Christel Loitron, an interim with Delville Management, discusses how she overcame the challenges of a recent carve-out assignment
A UK Private Equity Company has signed an agreement to acquire a Business Unit, part of a large bank. The Business Unit administers employee share participation programmes for around 100 corporate clients in Europe and Asia, meaning more than 780,000 plan participants.
My mission was to assist the UK Private Equity Company and the operational Business Unit in the carve-out from the bank to build a standalone business in a 6-month timescale.
The key point to understand is that a Business Unit is focused on operational activities and gets full support from its company for back-office activities as IT solutions, Finance and HR. This was important for the Private Equity Company to find the right skilled people competent for building the back-office activities.
Based on my past experience of 30 years in IT systems, I was involved in designing the overall applications architecture, technical infrastructure and relevant processes, to manage the bids with potential systems vendors, to draw up the plans for system implementation, to plan the IT resource requirement and future organization and manage the system implementation, jointly with the future CIO, enabling the business users to become operational and self-reliant with the new systems…
In parallel of putting the IT programme on track, the PE firm asked me to take charge of the Project Management Office that co-ordinated all the other carve-out activities in order to transform the business to run as a standalone company – no less than ten workstreams running in parallel in the various areas. So, less than three weeks after my arrival, I had written the project charter and organized a kick-off meeting with all the people involved: the internal team, the bank, the external advisors and lawyers and the PE firm. As you can see, my mission covered strategic activities, however I had also to be pragmatic and fully operational to deliver on a daily basis.
The main challenge was the short timescale of six months to transform the Business Unit into a standalone company. The first concrete achievement was the move after three months from the bank’s offices to new independent offices, which involved the installation of a dual network access for an interim period, and the preparation of new devices with all the necessary applications.
The next challenge was to outsource the IT infrastructure and the core business application that involved the replacement of HW, OS and middleware to achieve cost savings. We operate a business that has to be available to customers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so it was vital to manage the global migration with a minimum of downtime. We were ready on time and we did it in a weekend, starting on Monday as a normal situation. In the end, this was a “non-event”. Here, my long experience in project management and application migration equipped me to advise the team on how to manage such a challenging plan and was a key factor in its success.
I was also fully involved in preparing bids and ensuring the implementation of accounting, HR, reporting and supporting solutions to run the standalone business. Last, but not least, we had to migrate all the individual and shared data and implement a content management solution for the future company. Migration of data from a bank is not an easy task!
In the past, I was CIO of the OCP group, a major European pharmaceutical wholesaler, and as CIO I was also CEO of the subsidiary in charge of IT systems for the past seven years. So, in parallel to my initial assignment focused on IT, I went beyond my operational responsibilities and took the opportunity to share my past experience in HR management and as CEO. I advised the CEO on best practices to manage the transition from a Business Unit within a large group to an independent company, and also coached the new HR manager. This was very much appreciated by a team who had so much to do and build in parallel, both before, during and after go-live.
HR involved a lot of work in defining the HR processes, leading the bid to choose the appropriate solutions, negotiating the contract, piloting the whole HR implementation and supporting the go-live. I also provided expertise on internal communication and I constantly played a key role to coordinate the teams to make the transition as smooth as possible.
My client later asked me to support the finance team in managing a financial project and to co-ordinate all the activities to setup the US entity.
Firstly, the key role played by Delville Management, the interim management service provider, in understanding the needs of the Private Equity firm and matching them with a suitable profile – mine!
For sure, 30 years of operational and leadership experience in midsize companies not only as CIO, but also as CEO where my previous experience of carve-outs was a plus.
I would also say a great capacity for adaptation, an ability to analyse complex situations, organise large teams and take decisions in a fast-moving context, combined with a strong determination to succeed in everything I do.
Apart from the satisfaction that comes with achievement, I also won the recognition of the interim community for this assignment, as finalist for the UK Interim Manager of the Year Awards 2014.