Fender Sturrock: The cool cats who'll sign you up for credit

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The Independent Online

On the face of it, women dressed in catsuits giving away free beer has little in common with developing insurance products. But both these assignments helped put a small firm from Peebles on the map.

In the three years since Fender Sturrock was established in the southern Scottish town, the company has done everything from running promotions in pubs, clubs and supermarkets, to signing people up for credit cards and, more recently, helping firms develop financial services products.

Fender Sturrock was set up in 1998 by Jenine Parkynn, then 24, a former human resources manager at Asda and Tesco. "I'd been interested in how people sold products in retail," says Ms Parkynn. "I'd also done promotional work, so I put the two together.

"There was no funding in the beginning. We started very small but grew quickly," she says. After only a couple of months Fender Sturrock got its big break when Iceland appointed it to handle a promotional leafleting campaign. "[Iceland] gave us the nationwide breakthrough," says Ms Parkynn.

Fender Sturrock then worked with the beer brand Tennants, employing women dressed in catsuits to carry out drinks promotions in pubs and clubs.

But in early 1999 Bank One, the US group which originally approached Fender Sturrock to do market research with rugby fans at Twickenham, upgraded the remit to signing people up for credit cards. This was to entirely change the company's focus.

After Bank One, and with accumulating specialist knowledge, Fender Sturrock was asked to work on the launch of the GM card. From there the company evolved to concentrating on financial services businesses.

Fender Sturrock's expansion led Ms Parkynn to appoint Chris Grant, ex- marketing chief of Kwik-Fit and Asda, as chief executive officer. Mr Grant then expanded the company's services from brand promotion and direct consumer sales to advising clients on new markets and developing specialist insurance and reward schemes.

Since focusing on financial services the company has won business from the likes of Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland, Citibank and the National Australia Bank, with Fender Sturrock's turnover increasing from £225,000 in its first year of operation to £3m last year – a figure it expects to treble to £10m for the current year. It now employs 40 full-time staff.

Currently, Fender Sturrock is working with Tesco and Matalan to sell the retailers' own-brand financial products in store. In October, it plans to launch a division for online financial services.

Small is Beautiful features fast-growing companies with turnover of up to £100m.