, KLM and Rabobank, and operates internationally from nine local offices in the Netherlands, four in the US and one in Belgium.
The management team were drawn to Inflexion’s strong knowledge of the sector and are working with Inflexion to further develop existing and new customer relationships and through continued international expansion, both organically as well as through selective M&A, comments the Founder Jaap Kooijman
Strong historic growth meant lots of investors were interested in YER. “We had many conversations with private equity over the years, but meeting Sander and learning about Inflexion’s unique minority solution and its relevant sector experience was different. They truly understand the language and how it works,” Jaap continues
A lot of scarcity in IT means a lot of business for the coming years for YER, which intends to grow its domestic business and US operations and has a keen eye on the German market for future expansion.
Founded in 1997, K2 is a leader in the provision of human capital, talent and solutions to global corporations and systems integrators operating in the enormous and high growth ERP and cloud technology environments. The business serves over 520 clients globally from its 750,000 contractors across 19 offices in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific. K2 operates in a large addressable market which is growing rapidly, offering considerable opportunities for organic growth as well as market consolidation.
Inflexion initially invested in the firm in 2017 with a minority investment and has since been a big part of K2’s journey, connecting the team with Inflexion’s international experts in China and Sao Paolo. Overall, within five years of the 2017 partnership, Inflexion supported K2 develop an international offering of scale, completing five add-on acquisitions in the US, Asia, and Europe to broaden K2’s product and geographic offering. Inflexion also supported significant investment into talent, technology, and infrastructure.
Inflexion re-invested in K2 in 2022 through a buyout to support the firm’s ongoing growth.
“Inflexion have supported us throughout as we have expanded internationally. We agreed on a plan and we stuck to it, even if things didn’t work straight away. Their support and our knowledge make for a very powerful combination,” enthuses Antonio Gulino, CEO of K2 Partnering Solutions.
K2’s US presence has grown from three offices and 38 sales employees to five offices and 62 sales people in the five years since Inflexion’s investment, with the US now accounting for 40% of revenues The business now serves over 520 clients globally from its 700,000 contractors across 21 offices in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific.
Inflexion invested in Sparta Global in 2020 to help the technology and training services provider accelerate its growth. Sparta plugs the skills gap between university education and technology and business professionals and whilst simultaneously boosting D&I owing to the firm’s firm focus on a diverse intake. Sparta’s unique business model has allowed it to grow quickly and helped to place thousands of students from a variety of backgrounds in full-time employment. The business benefits from a strong client base of UK corporates and public sector clients, including BUPA, Channel 4, Deloitte, Royal Bank of Scotland and The Home Office.
Sparta trains graduates in a range of technology skills and then deploys “Spartans” in relevant roles with its clients. Sparta’s graduates come from a diverse range of backgrounds before being trained in one of the firm’s programmes, which cover in demand technology areas such as data engineering, software engineering, DevOps and business analysis.
Together with Inflexion, Sparta are addressing a substantial opportunity in new and existing verticals as well as exploring opportunities for international expansion. Alongside this, the firm has significantly enhanced its ESG framework, and achieved B Corp certification in 2023.
“We were drawn to Inflexion’s incredibly relevant experience and proven success in the sector and hope to leverage this to expand our business with existing and new clients,” comments David Rai, CEO of Sparta.
In 2018, Inflexion made its first primary investment outside the UK with its buyout of Calco, a Dutch outsourced IT recruitment and training services. The firm was founded in 2004 and caters to large blue-chip corporates, and its business model, market dynamics and growth opportunities bear many of the hallmarks of FDM when Inflexion backed that successful business.
Calco provides junior professionals to a number of industries with a particular focus on the finance and insurance sectors, and clients include Rabobank, ING, and Post NL. Calco trains the professionals over an intense two-month period to meet client specifications. Clients then get a 24-month ‘try-before-you-buy’ placement with Calco staff, after which they have the option but not the obligation to offer employment. Calco operates its training base in Amsterdam servicing clients in its core Dutch market.
Aware that the disparity between job openings and suitably trained graduates continues to grow, it’s clear that demand is rising for Calco’s graduates. To cater to this, we have helped the firm successfully scale its recruitment and marketing engine and accelerated investment into the sales infrastructure to keep pace with increased student supply.
The management of FDM, an international IT services company, were seeking a partner to take the business private from London’s Alternative Investment Market and then work to accelerate FDM’s growth, particularly in international markets in 2009. Inflexion’s relevant and incredibly recent success in growing Red Commerce since 2005 made it a perfect match for FDM, and the firm was de-listed by Inflexion in December that year.
FDM’s business model provides IT-literate graduates with intensive training in a number of disciplines through the FDM Academy Programme. Once trained, the graduates gain an employment contract with FDM and go on to provide in-house IT support across a range of disciplines to over 130 blue-chip clients, which at the time of Inflexion’s backing included the BBC, UBS, Virgin and British Airways. At the time of exit, FDM had firmly established itself as the UK’s leading IT graduate employer and one of the fastest growing companies in Europe, and today employs over 4,500 people.
FDM’s profits grew 5x during the partnership, with its outperformance largely the result of significant expansion of operations and geographic reach: Inflexion’s international experts supported FDM to open operations in the US, Canada, China, Hong Kong and Singapore during the hold period. This expansion drove a significant increase in the number of consultants from 338 operating in the UK and Europe at the time of investment to over 1,000 internationally when FDM floated on the London Stock Exchange in June 2014, generating a 16.2x return on investment.
“Inflexion supported us to significantly expand both our geographic reach and breadth of service offering, and this strengthened operational platform made FDM extremely well-placed to capitalise on the strong growth prospects in the global IT market,” says Rod Flavell, Founder CEO of FDM.
Red Commerce, Inflexion’s first IT resourcing specialist investment, supplies SAP consultants to multinational corporations on mid- and long-term consulting contracts and permanent placements. Inflexion led the £15m management buyout of the business in 2005.
Red Commerce’s specialised consultants are multinational and multilingual, enabling them to truly understand different cultures. This gave Red Commerce a competitive edge in the global SAP market, helping to double demand for the business’s services during the partnership. Inflexion and Red Commerce’s leadership team also opened four new international offices, helping to grow profits 125% and headcount 85% during the investment period. The business was sold in 2011 in a £44m deal to financial buyer Dunedin, generating a 4.4 MoC for Inflexion’s investment.
“Inflexion were an ambitious and proactive investor and fully supported the management team in developing the business so effectively over our five-year partnership,” recalls Richard Vercesi, CEO of Red Commerce at the time of sale.
Temporary healthcare staffing business ICS chose to partner with Inflexion in 2008 to expand its reach across more of the UK. Founded in 1983, ICS went on to become the leading provider of temporary healthcare staff in the UK. It specialises in placing scarce senior and high-grade nurses, while the business’ complex community care business also provides nursing services to patients in their homes.
Following the buyout, Inflexion worked closely with ICS management to refocus the business on complex care, largely owing to the sector’s potential for high recurring revenue, strong demand and protection from government cuts. During our successful 22-month stewardship, ICS’s high-value complex care business grew by around 40%. ICS was sold to Blackstone Group in 2010 for an overall return on investment of 2.9x.
The cash generation resulting from ICS’s strong performance enabled us to refinance the business twice in the first 19 months. With our support, the management team continued to enhance the performance of the business incrementally, delivering significant growth and continued margin enhancement.
Inflexion is a leading mid-market private equity firm which works in partnership with ambitious management teams of high growth, entrepreneurial businesses to accelerate sustainable growth. Inflexion’s flexible approach allows it to back both majority and minority investments, typically investing £10m to £400m of equity in each deal.
Isabelle Pagnotta, Partner
Buyouts and Partnership Capital
Andrew Mainwaring, Partner