Neil Lagden: Managing change at FMP Payroll Services Neil Lagden: Managing change at FMP Payroll Services

Neil Lagden: Managing change at FMP Payroll Services
28 Nov 2017

Neil Lagden, managing director of FMP Payroll Services, formerly known as Bond Payroll Services, is never one to shirk a challenge, even when facing the most demanding of personal circumstances. But his courage paid off this year when he and his team won the GPA’s Judges Award in June for outstanding achievement.

Neil talks to editor Cath Everett about winning the award, the firm’s recent management buyout and what the future is likely to hold:

Why do you think you and your team received the GPA’s award for outstanding achievement?

I wasn’t at work for nine months because I had a brain tumour. But while all that was going on, the guys still continued to deliver. I was just working from home and always stayed on the end of the phone because I’d put my heart and soul into the business for 10 years - although granted there was a bit between surgery and rehabilitation where I wasn’t available.

There were some pretty emotional journeys into work during that time though as we didn’t know whether I’d be coming back. But the whole team stepped up so they really deserved the award. When we knew we’d been shortlisted, we paid for everyone to go as a thanks for all their hard work. There were no directors there at all so they all went up as a group to receive it, which was as it should be.

Have you always worked in the payroll sector?

I actually started my career in sales, working for organisations like the Brands Hatch motor racing circuit in Kent [UK], but was advised to get a steady job as I’d moved around quite a lot. So I began working for Payline, the small business payroll division of Ceridian UK and Ireland, which has since been purchased by SDWorx.

I spent five-and-a-half years there until they disbanded that part of the business and I moved into their corporate sales team. There I started working in the international side of the business, which was actually set up by Justin [Cottrell, now group chief executive of FMP Global].

But I wasn’t climbing the ladder as quickly as I wanted at the time and so, just when I was expecting twins and about to move house, I decided to take the plunge and move on to a company called Rutherford Webb. But it ended up being sold to the GOWI Group while I was on probation there so it was an interesting time. GOWI was later acquired by Bond International Software.

After three years though, I went to the managing director and said I didn’t feel my skills were being utilised very well. He agreed and asked me to look after the payroll bureau part of the business that had just been purchased. So it was a bit of a shock for everybody.

But that led me to heading up what became Bond Payroll Services and recreating the business we’d had at Ceridian, taking it from processing 6,000 payslips per month to 100,000 now. I’ll have been there 10 years this December and have grown it from five to 35 people, with clients ranging from organisations with one or two to 4,500 employees, and everything in between.

When did you first move into global payroll?

Until I took over Bond Payroll Services, I’d only been involved in UK payroll. But I’d stayed in touch with Justin and after he set up FMP Global, if we had a UK customer with payroll requirements overseas, we’d work together and either they or us would manage the client. So for example, if the client was after one point of contact to coordinate all of their international business, FMP would do it and we’d be the incountry provider for the UK.

But when the opportunity came up to acquire FMP in 2014, it seemed a natural progression to become a single cohesive business. And that brings me on to the next part of the story – Bond Payroll Services, Bond HR and Payroll Software and FMP Global have recently gone through a management buyout (MBO), which is supported by Tenzing, a private equity investor.

Bond International Software plc as a whole was a recruitment software business, but it didn’t necessarily complement the payroll operation particularly well. The payroll market is a good, stable business to be in and has a nice annuity revenue model, whereas the recruitment software market tends to be hit by recession - and we’ve had a few of those recently.

As a result, the company went through a review and, as part of that, said it would take offers on the payroll businesses – and the one it went with was our private equity-backed MBO, with Justin, Nick Cottrell [operations director], and myself. So we’re currently working out how we’re going to push the business forward over the next four years, both in the UK and globally.

The international division specialises in small-tomedium businesses with a requirement for small entities in multiple countries. Our client base is mainly US organisations coming to Europe, but we actually operate in 135 countries. Some of that will just be money movement but we also offer everything from contract of employment payroll all the way up to full outsourcing. Our aim is to be seen as the company of choice when serving customers overseas.

Why did you change the name of the company to FMP Global rather than retain the Bond brand?

As we were no longer part of Bond, we had to lose that name, which was synonymous with recruitment software anyway. In the payroll sector, FMP is a more internationally-recognised brand than Bond so it just made life easier as we didn’t have to completely re-educate the marketplace with a new brand name.

What is your role in the new organisation and how do you see the business developing?
I wear a few hats and one of them is group sales and marketing director so I’ll be pushing organic growth through sales. But we also have a mergers and acquisitions department that will be looking at acquisition opportunities. We’re a big provider of software to payroll bureaux and have about 50 that are both competitors and clients, which is an interesting dynamic. But our main focus is providing payroll and HR services and software, and we see that as getting bigger and stronger as we acquire complementary businesses.

There’s not a long list of potential targets in the UK, but they’ll each be evaluated by our experts on a case-by-case basis, and if opportunities come up overseas and fit our market and core goals, we’ll consider them too. Our vision is to be the leading payroll and HR business both in the UK and overseas.

But we also want to be seen as an employer of choice. It’s about getting the staff rallied behind us so we absolutely need to look after them and ensure we support them. I’m talking about things like training, giving people opportunities to develop and grow with the business, and listening to what they have to say.

But it’s also about recognising talent and achievement and ensuring the ‘good news’ messages get out there. Payroll is all too often forgotten about so we have incentives for staff to nominate each other for helping with projects or just for making a colleague’s day, and that leads to rewards later in the year.

What are the biggest challenges that payroll professionals face, do you think?

Payroll is essentially about ensuring you get the right data by a given deadline so you can do the job. The difficulty for payroll is that we have those deadlines and so the buck stops with us. This means that the biggest issue we face is timelines and making sure the data is clean.

But people are still searching for the holy grail of a single system that will cater to all jurisdictions - without wanting to pay for it. Personally I can’t see that will ever happen, not least because there are so many differences between countries. Also you’re always going to need human beings to pick up mistakes and deal with issues. So as far as I can see, we’ll always have to have that local interaction rather than simply replace it with a system.

 

 

Neil Lagden, managing director of FMP Payroll Services, formerly known as Bond Payroll Services, is never one to shirk a challenge, even when facing the most demanding of personal circumstances. But his courage paid off this year when he and his team won the GPA’s Judges Award in June for outstanding achievement.

Neil talks to editor Cath Everett about winning the award, the firm’s recent management buyout and what the future is likely to hold:

Why do you think you and your team received the GPA’s award for outstanding achievement?

I wasn’t at work for nine months because I had a brain tumour. But while all that was going on, the guys still continued to deliver. I was just working from home and always stayed on the end of the phone because I’d put my heart and soul into the business for 10 years - although granted there was a bit between surgery and rehabilitation where I wasn’t available.

There were some pretty emotional journeys into work during that time though as we didn’t know whether I’d be coming back. But the whole team stepped up so they really deserved the award. When we knew we’d been shortlisted, we paid for everyone to go as a thanks for all their hard work. There were no directors there at all so they all went up as a group to receive it, which was as it should be.

Have you always worked in the payroll sector?

I actually started my career in sales, working for organisations like the Brands Hatch motor racing circuit in Kent [UK], but was advised to get a steady job as I’d moved around quite a lot. So I began working for Payline, the small business payroll division of Ceridian UK and Ireland, which has since been purchased by SDWorx.

I spent five-and-a-half years there until they disbanded that part of the business and I moved into their corporate sales team. There I started working in the international side of the business, which was actually set up by Justin [Cottrell, now group chief executive of FMP Global].

But I wasn’t climbing the ladder as quickly as I wanted at the time and so, just when I was expecting twins and about to move house, I decided to take the plunge and move on to a company called Rutherford Webb. But it ended up being sold to the GOWI Group while I was on probation there so it was an interesting time. GOWI was later acquired by Bond International Software.

After three years though, I went to the managing director and said I didn’t feel my skills were being utilised very well. He agreed and asked me to look after the payroll bureau part of the business that had just been purchased. So it was a bit of a shock for everybody.

But that led me to heading up what became Bond Payroll Services and recreating the business we’d had at Ceridian, taking it from processing 6,000 payslips per month to 100,000 now. I’ll have been there 10 years this December and have grown it from five to 35 people, with clients ranging from organisations with one or two to 4,500 employees, and everything in between.

When did you first move into global payroll?

Until I took over Bond Payroll Services, I’d only been involved in UK payroll. But I’d stayed in touch with Justin and after he set up FMP Global, if we had a UK customer with payroll requirements overseas, we’d work together and either they or us would manage the client. So for example, if the client was after one point of contact to coordinate all of their international business, FMP would do it and we’d be the incountry provider for the UK.

But when the opportunity came up to acquire FMP in 2014, it seemed a natural progression to become a single cohesive business. And that brings me on to the next part of the story – Bond Payroll Services, Bond HR and Payroll Software and FMP Global have recently gone through a management buyout (MBO), which is supported by Tenzing, a private equity investor.

Bond International Software plc as a whole was a recruitment software business, but it didn’t necessarily complement the payroll operation particularly well. The payroll market is a good, stable business to be in and has a nice annuity revenue model, whereas the recruitment software market tends to be hit by recession - and we’ve had a few of those recently.

As a result, the company went through a review and, as part of that, said it would take offers on the payroll businesses – and the one it went with was our private equity-backed MBO, with Justin, Nick Cottrell [operations director], and myself. So we’re currently working out how we’re going to push the business forward over the next four years, both in the UK and globally.

The international division specialises in small-tomedium businesses with a requirement for small entities in multiple countries. Our client base is mainly US organisations coming to Europe, but we actually operate in 135 countries. Some of that will just be money movement but we also offer everything from contract of employment payroll all the way up to full outsourcing. Our aim is to be seen as the company of choice when serving customers overseas.

Why did you change the name of the company to FMP Global rather than retain the Bond brand?

As we were no longer part of Bond, we had to lose that name, which was synonymous with recruitment software anyway. In the payroll sector, FMP is a more internationally-recognised brand than Bond so it just made life easier as we didn’t have to completely re-educate the marketplace with a new brand name.

What is your role in the new organisation and how do you see the business developing?
I wear a few hats and one of them is group sales and marketing director so I’ll be pushing organic growth through sales. But we also have a mergers and acquisitions department that will be looking at acquisition opportunities. We’re a big provider of software to payroll bureaux and have about 50 that are both competitors and clients, which is an interesting dynamic. But our main focus is providing payroll and HR services and software, and we see that as getting bigger and stronger as we acquire complementary businesses.

There’s not a long list of potential targets in the UK, but they’ll each be evaluated by our experts on a case-by-case basis, and if opportunities come up overseas and fit our market and core goals, we’ll consider them too. Our vision is to be the leading payroll and HR business both in the UK and overseas.

But we also want to be seen as an employer of choice. It’s about getting the staff rallied behind us so we absolutely need to look after them and ensure we support them. I’m talking about things like training, giving people opportunities to develop and grow with the business, and listening to what they have to say.

But it’s also about recognising talent and achievement and ensuring the ‘good news’ messages get out there. Payroll is all too often forgotten about so we have incentives for staff to nominate each other for helping with projects or just for making a colleague’s day, and that leads to rewards later in the year.

What are the biggest challenges that payroll professionals face, do you think?

Payroll is essentially about ensuring you get the right data by a given deadline so you can do the job. The difficulty for payroll is that we have those deadlines and so the buck stops with us. This means that the biggest issue we face is timelines and making sure the data is clean.

But people are still searching for the holy grail of a single system that will cater to all jurisdictions - without wanting to pay for it. Personally I can’t see that will ever happen, not least because there are so many differences between countries. Also you’re always going to need human beings to pick up mistakes and deal with issues. So as far as I can see, we’ll always have to have that local interaction rather than simply replace it with a system.