UK-focused private equity firm Inflexion has created a new role of digital director, in a bid to help its portfolio companies grow in a difficult environment.
“Our portfolio companies are operating in a world of low GDP growth and a lot of structural challenges to work their way through; so the backdrop from which our companies are trying to achieve the growth demand we place on them is tough,” Inflexion managing director Simon Turner said in an interview.
This is where Charlie Cannell, the former head of digital at advertising agency Abbott Mead Vickers, comes in.
Cannell will be an “agent for change at portfolio companies, crafting actionable plans and implementing this change”, according to Turner. That may mean helping develop consumer trading platforms, for example, or advising businesses on better ways to communicate with their customers.
His role will also feature a care and maintenance aspect, which will involve ongoing monitoring and stimulation of those activities.
“We have got some big consumer businesses in the portfolio like Jack Wills, which has a big digital business; 30 percent of its sales are online. But even in those businesses, you need to constantly stimulate change and evolution in the digital arena,” Turner said.
Cannell, who joined Inflexion on Monday, will also provide Inflexion with a different perspective on deals pre-transaction, Turner added.
The appointment is the latest in a string of hires by Inflexion designed to boost its operational capabilities. Last April, the firm hired a team of consultants and entrepreneurs to help its portfolio companies expand into three key emerging markets: Brazil, China and India.
“What we try and do is help our portfolio companies manage their own growth opportunities. The idea [is] that we have proper experience and resources for our portfolio companies to access, to help drive growth [during] our ownership period,” said Turner.
He added that the current economic climate is making private equity investing a demanding challenge. “Timescales are fairly short and the return demands are quite high. So to drive the changes required, it is important for us to have these offerings.”