A fast-growing energy tech business has announced plans to recruit more than 200 extra staff as demand grows for electric cars and smart meter technology.
Lancashire-based Utiligroup’s software helps smaller utility companies compete with the so-called Big Six – British Gas, SSE, ScottishPower, EDF Energy, Eon and Npower – and led to it being acquired in 2017 by US private equity firm Accel-KKR through its services company ESG for £100m.
The company now employs 380 people but chief executive Matthew Hirst said they plan to grow that number to around 600 in two years and building work is about to start on a new office near their existing HQ in Chorley.
Utiligroup has been a victim of its own success with staff spread across four adjoining buildings but they will consolidate into two when the new office is finished.
Hirst told BusinessCloud: “It’s not easy when you’re spread out across different sites. Other companies have bigger challenges than us, spread out from city to city, or even in different countries, so for us it’s adapting to have more people.
“We’re introducing flexible working so we don’t necessarily need all the people in the office at the same time. Let’s say you can have somebody working at home two days a week – then you need 20 per cent less space. That’s the way we’re looking at it.
“The plan is that we’ll probably get up to around 600 people across the two sites in Chorley – we’re certainly gearing up for that – the main HQ that we’ve got and moved into a couple of years ago, plus the new office. We’ll consolidate into those two.
“It gives us that expansion room to grow. It will provide us with more meeting rooms – that’s one of the things that most businesses start running out of and we’re no different. If we configured this building again we’d include more meeting rooms of a smaller size – that’s a lesson we’ve learned that we’ll take into the new space.”
Utiligroup has gone from strength-to-strength since Hirst and his colleague Andrew Green led an MBO in 2014 that saw Bglobal sell the subsidiary in a £16.1m, backed by NorthEdge Capital.
At the time of the MBO the company had 80 staff but that had grown to 250 when Accel-KKR did their buyout.
Hirst added: “We’ve become part of a bigger group called ESG – Accel-KKR is the majority shareholder, one of the leading private equity houses in the world behind technology companies. That’s given us that global focus.
“We’ve got companies that work with us in the States that we’re now bringing to the UK. We’re taking UK energy suppliers into the States and Japan.
“In the UK there are a lot of suppliers now so it makes sense for our customers to expand internationally. We’ve got the platform to enable them to do that and take them on that global journey.”
Utiligroup has developed software to help with the rollout of smart meters, which the Government wants in every home by 2020 to help the public track their energy consumption.
Hirst said: “Our new smart platform for smart meter connectivity enables energy companies to connect to the smart meters that will be installed in all of our homes. So if they want to update the tariff, if the customer is a pay-as-you-go customer and they do a top-up on a mobile phone app, they’ll go directly through our smart technology to the meter and get the acknowledgement back – all very secure and interacting with the new government central system. It’s something we’ve spent millions of pounds developing.
“We’re doing a lot more proof-of-concepts around electric vehicle charging points and the way that energy customers will be building the future. If you look around the roads there are many more hybrids now and pure electric vehicles.
“That’s the way the market’s going. It’s going to increase electricity needs. The whole industry is going through a huge change as the moment.”