Ahead of the formal launch of Fexco Advisory Services in 2024, eolas Magazine meets with Martin Ryan in his Dublin office to discuss his efforts to blend the application of practical operational experience with advisory services and cultivate a new space in the professional services industry.
While Fexco is foremost recognised as a financial services company, and a multinational success story with County Kerry origins, the lesser-told story is that Fexco has also been delivering managed services for three decades to some of Ireland’s most recognised public and private sector organisations.
“Fexco has built a very successful business in the southwest of Ireland that has turned into a multinational success story,” Ryan outlines. “There is something special about its origins and heritage that attracts curiosity, but more often the business success is down to good people; our founder, Brian McCarthy, as well as the legacy of people that have come after that.”
Having joined as Managing Director of Managed and Advisory Services in August 2021, Ryan’s arrival coincided with a planned reinvigoration of Fexco’s Managed Services business.
“When I arrived, I found over 500 people who were undertaking an exceptional job on behalf of important partners and eager for this business to drive on to the next level. That is an exciting place to find any organisation,” he recounts, adding: “Emerging from Covid, there was a whole new invigoration and in the subsequent two years, we have reshaped the strategy for managed services, firmly positioning Fexco as the premium service provider of choice for our partners and the industry as a whole.”
“Fexco is an operational delivery specialist, and for us, partnership is crucial. Informed by over 30 years of playing a fundamental role in the operations of our partners, Fexco has become a trusted advisor to these organisations. This is a strategic foundation from which to grow.”
“Fexco Advisory Services is designed to take 30 years of our practical operational experience and convert it into real-life practical advice.”
Martin Ryan, Managing Director, Fexco Managed and Advisory Services
Today, Fexco is comprised of three pillars:
- a payments division;
- a business services division; and
- a new ventures division.
Located within the Business Services division, the Managed and Advisory Services business headed up by Ryan primarily serves Irish clients across the public and private sectors. It embraces complex, multi-discipline operations from front-office customer management services to back-office administration services, with many transformation services, product creation services and digital services in between.
If the professional services industry is a spectrum, with traditional business process outsourcing on one side and high-end consulting on the other, Fexco positions itself in the middle.
“Running operations under BPO contractual arrangements has been part of our existence for three decades, and our sweet spot has always been to participate in the more complex operations that require a premium service provider. We will never turn our back on that side of the business” Ryan insists, adding: “However, we are now taking that significant practical operational experience and applying it to consulting advisory work.
“We are cultivating a position in the middle where we are blending our operations and advisory elements to create a high value offering for our partners, at a good value for money position.”
Managed and Advisory Services
In 2021, the post-Covid context demanded a reinvigoration of business. Fexco consolidated its managed services, ensuring that the right structures, the right people, the right processes, and the right technology were in place. After spending the first year of its new strategy optimising Managed Services, Fexco then spent the following 12 months infusing its Advisory Service business into a soft launch model.
“Our intention is to set the pace of the ever-evolving digital, people, and process landscape, not keep pace or follow the pace…”
Throughout this soft launch, Ryan built an advisory services team and established an advisory methodology on top of existing operation processes. “We have spent much of the last year building our methodologies for Fexco Advisory Services and building a shape and structure that we know our partners will need and will consume.
“Fexco Advisory Services is designed to take 30 years of our practical operational experience and convert it into real-life practical advice. It contrasts with theoretical consulting. Rather than being taught from the textbook, through our case studies, our advisors have developed practical experience over many years.”
As such, Fexco Advisory Services will target partners who require practical advice and support services from people who are experienced in running successful, complex operations or successful transformation.
“This model has validated Fexco’s role in supporting both the public and private sectors with our advisory services. We qualified for inclusion in the Office of Government Procurement consultancy framework. As such, the route to procure is there, which also represents a validation from a public sector perspective, both for existing clients, as well as the new book of business starting to grow with non-traditional clients.”
Confident of the quality of the service delivery, Fexco is now seeking to recruit people who have both operational experience and consulting or advisory experience to “keep driving this business forward, with an ultimate goal of delivering value for our partners”.
Fexco Advisory Services
Indeed, when Fexco formally launches the Fexco Advisory Services brand in January 2024, Ryan intends to recruit an additional 35 people over the following 12 to 18 months to bring the total advisory services workforce to 50 people by 2025. Similarly, in the first half of 2024, senior appointments will also be made in the advisory services business.
However, Ryan is determined to avoid Managed Services and Advisory Services becoming two mutually exclusive brands from a Fexco Group perspective. “As far as we are concerned, they are infused. We want our managed services operational delivery to go hand-in-glove with the advisory services’ service offering. One must learn from the other.
“We envision both feeding each other with people, knowledge, and experience and with a finger on the pulse of what is happening in the industry. That is where the value emanates from.”
Discussing the types of partners each offering will attract, Ryan believes that over time there will be a blend. In the meantime, Fexco Managed Services aims to serve public and private sector partners who need a premium, trusted, experienced, and flexible partner to support the delivery of their front- and/or back-office operations. Fexco Advisory Services, meanwhile, is on the lookout for public and private partners who need practical advice and support services from people who have run successful operations and large transformation projects.
In building its advisory services business, Ryan suggests that Fexco could easily have developed a range of service pillars. Instead, it focused on “our areas of expertise that we can effectively advise on” and limited the service offerings to seven key areas. These are:
- Project and portfolio management;
- Management consulting;
- Customer excellence;
- Operational excellence;
- Data services;
- Energy and ESG advisory; and
- Function-specific advisory (e.g. grant management).
Under the management consulting pillar, Fexco is utilising people with operational experience to provide practical management consulting.
“Our management consultants have lived operations and have first-hand experience of what works and what does not work. This experience qualifies them to provide expert advice and services to organisations seeking to solve specific business problems, create appropriate business strategies or business structures, and identify and address risks and opportunities within their businesses,” Ryan observes.
Likewise, within operational excellence, efficiency, productivity, and quality have become critical in an era of pervasive inflation. Prior to the current economic headwinds, two years ago, Fexco introduced a Lean Six Sigma programme across its business, resulting in over 100 people becoming at least yellow belt certified by the end of 2023 and a growing team of qualified green and black belts within the business. It also has a programme whereby every single person at Fexco Managed and Advisory Services, from entry advisor through to senior manager, will have completed a Lean Six Sigma introductory course. “Our team’s primary goal is to help our partners optimise their operations and processes to achieve higher efficiency, productivity, and quality,” Ryan adds.
In addition, under the customer excellence services pillar, Fexco has a team of professionals who help organisations improve their interactions with customers to enhance customer satisfaction, loyalty, and overall business success. Their primary focus is on creating and maintaining a positive and memorable customer experience, utilising our customer experience and Fexco’s DIGITAL Framework.
“The other challenge, of course, is that technology is evolving, digital is evolving, and AI is evolving. Our intention is to set the pace of the ever-evolving digital, people, and process landscape, not keep pace or follow the pace. This could not be more applicable at the moment at the rate of pace that intelligent automation is evolving the customer experience, and it is key we bring our partners on that journey.”
Reflecting on Fexco’s emphasis on practical and applied experience, Ryan recalls that when he joined the organisation, he was struck by the number of its people who excel at operations. Simultaneously, he recognised Fexco’s high frequency of long-term tenure which is relatively atypical within the professional services industry or the managed services industry.
“People joined, stuck with us, and learned how to run operations very effectively. Now they can advise others how to do the same. That is our unique formula,” he asserts.
“Our partners were interested in learning how we do it. As a corporate partner, we offered that advice. However, this also caught our attention. Why were they asking us and not asking the other consultants? Why do they value our opinion? The rationale affirms our service delivery. We are collaborative, we value our partnerships, and we have the real-world experience.”
Within the public sector space, Ryan does not envisage that Fexco will move away from its managed services offering. “We are Fexco Managed Services, and we will continue to offer that as a service. What I want is Fexco Advisory Services to be a sister business that is synonymous with Fexco Managed Services.
“We will continue to run a solid managed services operation, with a culture of continual improvement, alongside a healthy blend of advisory services. This means challenging our partners on each of our pillars and saying: ‘You can do more. You can be more efficient. You can have a better customer experience. You can run your projects better. You can do more with your data’.”
Discussing the blend of managed services and advisory services, Ryan concludes: “Operations needs to run the business of operations; that is its job, and it needs to meet the KPIs and the SLAs, as well as ensure a good customer experience. The advisory services side of the business is tasked with identifying and making improvements. Together, this means running operations solidly and making things better.
“With experience of both service offerings, combined with the right commercial arrangements – a fair price for reliable results – this is the package we will deliver for our partners. Ultimately, with both service offerings, everyone is going to benefit.”