Rosalyn Wilton: This woman means business

The creator of Hemscott Company Guru won't be happy until she's reached the information summit
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Rosalyn Wilton likes nothing better than having a mountain to climb. Last November, she became the new chief executive of Hemscott.NET, the business information group which was spun out of its parent company, Hemmington Scott. In doing so, she gave herself the sizeable hike of turning around what was ostensibly an old economy company and commercialising its assets online.

Rosalyn Wilton likes nothing better than having a mountain to climb. Last November, she became the new chief executive of Hemscott.NET, the business information group which was spun out of its parent company, Hemmington Scott. In doing so, she gave herself the sizeable hike of turning around what was ostensibly an old economy company and commercialising its assets online.

Now nearing the top of that mountain, Wilton has now teamed up with a guru, in the form of a product she conceived some months ago and launched last week. The Hemscott Company Guru will, she predicts, become the online research tool of choice. With access to the company's enviable 15-year archive of information on UK quoted companies, everything from broker forecasts to biographies of directors, the search tool "enables you at the press of a button to have instant information on a single page or longer," says Wilton.

The product is the latest feather in Hemscott's cap. Wilton has restructured the company comprehensively, into divisions, comprising of online business information, a legal portal, a web-based investor relations service for corporates and an investors' portal.

She has also supervised the separation process from the Hemmington Scott publishing business, and last summer guided the flotation of the company on AIM through the reverse takeover of the Bridgend Group. Hemscott is backed by George Soros's Quantum fund, and Michael Grade has joined as chairman.

Wilton, 48, says she joined Hemscott because she liked the people and felt she could make a difference.It was her father who ignited her passion for finance by taking her to the City for lunch when she was four. At eight she was trading music equipment, by 11, car numberplates. At university she studied maths, starting out in the City as a money broker, then into the developing futures market and electronic trading.

Having married, she became pregnant at 29 and retired temporarily from financial life. She staved off boredom by setting up a company trading antiques. Upon her return to the City, she joined investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert as head of institutional financial futures, options and fixed income groups, and became a director of Liffe.

However, everything at Drexel came crashing down in the late Eighties, following the junk bond crisis in the US. Wilton recalls: "I always said they would have to carry me out of Drexel, because I absolutely loved it. Closing it down was traumatic and upsetting because I had staff that we had taken out of school and trained ourselves."

In 1990 she moved to Reuters, and became responsible for the majority of the company's electronic trading business. By 1998 her team was generating revenues of £500m and she was on the executive committee. When she moved months later to become head of Reuters Information, the change unsettled her so after nine years at the company she left and began to look at other companies, including Hemscott.

She was already acquainted with co-founder Peter Scott, who in 1995 had put financial information on the Net for free to generate book sales. "It wasn't difficult to see that they had a stunning brand and great intellectual property. And I didn't want to start a new business from scratch," says Wilton.

In the online financial market, Hemscott was a barracuda among minnows but, crucially, lacked direction. Wilton rolled up her sleeves and set to work. At Reuters, she recalls, she once made a shopping list of hundreds of tasks and persuaded her staff to take ownership of each thing. At Hemscott, she boiled down the value proposition. "In each area, we looked at the target market. Who were we selling to? What did they really want?"

She regards technology as a means to an end. "Computers are logical and that's the way my brain works.For me, technology is transparent. I want to press a button and I want it quick. I'm not in love with technology. I am in love with data, or with what you can do when you combine the two," she says.

The challenge now is to gear up Hemscott's database to enable products to be created on the fly. "Content is no good unless you have an application. We need to make these assets sweat, big time. Take the data, make it do 25 things, and charge every time," says Wilton.

"The way I described Hemscott when I joined was that it was like going into a shopping precinct, with only one door, everyone trying to pile in and nothing organised. When I started, all the stock was in the basement. We've put it up on the shop floor in nice packages. We have fabulous data, and we're offering various doors. Most probably you will go in through the door that suits you best, but you may go out with three different carrier bags."

In the UK, Hemscott has the blue chip market as its main audience, and provides services to companies prepared to stump up a hefty subscription fee. It hasn't been all good news this year, though; user numbers took a dip following the shake-out in tech stocks, and Wilton agrees, "we clearly have to expand beyond the UK".

Hemscott has already linked up with Business Wire in the US, which reaches 120 million users. However, she emphasises that the lead time for expansion across Europe and into the US will be longer than in the UK because "we want to make sure that whatever we do, we do right".

Comments