- Growing my Business
- Expanding Abroad
Growing talent globally: Spencer Ogden
As the world races to decarbonise, renewable energy projects are ramping up globally. This spells almost limitless opportunity for global recruitment business Spencer Ogden to continue to grow internationally.
Originally established to provide engineers for oil and gas sector projects, Spencer Ogden has grown steadily since it launched in 2010. Over the past six years the company has staked its growth plans on large renewable energy projects, and its footprint has grown with the global green energy build-out.
Initially operating from London, the company has increased its global presence and now has a multi-continent network of 13 offices serving projects across more than 40 countries. Renewable projects now make up 60 per cent of its business. There is enormous scope for growth but, to capitalise on the opportunities before it, the company needs to secure the required talent, as well as the financial headroom to grow.
The boom in renewables projects has put a premium on scarce new skill sets among the engineers it hires. “The industry has grown faster than the talent pool,” says Spencer Ogden CEO Bradley Lewington. With too few experienced engineers to meet a wall of demand, the company has been pivoting to address the issue by developing more contract staff locally. Identifying and cultivating local talent in this way reduces the need for Spencer Ogden to parachute its smaller pool of expats into far-flung projects.
The company has sped this process up recently owing to the limitations that pandemic lockdowns imposed on international movement. These globetrotting specialists used to make up more than half of the company’s contractors, but now local talent makes up about 80 per cent of the firm’s talent pool.
HSBC supports us locally. That is a big change in our business. It has enabled us to be more efficient, save costs and react faster so we can scale up faster.|
Primed for expansion
Providing more local staff in a growing number of locations increases the company’s already complex cross-border cash requirements. “HSBC supports us locally. That is a big change in our business. It has enabled us to be more efficient, save costs and react faster so we can scale up faster,” says Bradley. With its previous bank, the firm funded its operations centrally. This was a costly and unwieldy way to do business, carrying currency risk and demanding constant management from its HQ finance function.
The company overhauled this arrangement after joining HSBC UK in 2015. Now each of Spencer Ogden’s 13 offices around the world has its own set-up, with its own business and a funding line from HSBC. This arrangement has multiple advantages. The company can pay with greater ease in local currencies and be more flexible in how it manages its cash. It can hold funds locally, and time when it moves funds between the UK and its local operations to best suit its needs. This also affords a degree of currency hedging.
There are huge growth opportunities in green sustainable markets, and we’re relatively unique in terms of having the scale to support that, with the ability to react and support clients locally.|
Global reach, local knowledge
Spencer Ogden’s relationship with HSBC UK is also providing it with the financial headroom it needs. “HSBC helps fund that working capital. Without that we would struggle to grow,” says Bradley. Invoice discounting facilities enable the company to draw funds against invoices the day they are generated. This gives quick access to funds, and the facility flexes as the business grows, says Aaron Boland, Global Relationship Director at HSBC UK for Spencer Ogden. “They can increase their funding lines. More invoices create more availability.”
HSBC’s global banking presence and the local expertise this brings also helps the company to grow optimally, adds Aaron. “While we provide funding in lots of different ways, some countries have different boundaries in terms of funding. In Taiwan, for example, invoice discounting can’t start until you reach sales of $10m, but we could fund growth locally through a green trade loan. That local knowledge can smooth things out; we already understand what products are available and best suited.”
Spencer Ogden’s goal now is to take advantage of this abundance of opportunity to grow the business and return value to shareholders and its staff (who own 30 per cent of the business). “There are huge growth opportunities in green sustainable markets, and we’re relatively unique in terms of having the scale to support that, with the ability to react and support clients locally. We’ve got ample headroom now and for the foreseeable future. HSBC UK provided us with the opportunity to scale and to continue scaling,” says Bradley.
Bradley Lewington’s tips for successful growth
- Make sure you have a firm medium-/long-term plan about your chosen market and how you can add value there.
- Ensure you put time into setting up the infrastructure/platform before you go, as fixing it afterwards or as you go is costly.
- Ensure your existing business is rock solid and has a clear operating rhythm, as the move will tend to distract leadership.
- Communication is absolutely key, as is consistency. You must have a common language within the business and repeat, repeat, repeat.
- Moving existing staff to help set up, in combination with local knowledge, works well to maintain your culture and keep your identity strong.
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