Rob Partridge: How Building a Portal Transformed His Business

Rob Partridge: How Building a Portal Transformed His Business

Episode #008 - Where we learn, how Rob Partridge - Managing Director of Synergi Partner Finance - transformed his business by building a portal. What he'd do differently if he did it again. The limitations he's still seeing with open banking. How he's diversified his business by niching down, his favourite tech, and much much more.

Rob has over 20 years experience in the financial service space and now works with businesses of all shapes and sizes to spread large CAPEX projects into affordable monthly payments.

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[00:00:05] Adam: Hello and welcome to Tech for Finance, where we help finance professionals leverage technology to level up their lives. I'm your host, Adam Shilton, and in this episode we're going to be chatting with Rob Partridge, who is managing director of Synergi Partner Finance. Rob has over 20 years experience in the financial service space and now works with businesses of all shapes and sizes to spread large CapEx projects into affordable monthly payments.

Thanks for joining me today.

[00:00:35] Rob: Thank you Adam.

[00:00:37] Adam: Perfect. So do you want to give a little bit of background on Synergi? I know is it coming up, is it coming up to five years now that you've been with Synergi? So do you just want to tell us a bit your story and how it all came about?

The Background

[00:00:49] Rob: Yeah, sure. So, so Synergi actually was a sub-brand of another company that I, I started nearly eight years ago called Kingston Capital Finance.

And Kingston Capital and Synergi are actually merged ss businesses early this year. But like I say, Synergi was a sub brand at Kingston Capital for, for some time until it became absolute trading business probably about five years ago. And Synergi really is what we, we focus on as sales aid finance.

In the B2B world. So example of that is that we would partner up with, with IT and tech companies to provide point of self finance solutions to help customers afford those solutions, but also help those companies close transactions more quickly and get them through the systems more quickly.

[00:01:37] Adam: Very good.

Appreciate the background there, and. How have you seen things change recently? I know I, I kind of probed you on this a little bit in our, in our last conversation, but of course, you know, we, we've come out of a, a global pandemic. We are now apparently running headlong into a recession, even though a lot of businesses that I've spoken to seem to think that things are, are still going alright. So how do you see things shifting and are you sort of flexing the way that you're approaching business at the moment with that sort of thing in mind?

[00:02:09] Rob: Yeah. Well, it's interesting because this has been our best year up until this point. But we have certainly seen a major slowdown in, in transactions this, this past sort of four or five weeks.

And we suspect it will continue that way. I mean, it is one of those things I hate talking about recession. It, its, you know, it is one of those self fulfilling prophecies, isn't it? Basically, if we all talk about it will happen, but I mean, the writing is on the wall. And we've been here before. I've certainly been here before, and all I can do is look back at my, my experience of those times.

And in fact in 2007, 2008, I, I'd started working for a brokerage who specialized in funding IT and tech. And then of course the bubble burst and, and we hit recession. Now it feels very similar to those times in the sense of we saw a, a gradual slowdown in opportunities and people sort of running around the hair on fire, not too sure what to do, sort of rabbit in a headlights in, in a scenario whereby they would just sit tight and decide that, you know what, we weren't making decisions yet because, let's just see what happens. And I get that feeling now. In fact, we've already spoken to customers who are saying, we'll put it off to the new year. We wanna see what's going on in the market. And so we're prepared for that, you know, and I've already warned my employees about that, but at the same time, it doesn't mean that we're gonna stop trying, you know, it, we're still out there.

Supporting our, introducers our customers as to having those conversations. If anything, when these things happen, I find that you are more, if you are front and center and speaking to your customers and, and introducers more often knowing that they care and you're there to support them. When something does happen, you're gonna stick in their mind.

It's as simple as that. So I think we're gonna see maybe, you know, maybe up until February next year where there is a, a slow down, I mean, recession probably won't actually be called until probably early part of next year anyway. Because it's always a little bit behind. It's probably sort of three or four months behind anyway, when they can actually say it's officially in recession.

So I think, you know, it, it becomes as no shock to anyone that that will happen. I think of course what happens is that companies will just decide, you know, we can't leave off investing in our businesses. We need to crack on. We need to invest. And if that means we need to borrow money to do so, then we will. So.

I don't believe it's any different really from what we've experienced before. We'll soon find out. But what we do know is that there's a lot of things happening at this moment in time that have never happened before. You know, with the energy crisis and the war and various other things that are going on in the world that are, are affecting people.

You know, it's funny how we're not even talking about Brexit anymore are we really? You know, it's almost like disappeared that thought, hasn't it? You know? But it, it seems like we've just had all these things fly at us and we just need to cope with them and get on, and we will do. But unfortunately, I think we will see some businesses that will hit the wall.

We already are seeing some businesses do that, who, who struggled through Covid, who hadn't recovered and you know, are beginning that, that slippery slope towards insolvency. So, it's gonna happen. But we just need to make sure that we're around there to, to, to try and help those customers who are running their businesses well.

They have got some good ideas who are maybe using the opportunity of these, this downturn or potential recession and say, well, actually there's an opportunity and we can take advantage of it. We need someone like, like ourselves to help them to do that. So, yeah, I, you know, I think it's just a matter of rolling with the punches isn't it. Simple as that.

Financing a Tech Project

[00:05:44] Adam: Yeah, absolutely. And it does make me giggle. Cause I often wonder, you know, what else can they throw us? Right? And, and I dunno who they is, you know, you know but it is unrelenting, isn't it? You know? It's absolutely obscene.

But I mean, when you take the structure of a tech project though though there, there's, there's quite a lot as part of that.

So, you know, you may have a certain amount of licensing, certain amount of support, and then you've got initial services, you know, and we're talking, you know, some pretty big variances, you know, as little as, you know, 20, 30 ks worth of setup for some smaller solutions. And then maybe six, seven figures for some larger solutions.

But surely, if. If your business is at a point where it recognizes that transformation and change is necessary, then finance has gotta be a way to de-risk things slightly, hasn't it? Because immediately, if you've not got a big lump sum coming out the back that, coming out the bank, then that, you know, whether it's easing cash flow or so on and so forth, that that gives you more opportunity to use money for other purposes, I guess.

[00:06:51] Rob: Yeah, sure. I mean, I, I'm obviously quite biased at the end of the day, you peddling money to people. But no, fundamentally I think, I always find it interesting because, you know, there are scenarios where companies do have. Large amounts of cash sat in their bank account. Now, if that's the case, it always has been the case, then I would say yeah, use it and invest in it.

It's not, most companies aren't in that fortunate position now, the situation is as well though, there's a lot of companies out there, well known companies who will use finance as well. Even though they have got huge amounts of cash in their bank because they'd rather use their cash on other things that are going to give 'em return on, on, on their money.

So a good example of that, for instance, you know, you know, I will always say if you're gonna use your own cash, you might as well invest in your people. So train them, get new staff, you know, also look about marketing market yourself. You know, really invest in the things that, you know, that could potentially give you a return in your business.

Now, I'm not saying that investing in an IT project won't give you return because it will, it certainly will, but what it does do sometimes is you look at that cash that you're investing in there and you think, well, the actual asset, if you wanna call it an asset, let's say it's an ERP project of some sort, physically as an asset, it's not really worth anything.

I mean, god forbid, you know, we, we gave some funds to a customer who, who invested in the ERP project and, you know, they went bump overnight, then there's nothing to claw back, there's no asset there to, to return your cash on. However, the, the functionality, the software that it's, it's far stretching within a business can really add value overall, you know, really sort of lay the foundation for that business to take themselves to the next stage.

So, yeah, it, it is, it is an interesting one. But when it comes to sort of talking about the, in the makeup of a transaction, you know, nowadays more and more software projects the licenses, as just a, a minute part of the transaction. As you far well know, you know, it's a lot of consultancy. There's a lot of, maybe training and support or maybe bespoke work or whatever it may be, so when you look at the project as a whole, it's more, what's that vendor or that, software solution is actually providing that company going forward, the support and everything else. So we, we look upon those projects as fundamental to those, to the, the running of the business now.

It's interesting cause I have a lot of conversations with my friends who work in asset finance who, there's two types of asset finance, by the way.

There's hard assets and soft assets. Hard assets being your vehicles and vessels and soft assets being sort of more IT and office equipment.

and a lot of my friends that work in hard asset think I'm absolutely nuts that we, we, that we would even invest in anything like a soft asset cause you can't get your money back on it.

All that kinda stuff. I, I would argue that it's, it's the foundation of most businesses. It really is.

I mean, God forbid, you know, a company got into financial difficulties and they were hauliers that say they could probably get rid of a few vehicles to save the day and continue trading. Whereas if you took your it away from 'em tomorrow, they can't trade.

It's as simple as that. So when you look at it in that way, I would argue that a soft asset, especially an ERP project or a big IT infrastructure project is absolutely fundamental for any company to even operate, let alone, you know, provide what the solution may be. So it's, yeah, it's, it's something that we, that I'm really, sort of, dead keen on we, I've been doing it for 20 years now, and sort of investing in, in, in new projects is something that really sort of ticks my boxes.

But, of course there's a lot of, subscription, solutions nowadays as well. So funding doesn't always come into it. In that case, when your licenses are being hosted and, and subscribed to, there still tends to be some consultancy and support and. you know, class to those projects, which we can also fund And we do have a specialist product, which is called a technology loan, which enables us to do that for customers.

[00:11:06] Adam: Mm. And it hadn't occurred to me as, as somebody's been doing this for donkeys years now, but you often forget when you talk about tech that it doesn't always apply to the soft stuff, you know?

I mean, we, live in the cloud now, right? So people start talking about technology. It's an app on your phone or it's fill in the gap, right? But. If you're a wholesale distributor with a warehouse, you need a terminal. You need a handheld device. You know, if you are a retailer that's got physical stores, you need an EPOS system.

You need tools, you need hardware. , you know, and, and even if you're a professional service organization, you know, if you've got consultants out on the road, you know, real estate surveys, all of that sort of thing, it's all, it's all physical kit, isn't it? Let alone the servers that you might need to, to host it.

Obviously appreciate, we're not talking true cloud in those instances, but you might have server infrastructure that you need to invest in as well. It seems to get bigger and bigger the more elements of a project you think about, and it hadn't occurred to me until we, we discussed it recently that it still classed as technology. and it could still potentially be funded.

So, so what we were talking about there in terms of you've got your licensing support and your initial consultancy that's further extended by then saying, right, well actually, you know, if we are running a warehouse, we need three terminals and 10 handheld devices, which all have a value as well.

So, so you go from, you know, 50k software project, you know, to a, you know, 75, 80k Software and infrastructure project. So it's, it's easy to see how that initial investment escalates. So it may become more attractive for people to, to spread that into a manageable amount. Cause they know exactly how much is gonna go out the door without seeing that massive chunk go out in early doors, I guess.

[00:12:50] Rob: Yeah. And also as well, I mean, these things tend to have a short life, don't they, and if the, you know, equipment's being used every day, I'd know maybe some rugged, handhelds or whatever it may be that could get beat up, could get dropped, all that kind of stuff. The, the life span of these, these type of kit is usually short, you know, somewhere between three and five years old.

So, you know, we tend to be funding it over those short period of time because we'd like to think, you know, at the end, of that period, they're gonna look to upgrade it and get onto something new or better or something that's just, you know, not been beaten up. So, and it's always about that. It's always about using it and infrastructure in your business and replacing it as and when it needs be., and if you think about it from a, from a business owner's point of view, if you have 80 grand in the bank, like you just gave that example, why would you invest in something that has such a short period of life and which you know, really that you can't get a return on Investment.

It's not like a vehicle. It's not as if you're gonna go and buy yourself an 80,000 pound, you know, hgv and you know that maybe in five years time you could sell it and maybe get 30 grand back. That's not happening, is it? So you might as well use the lenders or some kind of lenders, money to invest in your IT infrastructure and the other 80,000 pounds. You know, reinvest it in your people you know, like I say, or train them, get new employees in. Maybe you can get some sales staff in who's gonna increase your, your bottom line or whatever it may be.

So use the money in a, more advantageous way. I would say.

Digital Transformation with a Portal

[00:14:24] Adam: Thanks Rob.

And that, that kind of brings me on to. The, second set of questions I guess that I have for you, which relates to, to your own digital transformation at Synergi So, so you mentioned sales and marketing there, and obviously as an organization you try and stay as close to your customers as possible.

That's, that's self evident. And you now give them the tools that they need to make your job easier. And, and, you know, it makes our lives easier. It makes your, your lives easier. So you have a portal. That enables your customers to go on and generate their own quotes and do their own, you know, credit and risk assessment online.

So where, where did that idea, I mean, it seems common sense right now. it makes total sense. Why, didn't we have a portal before? But, but take me through that thought process. Why, why you decided to embark on a project like creating a customer portal, what you've seen as a result of it, and maybe some of the challenges that you met along the way.

[00:15:22] Rob: Yeah, sure. Well, it, it seems still a bit strange now that we're having that conversation because I, I would like to think that in this day and age that there, we'd have many competitors, but we just don't, which I find odd.

Now don't get me wrong, there's plenty of lenders out there that have their own platforms, but of course what we are is we're not only a lender, but we're also a broker. And the fact that we have access to over a hundred lenders in the uk. So really what we were trying to do is create a platform. It gives our introducers companies like yourselves, the opportunity to access those lenders, effectively creating your own product for your customer, you know, bespoke to them.

Now, that sounds quite simple and it's been done in various other industries, the consumer market for many, many years. But in, in the B2B asset finance market, it's just not there. Now, it could be because it's costly to do so. It could be the fact that people can't be bothered to sit down and figure out how, how it could actually happen.

I'm not sure, but I mean, I, I sort of had the idea maybe 10 years ago when I was working somewhere else and I, and I was forever picking up the phone and doing quotes and sending those quotes out to suppliers and vendors, which is great cause you obviously had that conversation. You understood the project that was potentially going on.

But we found that sort of 80% of those quotes just weren't happening so, we're spending an awful lot of time quoting when really what we wanted to be doing is more deals. So rather than focus on doing the do, I wanted to focus on actually adding value to our introducers. So let's see if we can provide, you know, build a portal where they can go on, like you mentioned, formulate your own finance quote to support yourself.

Credit check your customer as. well And then if they do want to proceed, then you can just click of a button, it comes through to us, and then you can track the deal from start to finish and finish being cash in your bank account. And we'll handle everything at the transaction in the background. You can check and follow and everything else as it goes along.

Now, when I say about supporting our introducers more, we're trying to, add value in the sense of right, what, what, financial products are there out there. Most people have come across leasing in in the last 30, 30, 40 years. it's, well known, but technology loan products aren't very well known.

Operational lease products aren't, aren't well known tax and how tax works and how it benefits the customer, not only in their business. But also using finance and how that can be used to be leveraged, within their business. Education to our, our producers as well is sort of providing sort of online videos, tutorials, actually doing some online video, tuition lessons as well.

Going to see them and just explain sort of how you can benefit and, and. By using, a point of sale finance solution and when to offer it, you know, as well, because I think in in sales some people get very scared about asking. How they're gonna pay for it and when they're gonna ask them how they're gonna pay for it.

They do an awful lot of work. And then they get to the stage where they say, well, this is gonna, what it's gonna cost, how you're gonna pay for it. And they find that they can't afford it, or you know, unfortunately their credit's not so great, so they can't even secure clients for it. So it's all about educating the sales person about ask it early, offer it early, and then you've kept all your options open.

That's all it's about, is keeping your options open. So the whole point was, that I wanted to create a portal so people could do some of that work for me. Yep. Cause I'm a typical lazy sales guy, , but also wanted to add some value out there. And I wanted to provide a product that I could see wasn't out there, which to me was bizarre, you know?

And I thought, well, hold on. If it's not out there, let's, let's give it a go and see what it is. Now, I'm not saying there isn't a competitor out there, but I'm not aware of one. Certainly. And we, we won three awards for innovation in, in, from our, the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers. So to think that we've won that award would suggest to me that we're probably the, the only one out there.

But of course I think we've masked a bit of a well kept secret because we still need to get, make people aware that we're out there. That's what we're offering. So, yeah, it it's an interesting product that we've put out there and we're constantly working on it. It's, it's integrated with, with Credit Safe and Xero and Company's House and DocuSign and various other, integrations to make, to make the transaction real swift.

So in, practice transactions often take maybe a few weeks, but we could, and we have done a couple within a day where we've had it come in in the morning. Well, the customer's already had a quote probably from the, the, the, a couple of days before, but they've said, yes, I want to go ahead with that.

We've looked, we, we credit checked them. We've had to, gather some financial information from the customer, maybe some accounts, bank statements, that kind of stuff, which they've uploaded to our portal. We've assessed. We've underwritten it either with our, our own funds or with, with one of our lenders.

The finance is approved. Documents go out for, for e-sign, they sign it back in and the, the vendor uploads their invoice and we package the deal up and send it for payment and payment within 24 hours. So it can, it can be very, very quick. And if I'm honest, I think it should be quicker.

I think our world is a little bit too slow. But unfortunately there is a lot of fraud, certainly nowadays compared to, to most recent times. But, there is a lot of fraud in, in, in our industry. So the lenders are very sort of keen to, to do a lot of background checks and that can obviously takes but I, I still think we consist and process what we do much more quickly.

I just think it's the will and desire, whether the banks want to actually invest in it. A lot of the lenders in our financial world have very big names above their heads. Yet the department that we're dealing with might only have 10 employees, but we doing many, many millions a year. So it, it, it's usually about a number of people as well, trying to get involved in the transactions which slow us down.

So, yeah, I think, you know, we, we, we do have issues, don't get me wrong. It's, it has been a bumpy road. you know, it's been, it can be very slow. We never, we've never designed a need software before. You know, we sat down and thought, what do we want it to do? And we sat down and wrote a, a plan, which we thought was a, you know, detailed plan, but we, we realized that it's not very detailed at all.

Cause we, I think like a developer. Cause if we're telling a developer why we wanna put this information here and it spits out that information at the other end, the developer's like, well, how does it go for those processes to get to that bit? And we're like, I don't really know. So.

[00:21:58] Adam: You're the developer, you tell us!

[00:22:03] Rob: Exactly, exactly. But I guess in a way what it has taught me is to system and process absolutely everything. And I'm quite keen on the system and process. I mean, my, my staff always take the mick out of me cause of it. But I, I love sitting down and figuring out every single process and the if buts and maybes that go along and, we did a lot of that.

And then we go back to, to developers and of course it was never 100% perfect, and they would always say, well, wow, this happened. We thought, wow, I'd never even thought about that. So, and of course there's some things they would've missed as well.

And you know, sometimes the, the software doesn't work quite the way we want it to work and we need to get changes, but, and of course as well, because it's our unique selling point we're keen to develop it more. And so we've got these great ideas about how far we can take it. Yet our developers are, are still way behind where we want to be. So it's almost, you've created a beast and you are struggling to control this beast. You really are.

And of course the new things come on the market and you think, oh, that'd be great if we could do that, you know, like they're doing a lot of ID checks now with. Over the camera and so forth and on your phone. So that would cover your KYC, banks love a KYC, which stands for Know Your Customer. Yeah.

So if we could do that on the phone, how can we integrate that with the portal? Would that stop them slowing down KYC at payout stage. If we did it for them, could we quicken it up? And, you know, it's, it's so much going on that we're, we're, we're keen to do, but it's just takes time to develop. It really does.

Looking at the end result

[00:23:33 ]Adam: Yeah. No, and, and, yeah, I think. Software projects, whether they're a bespoke portal or an ERP system or what have you, that they're never to be underestimated.

Because it involves business change. You know, multiple people with multiple views. You know, we want it to work this way, we want it to work this way. And you've got the supplier, oh, well it can only work that way because we can only do it in this way, and so on and so forth. So yeah, I totally appreciate how they do turn into to beasts.

Especially, and, and I suppose it depends who you're speaking to, and I don't know what your experience was, but projects tend to grow legs, so, so what you expect when you sign a contract to say this is what we want at the end of it, is very rarely the same as what you end up at the the back end of the process, especially when it comes down to custom development.

So, you know, I. I dunno whether the portal was in line with your expectation or whether it came out better or whether it was, you know what I mean? But yeah, I'd be curious to know how different the end result was to the spec that you gave them originally.

[00:24:40] Rob: Yeah, it's interesting because I had, I had my background before finance is graphic design, I'm a visual person. So I'd even done some mockups of what I wanted to look like and all this kind of stuff, which was a total waste of my time, wish they'd told me not to bother, because they just ignored it all, or it just couldn't look that way. I don't know. I never know to be fair. So they came back with what they thought it should look like.

So I just dealt with it and thought, okay, we can run with that. It's not a problem. I mean, really at the end of the day, it's about data and it's about does it visually make sense and does it look good? But I'm a bit more of it. Does it look good, but than anyone else's? It's functionality, isn't it? End of the day.

So yeah, these things do grow legs and, they do provide problems, but also, you know, developers actually come up with some great things, you know, like the DocuSign. Which I said, look, we need our documents, DocuSigned. If we can try and keep it in within our portal, that would be amazing. So they, they've managed to write it where, we can call the customer on the screen. It comes up with three or four security questions. If they pass those security questions, we can hit a button whereby a code goes to their mobile phone.

They can then click that, open the email, which they'll receive with the e documents, put the code in to make sure that that's totally secure. And then when they sign the documents, it's going via DocuSign, collecting all the, the right information, and then coming back into our portal and depositing that document within our portal. Which I was surprised. I didn't think that was even possible.

I thought we'd have to go and collect it from DocuSign or sales, put it, drag it into our portal, all that kind of stuff. But no, they, they managed to enable us to sort of package up a deal. Cause it's this all various elements to a, to a deal. Of course, you know, we, we might need a copy of the customer facing proposal from, from the vendor. We will need the invoice. We'll need the, obviously our documents, and various other bits and bobs as well, that, that formulate the finance documents.

But, and it manage, they manage to get it all in one package. So really all we have to do to send it out for payment is, click a little box and it goes and it's either our internal team who are paying it out or a bank and they're just opening up documents there. Thank you very much. Check. Yeah, fine. Bang, paid out.

So there's some things that they've done above and beyond what I expected, which is great, but there's some things that I'm asking 'em to do, which, they're still bamboozling them. But maybe it's, sometimes I find it's the platform that they're building it on. Sometimes it has limitations, which I wasn't aware of, you know, so, yeah.

The Future is Integration and Self-Service

[00:27:17] Adam: Yeah. And it's, and it's interesting that, I mean, yeah. The, the, the DocuSign piece is, is a great one, you know, lot, lots of systems now, you know, whether it's like a HubSpot crm, when you sending out a quote, you know, they've got some sort of e-sign. Which, and the aim there is obviously get the signature on the contract as soon as possible.

Right. The path of least resistance. Right. You know, we don't want people to have to think, we just want them to take this action. Mm-hmm, but I'm having more and more conversations now with, with the speed of information. You know, you, you often find, especially in highly competitive businesses, that your speed of reaction is, is sometimes, gives you a competitive edge, right?

And, and I'm sure it's the same with you. So, so with your portal, you are able to receive and manage quotations and be able to place orders quicker, right? So, so in theory, as you scale, volume shouldn't be an issue because you've now got the mechanism in place that says, you know, there's no ceiling we, we can deal with as much as possible.

But there, there are crossovers. You know, when, when you, when you look at retailers for example, you know, EDI interfaces with the, with the supermarkets, you know that that's all live information flowing. And I've been asked more and more now about supplier onboarding. You know, some of the complexities in large companies when they're just requesting information from suppliers is massive.

If you would just have a portal where supplier can manage their own onboarding, you know, upload their own documentation. And I always think about, and it's not a business example, it's a, it's a personal example. So this house that I'm sitting in now, we've only been here since December last year, so not, not even quite a year that we've been here yet.

Right. And it was a new build and the buyer pulled out. So they said, oh, you can have a great price if you can complete within 30 days. So I, as everybody does, I phoned through, through all of the solicitors saying, can you help me? Because the solicitor I was using said you've got no chance. We don't do new builds and we won't do it in 30 days.

I was like, oh, fabulous, thank you. So I phone phoned around and, and literally every local solicitor, you know, every traditional solicitor. Essentially said, we can't do it. We're not resourced for it. You're, you're living in a dream world. Mm-hmm. . So I phoned the, I actually phoned the salesperson that sold me this house and I said, I'm really struggling.

Can you recommend the solicitor that can meet your... cause it was in, within his interest. Right. He needed to sell it with 30 days. So I said, can, can you think of anybody? And he said, let, let me speak to the, the, the conveyancing team. Cause they've all got internal, well, a lot of them got internal conveyancing teams now.

And he came back with the details of, and, and I can't remember who they were. If, if I find the details, I'll put em in the show notes after the fact. But he said, these are the quickest guys we've ever used. I think namely down to the fact that they'd used them quite a lot before and there was potentially a partnership in a bit of kickback there.

But just reading between the lines, I don't know whether that's a fact or not, but they said it's all done through an online portal. Okay. I said right... And he said, but if you think about it makes so much sense because the biggest delay when you are going through a sale is documentation backwards and forwards.

Yeah. Yeah. It's the physical paper trail. You know, the solicitor will send you this document, it'll take a couple of days, you sign it, then you send it back and it's another couple of days. Mm-hmm, it makes so much sense when you've got everything in place. But it's so difficult to get a view of what that future could look like until, until you're actually doing it.

You see what I mean? So we complete within 30 days, you know, it was all done within the portal. It worked fabulously. I think I spoke to a human being maybe once or twice, and, and it was at the right point where you actually wanna speak to a human, you know, to give you the warm, fuzzy feeling, oh yeah, this is our process, this, this is how we do it. But aside, that it was all done in the portal, you know, and, and I'm, I'm a bit of an introvert.

You know, I can be an extrovert if I push myself really hard, but it saps my energy. So anything in my personal life that limits the interaction with people, as much as I, you know, people might, might criticize me for saying it, is, is is a plus, right? Because we're bombarded with so much information nowadays, you know, can do without another conversation or can do without filling out another document. So if everything is packaged into a nice little product with a, with a nice little bow, that makes it as easy as possible, there's a big business case for that.

I think absolutely. Here ends my little story.

Fighting Traditional Infrastructure “We want this now!”

[00:31:45] Rob: Well, yeah, to be fair, that's a good story. And you know, that that's the road that I'm on but of course what we're fighting a lot of the time is that the, you know, it's the traditional infrastructure that we have and the fact is that we want to change things yet that the people that you're dealing with at the other end either don't want to change or can't change because there are, you know, for instance, there might be a mighty boat in, in the sea, which takes forever to turn.

You know, and, and it's difficult to convince some people, that, you know, we can get to here very quickly, but they're saying, well, there's this red tape and this red tape and whatever, and that, and that's becomes a frustration. So I've hit a lot of those walls. I really have. One, one really interesting we'll hit quite a lot is, is open banking.

Now. Open banking came out, what, six, maybe five, six years ago. Everyone was, you know, raving about it. And we do have some open banking software, which we just asked for the customer to put their bank details in, which is why, you know, their, their app on their phone might be a Barclays app, whatever it may be, just to make sure it's secure.

And then that software will grab one year's worth of transactions from that bank account and take all that data, and it will provide many pretty beautiful looking graphs. It says exactly, you know, how much debt they've got, outstanding with, you know, other financeers, who their, you know, the biggest payer is, who's their worst payer, all this kind of stuff.

Great information. Takes 10 seconds to produce now. You know, there was a laws passed to bring this software out so people could access that information more quickly and make quicker decisions. Yet the majority of the banks. Won't accept that information from open banking. They still ask, for copies of bank statements and it's just frustrating because we've got some of the technology out there, but the banks won't accept it.

Now we don't know whether that's red tape. We dunno whether it's because they haven't got their ducks in a row to be able to okay it. Or just because it's pigheaded and they're used to their old fashioned ways. We're never gonna get the answer to that because, you know, I'm never gonna speak to the person who, who can answer that question.

So it is frustrating from that point of view, but what we are trying to achieve is, is quicker transactions. Now I know that that can be open to fraud, but you've done it the right way. You can cover off all these KYC checks, anti money-laundering checks everything else. You can do it really quickly.

And of course we are in a day and age now as consumers where we want something, we want it, and we can buy it now. There's a lot of tools out there for, for us to buy it. Now. Now, I'm not saying you would do that with an SAP project or ERP project or any kind of IT infrastructure. You, you wouldn't see it and buy it same day. I get that. But it's when you've made the decision to buy, you know, if you've made a decision to buy, you've been through the process of, you know, looking at all these suppliers, you can provide any solution you want.

You've decided which solution you want, you're happy with it. Now I'm gonna buy. You want that bit to be really quick. Absolutely, really quick. Not, not just for the customer's perspective, but also from the, from the vendor's perspective, they want to get that deal and opportunity out of the market. They don't want any of their competitors sniffing around with it, you know, they don't want any chance of losing that opportunity.

So if we can make that real quick, then that's only gonna add value to everyone. But of course there's, there's, there's a lot of blockers at the moment and I think we, there always will be some blockers. We're getting there slowly.

But I think that we are trying to explore a bit more nowadays is, as I mentioned a couple of times, we are a lender in our own right now that's only on a very small scale, we're thinking, well hold on. If we actually go out and become a bigger lender and we're taking more risk and doing more transactions ourselves, we don't have to worry about the lenders and all these other blockers.

We can create our own product that makes it much more quickly and much more quicker to, to do the transactions. So that's the next stage for us is trying to get that investment, and there's various ways of doing that. but, they, they've got, that's got the challenges as well. Especially now we we're potentially hitting a recession, so there's gonna be less companies interested in investing.

[00:35:53] Adam: Yeah, yeah. And it would be, I mean, maybe we should have another chat a few years time once you've, once you've ticked the box and you, you're smashing it in that sense, to be, be interesting to, to see what that journey's been like.

So Yeah. It's all exciting stuff, isn't it?

[00:36:08] Rob: Yeah. It's, it's, yeah.

What would you do differently?

[00:36:12] Adam: Coming back to the portal projects, the last question I'll ask on the portal. If you did it again, what would you do differently?

[00:36:20] Rob: What I'd do differently?

I probably would've built it on a different platform, the platform that we built it on, is, is restrictive to a certain degree or I think what happens of course over time is that there's other platforms that come about that are easier to, to, to code on, have more, opportunities and to develop portals that are a bit more slick, a bit more safe, a bit more secure. So you know, hindsight's a wonderful thing, isn't it? But I think I would've done that.

Also, we're doing a lot now in HubSpot. Now we've invested in HubSpot in the last couple of years, really only to do sort of our, sales and marketing element of our business on. Anything transactional wise would go into our portal. But I'm seeing opportunities now to have maybe developed sort of plugins platforms that we could develop in HubSpot to actually achieve our end goal.

So who knows, maybe we might go down the line at some point and such we might retire the traditional Synergi platform, but create tools that sit on top of HubSpot. And it would, you know, change to our, to our users, they wouldn't see any difference, to be fair.

But it would just be feeding all the information into HubSpot. Cause I think that's a great platform. However, it is good for us. But, you know, as a, as a company grows, I, I can see it being not so great for us. So, you know, things like SAP as well would be be a good platform for us as well to, to explore as well in the future I think.

Something that, you know, I, I know a bit about because obviously we deal with a lot of introducers. Like sales, but I haven't actually seen the functionality of it and I'd love to see that because it might be something we'd invest in down the line. So like I say, I think HubSpot has has its limitations and it will run out at some point, whereas I understand that SAP and you can tell me more about this. It has a great platform to, to grow and it's continuously being developed and added to. And I know there's also other apps as well that can be added to it as well. Bespoke ones.

What information is crucial to you as a business leader?

[00:38:28] Adam: Yeah, that's it. And of course it depends what the end game is, right? Mm-hmm, you know?

Mm-hmm. So, so, so when you developed your portal, you said, right, well what, what's in it for my customers? How can I help provide a better level of services is exactly the same for any type of software project. So whenever people ask me about software systems, I always ask, what's the end game? Yeah. Because yeah, you, you're right, an end-to-end ERP system is often a good move.

If a company's growing and they want a single source of information, but timing is everything. Do you really want to upend the, the business on a software project that might take, you know, a decent chunk of your team out of, out of their day to day for a bit whilst, whilst you're implementing it, right? So, so timing's a big thing there.

And as you mentioned, it's also the integration piece as well, cuz HubSpot is obviously best to breed for sales and marketing, you know, and it's, it's always gonna be updated. And fit for purpose in that sense. So, you know, and, and I've seen companies that integrate HubSpot with SAP. I've seen companies that integrate HubSpot with, with other solutions.

So it, again, it depends on the departmental breakdown and what, what you want to see as a, as a business owner. Mm-hmm, which I suppose leads me onto my next question.

So you've said that there's, you know, in theory it could get to the point where the applications you've developed could integrate with something like HubSpot.

The end game with that sort of thing is having more visibility of, I suppose, the end to end picture. You know, so what are we seeing from our customers, what does that data look like?

You know, what information we getting from other areas of the business, how do we that tie that into a flashy dashboard that on a snapshot, gives me all of the information that I need.

I've been having more conversations recently about data storytelling and what is useful. For business leaders. So it'd be good to get your impression of, you know, place yourself in the future. When you've got all of these systems talking to each other and, and everything's integrated, what information is important for you to decide, you know, how to navigate upcoming challenges or to make better business decisions?

You know, when you speak to your finance team, when you speak to your ops team, when you speak to your sales team, what information are you looking for to make those strategic decisions?

[00:40:34] Rob: Yeah, that's a good, good question.

I think. The data that drives us, is, is all about credit. As simple as that really, you know, we use Credit Safe to make our decisions.

However, you know, we're seeing some, some problems with that at the moment where we're finding other platforms have a bit more data that we, we wish that we knew at an earlier stage because we've had opportunities that we've lost or we've had opportunities that we, we couldn't get approved because we didn't have all the data that we needed.

I think, you know, we are living in the world now where it's all about the data and I think as much as we can possibly get about a prospect, helps us understand the market better. It's as simple as that. You know, we do, we we're lucky cause we're on the, on the front line to a degree so we can get a good gauge of what's happening in in the economy.

Now we, but I do feel like we we're, we're still a few weeks behind sometimes and it'd be great if we were right on that front line to understand exactly what's going on. So we could gauge, and and the reason I wanna gauge more about what's going on is because as we develop as a lender, we can create better products that are more suited to the economy or suited to an end user or even suited to an introducer.

We can get that data, we can really sort of understand, and, and reduce risk and provide value to the market. So I'm, I'm deadly keen about data and where we get it from.

But unfortunately a lot of these people that provide the data, financial data want want to charge an arm on a leg for it. So it is an interesting time at the minute. So they seem to be beating each other up to, to, for our services, yet they want the charge us an arm and a leg for them, so.

Differentiation & Niching Down

[00:42:12] Adam: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.Yeah, great to learn from those teams.

It's, I suppose, and, and I don't wanna put put words in your mouth there, but. Differentiation is something that I'm seeing a lot of businesses focus on at the moment.

And you know, you, you've heard, I'm sure the concept of niching down, right? You know, how how do we provide the most possible value to the people that we can, we can serve, right? Yeah. And, and that's why I say, I don't wanna put words in your mouth, but what I've got from that is that the more data you've got about the people that you're dealing with day to day, the more you'll be able to carve out that, that ideal market that says, these are some people we can really help. Right.

And you can, that's unfortunately, I say unfortunately, it's part of what makes it exciting, but that's what then comes down to you. It's that process of continuous improvement, isn't it? You know, more data over time leads to, to more accuracy. Right. So thanks for that. I appreciate, appreciate it.

[00:43:11] Rob: I think also there's words to add to that as well is that, that there's segments that we find of the industry. That aren't being serviced very well from the lenders, and you know, I was thinking about one the other day, retail for instance.

We know high street's going backwards, everyone can visually see that, and it's been happening over the last sort of 10 years or so. But there's certainly, chains of stores in the retail sector that our niche are doing very well. Now, if you go to a lender and you are retail store or chain of retail stores, the likelihood is they will decline you just because you're in retail.

Now there's plenty of retail stores out doing very, very well. And we had a company come to us only a month or so ago who spent half a million pounds on an EPOS solution.

Well known, have been around since the eighties. 15 stores across the UK and Ireland. And, but they were in a really niche sector.

And, you know, part of what they, they sold was close to my heart, my son's heart. You know, we were into sort of, graphic novels and, you know, all the paraphernalia around that, you know, and so they were doing very well, very well. They had a very poor year during Covid, but who didn't? And they recovered to, to, to a trading status better than the, the year prior to Covid. But had absolutely huge amount of trouble trying to get the, the funding for them.

In fact, we did a large chunk of it ourselves in the end. Cause I knew that it'd be absolutely fine.

Yeah. So it's those kind of things. The data can, can give you some elements of a, of a sector where you can say well actually you can't just say that that whole sector's rubbish and it's all gonna fail because actually there's elements of it, it's gonna do very, very well. So if we can get enough data, we can deal with those, you know, niches within the industries that, and, and know that there's, there's much fewer risk involved.

[00:45:04] Adam: Yeah.

And then you've got, I've, with the businesses that I work with, I tend to find that there's two chains of thoughts when it comes to nicheing down.

So, so there's some businesses that think. We don't wanna limit our market. We want to sell to everyone and anyone. Yeah. Marketing thrown all over the place. Basically throwing stuff at the wall until it sticks. And I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, you know, especially if you've got the marketing budget, you know, especially if you've financed your software project so that you've now got more marketing.

No, I'm joking. I'm joking.

But but then there's, there's the side which we're talking about there that says, is it to be, like known as the experts in a certain space, rather than trying to be everything to everyone because you, you know from that then that it gives you a competitive advantage if you're able to provide a service to people that others won't provide a service to.

But then when you have further conversations in the future, you've got that reference ability and that credibility to say, look, you know, this is what we've done before. And it all starts with the data, doesn't it? You know, you can't make those decisions on what works and what doesn't work unless you've got the data.

[00:46:17] Rob: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I think, you know, it is all about niching to me.

Now you know, yes, we've got a niche and you know, us as a technology provider, a technology finance provider, which is great. But there's, there's three, two other elements to our business as well. I mean, we, we have a property division, we have a cash division as well.

So what happens is that we go out with our niche. Our customers come on board and we go back to 'em and say, well, what else do you need? You know, and they could be from many different sectors. It could be, you know, a warehouse or whatever it is, hauliers, logistics, whatever it may be. And they'll say, well actually I'm gonna invest in a new vehicle.

Brilliant. Okay, well we can fund that for you. Well actually I've got a bit of a hole in my cash flow cause I've got customers now who are not paying me on time, they're paying me in 90 days. Or we can provide a revolving credit facility or an invoice finance facility. So you know, we use the niche, to then provide other services as well.

So we start plugging those gaps. Those customers, those customers who you know, who enjoyed us, the experience with the initial transaction, will then enjoy the experience they have with us of all the other products, and they tend to stay our customers for a long period of time. We can service 'em ongoing because I've worked for brokerages and other finance companies in the past where you just do one product and that's it.

And once the customer comes back to you, you've got a relationship and they say, well, could you do this? And you can just say, no. I mean, and then you're pointing that customer to a competitor and then they may never come back ever again. So I think it's important to be able to plug those gaps, but also go out and put your stall out as a niche.

Cause otherwise, you know, you can't be everything to everyone. Yeah.

What is the one app or gadget that you couldn’t live without?

[00:47:54] Adam: Yeah. And then linking as you said, we're moving from differentiation there to diversification. Which, which again is, is a really great use case for having lots of data because as you say, the more data you've got, the more, more gaps you'll be able to fill.

Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, Wider examples. You know, is it the right time for us to open a new office or a new store? You know, are we getting a load of business in a region? That would actually be good if we had some, some face to face representation there. You know, that's, that's one example. Your example of cross cross platform products.

Again, another example there, not, not physically, but obviously with the services that you provide there, and then wider than that, look, you know, we're smashing it in the UK uS market might be pretty good. You know, is it worth, you know, repeating that, is it possible to repeat that? And again, it comes back to the data, doesn't it?

So, yeah. Yeah. Good. No, I appreciate that. That's really good. So one, one of the last questions that I tend to ask, and then I'll, I'll let you go to it, we're coming up, coming up to time, is... Because this podcast is called Tech for Finance, I always ask.

What is the one app or piece of software or gadget that you, you just couldn't live without?

And I appreciate, I've put you on the spot cause I didn't send these questions over, but off the top of your head, what app, software or gadget could you not live without?

[00:49:22] Rob: Well, the sad thing is I've got slightly addicted to TikTok recently. And, and I know, I know I'm, I'm a 44 year old man, but the fact is I'm really into to cooking as well.

I love creating stuff in the kitchen, so I tend to have it. Most of my TikTok videos I'm looking at are all towards cooking, that kind of stuff. And I love those little bits of information real quick. You know, education, I'm always about. It's gotta add value to me. If I'm going to consume anything, it's got to add value to me really quickly.

So I'm, I'm finding I do get lost in a bit of a TikTok hole when it comes to, you know, cookery programs, that kind of stuff that, that's quite cool. But I have started along, recently, which I'm, which I'm loving. It's called Headway.

Now, it basically gives you information, so you can go on there and tell 'em what kind of, things you're interested in. And it will recommend little books, and they tend to be very bite sized little books or poems or, entertainment or something like this. That is geared towards what you want to try to achieve in your life and your business or whatever it may be. And I love it cuz it, it also just, it messages you saying, yep, you haven't logged in today.

You need to complete reading this little book. And it might be, you know, they might do a shrunken down version of the, seven Habits of the Highly Effective People, whatever it may be called.

I really like it. It's a great app. It's a little bit pricey. I think it's like 60 quid a year, but I mean, it, it does enable you to focus your mind on little things that will add value to your life every day. And I think if you use it every day, which I don't, I probably use it every other day, every three days, whatever it may be, it does keep my thoughts and, and system of processes in my mind, you know, focused.

So I, I would really recommend that one.

[00:51:15] Adam: I have heard of it. I think it's come up in my Instagram feed a couple of times. So I think, I think I clicked through, but I didn't, I didn't go ahead with it. Cause I've used, slightly different, there's a, there's an app called Blinkist, which is, it's books only. So it'll do book summaries. So, so book summaries you can either read or listen to in 15 minutes I think it is.

But it seems like Headway's going the step further and saying it's not just books, it's other useful titbits as well that you could, yeah. Yeah. So I'll definitely check it out off the back of your recommendation. That's fabulous.

[00:51:46] Rob: Which which was an advert on Tik, so I got proper sucked in!

[00:51:52] Adam: Well, no, I've, I've never, I've never downloaded or gone on to TikTok ever.

[00:52:01] Rob: Yeah. I can understand why I think it's got a bad name, but I mean, if you use it in the way you want to use it, then I think it's really good medium to to, to gather information.

[00:52:12] Adam: Yeah. Yeah. And, people have sent me TikTok links, so obviously I understand the concept. It's, well, essentially short videos, isn't it?

Yeah. But I think it is the way the market's going as well. I think YouTube did it recently.

YouTube have now offered, they've introduced something called YouTube shorts. I dunno whether you've heard of those, but I think they're, they're trying to, to, to tackle the TikTok piece because attention spans are getting shorter.

Right. Which is why TikTok's done so well. Cause it's entertaining and it's in seconds. Right. So YouTube have introduced the concept of shorts. So it'd be interesting to see where, where that goes. I, I often wonder how, how, how short can a video get, right? I mean, I think the stats say that our attention spans are now less than goldfish or something like that.

So yeah, it'd be interesting to see where that market goes, but no, I don't, yeah, it's still a bit reluctant on TikTok, but I like my food as well, so I might, I might give it a go off the back of that recommendation, but no Headway. Definitely. Thanks. Thanks for the recommendation on that and for people listening, that is

Is how you'll find that or if you just, type headway app into your search engine of choice. I think.

Where to find Rob, and how to save some Tax (UK Only)!

Thanks Rob. So. Lastly then do you wanna tell people a bit more about how, how people, how they can find you and how they can find Synergi?

I was gonna drill a little bit deeper earlier on, but I think we were, we were having a good conversation so I, so I didn't mention it, cause our last conversation talked around the 130% tax rebate.

yes. So, so for anybody that's listening, cause it's only, it's only available up until March, isn't it? March next. Anybody who's listening, and correct me if I'm wrong, Rob, but for technology projects specifically, technology projects, isn't it, you can claim 130% of the amount that hits your balance sheet. And then pay 19% back or something like that. Take us through it so I don't make a hash of it.

[00:54:12] Rob: No, no, that's fine. Well, let's keep numbers simple. Let, let's say there is a hundred thousand pound project, IT project. Now, the simple math is, is, is a hundred thousand pounds times by 130%, gives you 130,000 pounds.

And the corporation tax rate is currently 19%. So, 19% of 130,000 pounds will be 24,700 pounds in tax relief. So, another simple term is that if at the end of the year, your corporation tax bill is a hundred grand, but you'd, invested a hundred grands worth of it, then you'd get 24,700 pounds off that corporation tax bill, and that's available up until the end of March next year.

So yeah, and the only way you can really sort of grab that is if, if the asset that you, or the investment, the project hits your balance sheet. Yeah.

Now there's various ways of doing that. Yes, you can pay cash. Or if you borrow the money, on a loan basis, that means obviously it's very similar to paying cash, therefore, you, you own it straight away, but you sometimes can do it on lease purchase agreements.

Now not all lenders like financing it on lease purchase because of all the intellectual property rights are involved in software. They can't take ownership of 'em. So they all, they can't really finance them. But you can sort of do it on a lease as well. There's some jiggery pokery you can do of a lease to make sure that the customer gets ownership at the back end of the agreement.

And some accountants would argue that that's not the correct way. And some would say, well, that's a way of getting round things. So it all comes down to your accountant. At the end of the day, if your accountant's happy with it, hitting your balance sheet, then you can get the 130%. If they're not, then fair enough.

I'm sure there's other ways that we can do it, but, that, as I say, end of March, as the beginning of April, corporation tax rate goes up to 25%, which it's a bit of a shocker. And of course the then the 130% will disappear. So we may find companies deciding to lease rather than loan or pay cash for IT projects. Because, every repayment on a lease is a hundred percent tax allowable. So that means that they can reduce their corporation tax bill even more with the 25% increase. Sorry, the increase to 25%.

Yeah. So there may be a switch of people's desires of how to fund things. Either way, we've got the products.

[00:56:41 ] Adam: Okay, fine. Fabulous. And for people listening into, into the future, that's March, 2023? Yes.

Just so we're in, we're in November 2022 now. So just for anybody that's listening in the future, hopefully they will be. So yeah. So how can people find you, Rob? So it's Synergi with an 'I' isn't it?

[00:57:02] Rob: Synergi with an 'I'. Www dot Synergi spelled s y n e r g i hyphen

You can contact me directly at Pick up the phone 0 333 242 33 11.

Or if you hit our website, there's a, there's a form on there you can fill out for us to get in touch.

[00:57:25] Adam: That's fine. And you are on, you're on LinkedIn as well, aren't you? Aren't you Rob? Yeah.

[00:57:29] Rob: Quite active on there. So happy to, to DM me.

[00:57:32] Adam: Yeah, it's just, yeah, Rob Partridge on LinkedIn is, is how to find you there.

Perfect. Right, Rob. Fabulous. Thanks for coming on.

[00:57:42] Rob: No, great. Enjoyed it Adam. Thanks very much.

[00:57:44] Adam: Yeah, we'll we'll catch up soon. I'm sure I'll, yeah, I really appreciate the time.

[00:57:48] Rob: Yeah, great. Thanks. Take care. Cheers

[00:57:50] Adam: See you later. Cheers.


tech for finance

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