FD Q&A – the year ahead: Phil Morris, Servest

Phil Morris, group CFO of facilities management provider Servest, gives his views on the year ahead

What have been the biggest challenges for your business over the past year, and what role did finance play in addressing them?

Servest is a high growth business, and this comes with its own set of challenges.

To date, we’ve grown both organically and via acquisitive means. Our recent M&A activity has, of course, contributed to business expansion but we’ve also been awarded new contracts throughout the year. This, in combination with high rates of repeat business retention, means our finance team have to be ready to accommodate such growth and facilitate integration.

We have every intention of maintaining this level of growth in the future so it’s important to address the role finance plays in supporting such expansion.

What are the key political and economic risks/opportunities you face in the year ahead?

What’s gone on in Europe and the US does obviously have a bearing on our expansion plan.

As such, we’re watching these two things with a very close eye, especially with the weakening of both currencies. With Brexit, we’ve seen that the funding landscape has changed a little bit. Lenders have naturally become more apprehensive and risk-averse.

Saying that, there is still plenty of capital out there for the right businesses. For us, it’s important to stay abreast of capital markets to know that future funding will be secured.

We’re also interested to see how things pan out in terms of the labour force in the UK. Servest is a large employer; we employ over 23,000 people in the UK alone and we will be even bigger in years to come, so we must monitor the labour pool from here on in.

Which capex projects will you be focusing on in 2017, and how will these be financed?

One of the key things we’re looking at is our infrastructure; particularly, how we can ensure that our systems and processes can support future growth.

We’re also reviewing how we can make better use of platforms and technology to drive efficiency as we expand. We’re always looking at new innovations in the facilities management sector and a lot of those projects will be capital in nature.

How do you expect the balance of your role to change in the coming year; between compliance and forward-looking/strategic? And why?

I think my role will increasingly become more forward-thinking and strategic.

In previous years, we’ve spent a lot of time and investment establishing solid infrastructures for the £500m+ group. Now we’ve arrived at that benchmark, we’re leveraging that base and looking ‘up to the billion’ mark.

This involves broadening both the client proposition and the customer base. My role as FD means I’m responsible for ensuring that the infrastructures in place adapt accordingly.

Advice for other FDs for the coming year?

That’s a difficult question…but the simple answer is: keep an open mind if you’re going to adapt to the ever-changing political and economic landscape.

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