Experian continuers to deliver jobs and growth in Nottingham
THERE is an obvious energy about Craig Boundy that gives the impression of a zest for life. At St Pancras Station, you may just see him taking a taxi back to his south-west London home – but on a motor bike swathed in wind proofs.
Craig is managing director of Experian UK and Ireland, which is essentially based in Notts and was founded in the city more than 30 years ago as CCN.
It employs more than 2,000 in Nottingham, 15,000 worldwide and accounts for about a fifth of Experian's worldwide sales.
Whether it is good fortune to have the founder and chairman, Sir John Peace, living up the road may depend on its financial performance. But so far, that has been impressive, despite poor economies in Europe and North America.
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The UK & Ireland sales grew ten per cent last year to just over £500m. The company flotation in October 2006 valued Experian at £5.7 billion, a figure that has since reached £11 billion.
Today, Experian has become a powerful global business information company. Despite its FTSE 100 listing, it attracts little attention from the media, arguably because they don't understand it.
Experian began as a credit checking business essentially born out of furniture retailer Cavendish Woodhouse, an arm of GUS (Great Universal Stores).
The then plain Mr Peace and colleague Eric Barnes could never have guessed where their journey would take them. Experian's expertise stretches from a profound and fascinating knowledge of what people, streets, communities spend their money on, thus informing marketing initiatives, through to producing reports on companies which help financial institutions make lending decisions.
The information kept on a huge, sophisticated computer system in Ruddington can help Experian give valuable guidance to the Bank of England's monetary policy committee which sets interest rates.
"We are a company which believes that we can use data to help individuals, businesses, consumers, the public sector make better decisions – that is what we are about," says Craig.
He joined Experian just over a year ago, aged 37, moving from Logica, where he was UK chief executive for four years.
"I was head-hunted and became intrigued by Experian. It is a fascinating firm, exciting – how could you not want it?" he says.
He was attracted by the potential to run a company that plays "such an important role for its customers". What were his first impressions? "Some of the Experian people are such fun to work with, so smart, so knowledgeable."
His challenge is to grow the business, which is made even tougher by the flat line of the economy.
"We are always striving for ways to grow, it is constantly changing," he says. "But it will only do that if you are delivering value for the people growing with you. We constantly find ways to use the data to provide new and different insights. For instance, our consumer brand, Garlik, helps people protect their online identity. It is an increasingly growing issue for people. We help find ways to address those issues out of the products and data we have."
Looking after consumers has proved highly successful for Experian. Fraud and identity theft have become major issues. It has set up a division called Experian Consumer Services, a darling of the business, whose cornerstone product is CreditExpert, bought off its website or given by some banks as part of an account package.
It allows its users to monitor their own credit ratings.
CreditExpert and its sibling products are managed from a call centre in Talbot Street, in Nottingham, and has grown to 500 staff, achieving one million customers in five years.
As well as advising customers, a team is dedicated to victims of fraud, helping customers resolve the issue. "One of the big things for us as a business is finding more ways to help combat identity theft and fraud. We believe we can help consumers, businesses and the public sector a lot by expanding the product portfolio to help people manage their identity, their credit score and rating, or managing their overall on line identity."
Craig Boundy will not be drawn on further job creation but it is clear that with one million customers, there is room for more.
Experian shed jobs four years ago, part of the growing pains of a young company coming to maturity and re-shaping its self. The call centre has replaced many of those jobs, albeit that they are very different. By concentrating on consumers and consumer services, Experian believes there is much to go for in the market place. Digital Britain will need its services, says Craig. "There is a lot of potential for growth. That is a huge thrust for consumer services."
Where do the fraudsters come from? Who are they?
"The threat comes from all over," he says. "There is something called the dark web or semantic web, where people go to sell data. It comes from organised crime all the way to more serious pirated material.
"We discover where the customers' information has turned up and that they are at risk of being defrauded. We will advise on how to change credit cards, passwords. We also help Government and large business address fraud issues. We share information."
These sophisticated products are developed by teams in Nottingham working in Landmark House, Experian's distinctive offices on NG2 Business Park.
Experian also helps with the collection of overdue debts. By working with Government on such as screening records, it has saved taxpayers money by identifying possible benefit fraud, for example.
"We help Government manage and use data to provide a better view of the way a 'citizen' is interacting with multiple departments. It has been a very interesting journey getting into the public sector."
While financial services are key for Experian, it has chased new areas such as utilities.
"They are big consumers of data. They know lots about consumers and businesses and they have many of the similar challenges in terms of large-volume operations – decisions about tariffs, choices on marketing and when to chase debt. There are analogies with banks. It has been a good growth area for us."
A relatively new service is tenant referencing, checking the background history and credit reports of a tenant. It allows a landlord to protect its investment and a tenant to find out if someone will be a good landlord.
"Over time, we will learn how landlords and tenants interact, building up more knowledge and data. It will evolve," says Craig.
Many of the products developed in Nottingham and the UK are "exported" to other countries and continents But the same is true of products in other countries, whose expertise is brought to the UK.
Craig was brought up in Orpington, in Kent, where he went to school before going on to Lancaster University to read economics and German. He has a young family – two young boys – plays squash to keep fit and is a "terrible basket ball player despite being a qualified coach".