The FD taking up the mergers and acquisitions mantle

Having previously been CFO of Geo Networks, sold by Alchemy Partners to Zayo, Adrian Howe recently took up the role of corporate finance director at Six Degrees Group.

Charged with aiding the board and senior management with the next stage of the company’s evolution, Howe’s remit will be to review corporate development opportunities, including M&A, and their related funding requirements.

We sat down with the man now at the dealmaking helm of the managed data services business to find out more.

Where has your career taken you and what are the main things you’ve learnt along the way?

My career has largely been in the telecom/technology sector, ranging from blue-chip telcos (BT, Telewest and Level 3) to private equity-backed startups (Band-X) and growth stories (Geo Networks).

I’ve learnt that a long-term successful business requires a valid business plan based on clear benefits for customers, a management team capable of executing that plan and financial backers with the resources to make it happen. That may sound like a cliché but I’m not sure all of my previous employers ticked all three boxes.

What was it about the new role that attracted you?

Six Degrees Group has a unique position in the market with its range of converged technology infrastructure; although much has been achieved in just a few years, I believe the best is still to come for both its customers and staff. The organisation has grown significantly in less than four years, but it still retains the energy and aspirations of a startup business.

How does it differ from previous positions?

It’s larger and financially stronger than some of my recent CFO positions, which means it can focus on planning and executing its medium-term strategy rather than having to live from hand to mouth.

What will your main responsibilities be?

Working with the existing management team to ensure we have the most appropriate capital structure to support the business as it expands both organically and by acquisitions. Helping the management team develop business processes appropriate to its growing size, without becoming bureaucratic.

How will this be assisting with the growth of Six Degrees Group?

In a sector that is as dynamic as ours, organisations require supportive financial backers capable of providing the equity and debt needed to exploit market opportunities as they arise. And the organisation itself has to be scalable and as efficient as possible to remain competitive.

Read more on recent FD interviews:

How do you think the role of FD has changed in UK during recent years?

A good FD is now so much more than just “he numbers person – having reliable timely information is taken for granted as the baseline. I don’t regard any area of the business as off-limits for a commercial FD to make a valuable contribution to (except perhaps detailed technology!)

What excites you about the current position of the business?

Six Degrees Group is well positioned in a growing market with strong underlying fundamentals; bright and ambitious management team.

What business leaders do you look up to for inspiration?

I’m not a very deferential person by nature and think you can get as much inspiration from people doing a great job at the coalface in organisations (call centre, shop-floor, office receptions etc) as in the boardroom. And you’re equally likely to find strong leadership in a charity (such as Camila Batmanghelidjhat at KidsCompany) or a church (Justin Welby) as in a global corporate. If really pushed for a commercial example, I think Andy Street at John Lewis has achieved a lot in a very competitive sector.

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