‘It was very exciting. The adrenaline really flows,’ says Peter Greenslade as he pauses this week to reflect on his victorious race against time.
But, although a golfer and a skier, Greenslade is not an athlete reflecting on Olympic success.
Instead, the 42-year-old accountant is referring to the recent flotation of recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, a name well-known to many job-hopping financial professionals, in which he played a central role in as group FD.
Talking to Greenslade this week, however, the process sounded as gruelling as training for a major sporting event.
Following an initial flotation meeting on Easter Monday this year, the group’s executives set themselves the ambitious target of floating on the London Stock Exchange within 90 days.
In this time, Greenslade and his colleagues had to get professional advisers on board, with Arthur Andersen playing a leading role, prepare a prospectus, and set up share schemes for hundreds of staff in 13 different countries.
Greenslade says the most intense period was a ten-day roadshow of 71 presentations to potential investors, which encompassed London, Scotland and Europe.
‘We got a 74% hit rate. Nearly three out of four people we talked to subscribed,’ he says.
Greenslade and his colleagues eventually beat their own target, floating on 7 July, five days ahead of their 12 July deadline. The flotation valued the company at around #150m.
The group’s interim results, revealed last week, show Robert Walters is in healthy shape.
Covering the period up to 30 June, they show gross profit up 30.3% to #28.2m, operating profit up 11.2% to #5.9m and earnings per share up 17.7% to 4.1 pence.
Greenslade says the FD plays one of the most central roles in any company flotation. ‘The FD tends to be the lynchpin of the whole float. We are party to every part of the float. It’s a great experience.
‘It’s like being an octopus trying to juggle three balls with each tentacle.’ And he adds: ‘The CEO and COO all play parts, but the FD is in every single meeting right along the way.’
The most intense part of the process, according to Greenslade, was getting the prospectus sorted out, particularly in the situation in which Robert Walters found itself, where a complex financial restructuring was involved.
He also stresses that offering staff the opportunity to buy shares can also be a very complex process, given that each of the 13 countries in which Robert Walters operates has its own complex set of securities laws.
‘We had to set up all sorts of option schemes and lots of agreements,’ he says.
The ability to offer share incentives has been a major benefit of the flotation for Robert Walters. ‘The recruitment business is all about getting good people to recruit for us,’ comments Greenslade. ‘It’s tough to get good ones, but the float enabled us to get them. We therefore have a stronger fee-earning base.’
Robert Walters took on nearly 100 people in the second quarter of the year.
Greenslade admits that life has not been quite as hectic since the flotation.
But that’s not to say things are quiet.
The group is expanding both geographcially, for example opening offices in Madrid and Seoul, and through widening its range of services.
It is also on the acquisition trail, having raised #5m from the sale of a stake in internet recruitment venture Stepstone, which it wants to roll into another purchase.
According to Greenslade, there is likely to be at least one acquisition in the next six months. So watch this space.
Robert Walters plc, well known to UK accountants as a recruitment consultancy specialising in accounting, finance and management consultancy, is no stranger to the London Stock Exchange. It was first floated by founder Robert Walters in 1996, but bought out in 1998 by US company StaffMark, whose subsequent decision to sell it led to this year’s float. Robert Walters also covers legal, IT, call centre and support fields. It was established in 1985, has 17 offices in five continents and has a worldwide turnover in excess of £180m.
Greenslade (above) joined Robert Walters as group financial director in February this year on the understanding that ‘something was going to happen, but we weren’t sure what it was’. Before this he was worldwide finance director of ICL’s retail systems division, and he has also worked for GrandMet, De La Rue and Binder Hamlyn, where he trained and worked on preparation for the flotation of Reuters. He is a fellow of the English ICA, lives in Oxfordshire, and is married with two children.
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