Speakers: Chris Potts, Corporate Finance Director, PKF Francis Clark
Chris Potts: Hi, I'm Chris Potts I'm a Director in the Corporate Finance Team at at PKF Francis Clark. I focus on M&A in the lower mid and mid-market, so deal values in the region of 5 to 80 million pounds. And among our team of 36 staff, we offer a full suite of corporate finance services so, we advise on things like management buyouts, company disposals, debt and private equity fundraisers, due diligence, valuations, and financial modelling. We're one of the most active teams in the country, undertaking over 100 transactions each year.
Before using Glasscubes, how did you gather and share data with clients, and what problems or frustrations did that cause?
Chris Potts: Across the firm we've got a number of different applications for file sharing with our clients, including our own client portal. However, as an M&A team, we found that these systems don't necessarily fit our needs particularly well. We can be sharing a huge amount of data on a daily basis with our clients, with their other advisers, or with third parties, such as buyers. And much of that information will be either commercially sensitive or potentially subject to GDPR restrictions. We had ShareFile, which was a secure Dropbox style piece of software. That was great as far as it went but it didn't provide anything more than that basic file sharing capability. So we were wedded to email as our primary means of communication and file sharing. That clearly has its limitations. Security is a big one. Obviously a file sent by email is subject to interception and therefore anything sensitive has to be encrypted. That in itself is a pain, with you having to manually encrypt the files before sending, come up with a password, provide that password to your client buyer in another means. It was just a long winded process particularly when transmitting large amounts of files. In addition, there was the issue around keeping everybody in the loop. So if you've got several people involved in a transaction and we may have 3, 4, 5 people from our side, plus tax experts, plus people on our client side, plus lawyers, plus bankers, diligence providers, private equity providers. Can be a huge number of people. If you're missed off an email trail you can miss some of that vital information flow and your then reliant on other people forwarding it to you subsequently or you're out of the loop. So we really wanted something where that collaboration could be all in the same place, and we looked at many different solutions that, Slack for example. Another problem with emails of course is finding what you're looking for after the event. Our inboxes get very full and emails get filed almost anywhere. And if you can dig out something from six months ago and put your finger on it quickly you're a better man than I am. So those were the major areas that we were looking to address, and Glasscubes was one of the packages that we considered, in that regard.
Did you have any concerns about moving to a new solution like Glasscubes, and were any of these subsequently realised?
Chris Potts: So as with implementing any new piece of software, we had a certain amount of concerns that we needed to address. First and foremost, Does it fit the requirements? Does it do what we need it to do? Secondly, from the internal user angle, how much training will be required? How quickly and easily can our staff transition onto the new system? How quickly will they pick it up? From the client facing angle. How easy will they find it? Will they be receptive to it? Because if they don't find it easy to use, they'll just default to what they know and what they're most comfortable with, which is generally an insecure email. And finally from the security standpoint, up until now everything's been on our own internal servers. We can handle our own disaster recovery plans. We can handle our own backups. We can handle our own security. If we're going to outsource all of that, we need relevant assurances that our data will be looked after. So Glasscubes helped us address these points from fairly early in the process. When I first started exploring the package with them, they spent several hours with me walking me through different features, listening to feedback and explaining how they see it being used in other corporate finance teams. From an internal user angle, they provided training, and we found that to be really helpful in a sort of bottom up approach. Now it might be stereotypical but generally the younger generations are slightly quicker to pick up new systems and perhaps are more senior team members. But by delivering training at the bottom level, it meant that our junior staff, our associates, and senior associates were working on Glasscubes and that was almost forcing the more senior staff onto the system to review work, to review correspondence and therefore just get used to the system by using it. And in that way, we've got almost complete adoption across our M&A team. From an external user angle well, we have to deliver that training, ourselves, when we first speak with our, a new client, we give them a tour of the portal. It normally only takes half an hour or so and barring the odd case, all of our clients have been very receptive to it and they appreciate the benefits that it brings. Security and confidentiality are becoming greater and greater concerns. There's increasing news coverage of data breaches and so on and so forth. So they're happy to see that we've got a system in place to help prevent any of that happening to them. Finally, from a security perspective Glasscubes liaised closely with our IT team. Given them all the data that they needed from a technical standpoint to get themselves happy with the security and disaster recovery angles. Things like the use of AWS servers and the fact that we can use Microsoft SSO (Single Sign On) to log into Glasscubes which already used across the firm meant that we could integrate it more or less directly into our own systems. We haven't tried it yet, but another angle we're keen to explore further is the fact that Glasscubes provide an API, which means that we should be able to link directly into our own backup systems so that we can keep a copy of everything on our own storage as well as relying on Glasscubes.