'Without support there's no way we could have penetrated so far'

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The Independent Online

When the FSA launched its strategy on reforming the financial services at the turn of the millennium, Absolutely Training, a freshly formed e-learning outfit, recognised a major opportunity unfolding. But to fully exploit the opportunity the company, which was only a few months' old, needed a partner

When the FSA launched its strategy on reforming the financial services at the turn of the millennium, Absolutely Training, a freshly formed e-learning outfit, recognised a major opportunity unfolding. But to fully exploit the opportunity the company, which was only a few months' old, needed a partner

"We quickly realised that the FSA's regulatory zeal would impact on every financial services company in the UK. We realised that many of these companies would benefit from our e-learning services, but we also recognised that building a credible course portfolio would be a struggle. We needed a partner," says Absolutely Training's marketing director Carl Crisostomo.

Today, the company has established joint ventures with the British Banking Authority (BBA) and the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) to help their members become compliant. The tie up with two of the highest profile trade associations in the industry meant the start up could marry industry credibility to its product and create a robust sales pitch.

The pitch has clearly worked. From a turnover of £17,500 in 2001, revenues at Absolutely Training had risen to £1.2m by 2004. The company now employs over 20 people and has over 200 clients.

Crisostomo says: "We knew we had a lot to gain from finding a partner. But we needed to make it clear there were also tangible benefits for them and their membership. We did our research and presented a water-tight case - the members would be compliant and the revenues split down the middle."

Agreeing the partnership was only the beginning, however. Both parties soon realised that there is more to a successful partnership than signing a piece of paper. It has to be constantly managed, to be flexible and to balance the interests of both parties.

"Although the partnership shares a single overarching goal, the primary aims of the organisations are different. We're designed to be fast and sell; they're structured to be methodical and serve. We've been forced to slow down as our partners consider whether an idea is in their members' interests. Sometimes it's frustrating, but equally, it's good to take a step back and learn," says Crisostomo.

Overall, Absolutely Training is delighted with the success of its partnerships. The CML joint venture alone has secured the business of 45 per cent of UK building societies. "We believe in our product and business sense, but without the support of the CML there's no way we could have penetrated so far, so quickly," says Crisostomo.

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