As part of this retainer, James Dobbin, Procurement Heads‘ Head of Practice for Financial and Professional Services spoke with Harry Hanscomb, COO, Vernon Smith, CPO/Third Party Director and Piotr Ziolko, Sourcing Manager to understand more about the roles and culture at LV=.
What led you to LV?
I spent most of my working career in insurance, primarily with a large global insurer.
What attracted me to LV was the fact that it is a small company that is going through a significant transformation.
I guess it was the challenge of going back to being a COO of a company again and leading the company through that change.
How would you describe LV to someone who has never heard of the company?
LV is clearly a relatively small mutual within a mutual sector, it is a decent-sized company, it is small enough that it is agile and it is quick to make decisions and there is no politics or in fighting in terms of a larger organisation.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the culture of LV and what it means.
What do you think the future holds for LV?
LV put itself up for sale in December of 2021, but that was rejected.
We then went through a period of reflection reviewing the business plans and we presented the board with a five-year business plan which they have accepted.
It includes significant investment in getting the basics right, one of those is sourcing and vendor management but also our IT, IT security, our data and various other aspects.
The future I think is very exciting as we have got a clearly defined and well-funded five-year plan and I think it is a great time to be in an organisation that understands its identity and where it needs to get to but has a lot of work to do in the process.
The eight roles Procurement Heads is retained to recruit are:
- Vendor Performance & Risk Manager (Generalist)
- Vendor Performance & Risk Manager (Financial Services)
- Vendor Performance & Risk Manager (Technology)
- Third Party Risk Manager
- 4x Contract Managers
How would you now describe the culture at LV?
The culture is typical of a small company that has been established for a very long time.
The first thing you realise when you work here is that it is a very family-oriented company, we have a number of husband-and-wife teams and people who have been in the company a number of years.
That is changing slightly as we are recruiting younger new entries to take us on the next step of the journey but it is still a very inclusive culture.
One thing I noticed from the get-go was the strong customer ethos.
It genuinely has a very strong customer focus in all aspects of the business and is very collaborative in that sense.
Why would someone want to join LV? What makes you different from your competitors?
I am not claiming we are hugely different from our competitors but, it is a great point in time now as we’re six months into a five-year journey and that has gone particularly well.
We have a defined future and a very strong brand in the market and we have significant growth opportunities for the types of propositions that are customer focused that we are now looking to sell.
How did you get into procurement?
I fell into procurement.
I joined a small meat and manufacturing company when I left the military, a friend gave me a job, I knew a little bit about law so someone said to go and help out in the procurement department.
I pretty much fell in love with it there and then.
I then had a career of moving into the contract market with experience with a large number of different companies.
From small companies to FTSE 100 companies where I have managed to gain a great breadth of experience.
Everything from being on the back of a threshing machine in the back lot of DS Smith’s paper mill to a boardroom doing reverse acquisitions.
I have had a real opportunity to see the multi-faceted nature of procurement.
What led you to LV?
This is my second time at LV.
I came about six years ago when I led the procurement transformation and also oversaw the procurement elements of the sale of a large chunk of the GI business to Alliance.
I completed a two-year stint here and left behind me a great team with a great culture at a great business.
I went on, as you do, for new experiences.
I was asked back to LV in August last year to play an oversight role for the sale of the business domain.
Making sure that we were both regulatory compliant and delivered value for our members out of the deal.
When the members decided not to move forward with that sale, Harry asked me if I would be up for the challenge of putting our house in order for our new third party management here at LV to meet both new regulatory requirements but also some deficiencies that appeared over the years here.
To be honest, LV has become a bit of a home, it very much felt like coming home and it was a very easy decision to say yes, I will stay.
With all the change that is going on can you tell us a little about your new role and some of the big projects that you are currently working on?
So, I think one of the biggest change perspectives, across the financial services market the pendulum has swung from being focused on savings to a much more balanced approach to risk and cost management.
Our organisation is fundamentally changing, you will see simple things like rebranding, we are no longer sourcing, we are the third-party management function.
As you will see from this very recruitment process, we are going out with a completely new way of operating with third parties.
It is a pretty exciting time, very few times in my career in procurement career do people get to come in and see a blank piece of paper and say yeah, I will build that. That is a pretty exciting time for anyone who enjoys going to work for a challenge.
Some of the major activities we have got to do, we have got to rewrite our policies, our operating model, and our structures.
The way we contract lifecycle manage the way we look at material providers and within that we have got a large space within our IT areas and where we are going to be looking at our IT providers and support and manage our vulnerabilities.
In addition, we are going to be moving into areas where traditionally sourcing didn’t operate in the financial insurance sector and supporting our business plan delivery and which I think is a really exciting thing.
When we look at LV’s business plan part of it relies on our third parties delivering for us. I am getting to work collaboratively with every member of the business who is looking for us to change the way we engage and deliver a much higher standard which I am really looking forward to.
Can you tell us about some of the mandates Procurement Heads is taking on?
There are a number of key roles we are looking for, so the bulk of them come in completely new roles for the organisation in the form of a Vendor Performance Risk Manager these are pretty highbrow roles, they are our marquee roles I would say and they will have the responsibility for managing our material relationships these will be the backbone of making sure we deliver both value and risk management across our supply base.
These are the suppliers where we have identified that could cause significant harm to our business, but also bring significant value. The ability to maximise both those issues of risk management and value delivery is a challenging skill. You need real attention to detail and the ability to get in there and understand the real issues and make good decisions so these roles are for people with good judgement, good integrity, good knowledge, a high level of legal acumen, what you can and can’t do in terms of regulation and how we translate that into the nature of our relationships.
Our other big roles are Contract Manager roles and these are non-material supplier relationships through a contract lifecycle management process and again making sure we manage our vulnerabilities while focusing on the value and performance of our business.
Simply put, LV can’t be successful in delivering its business plan if we can’t gain those services delivered to a high standard from our third parties and at the right value proposition.
It is something we haven’t done well here we have allowed a lot of our relationships to fall into the evergreen territory and then we are often surprised when things go wrong.
These Contract Managers need to ensure that they are on board, they are managing the supply base that they have got responsibility for and they are pipelining that activity and are engaging early with our stakeholders and understanding what our stakeholders need and making sure that we deliver it and translate that into good contracts.
To someone joining LV, what do you think you could offer them in return?
We are paying alright; we haven’t low-balled this which I think is always a good thing.
When we work in third party management, we are commercial animals at heart, all of us.
But there are a few things; first of all: no day is going to be dull, every day will be a new challenge, a sense of ownership, I think particularly with my style of leadership and the culture I want to build around our third-party management is one of taking ownership for your supplier base, understand what needs to be delivered for your stakeholders and for the business plan and make it happen.
As you will see from what we are doing putting this organisation into place, the business is being very supportive about giving us the resources we need.
I very much see the role as a leader in this function as my job is to get you what you need to do the job well and I think that is something you don’t see in every organisation.
You are getting to come in at the ground and build something up, you get to be part of something from the ground up which is a rarity.
If you want to come in and just press buttons at a desk the same as you did yesterday this isn’t the place for you.
If you want to come and build something that I hope is going to be excellent and that people are going to talk about then this is the place to be.
I have been working at LV for the last nine months. It has been really exciting and really challenging and it is great to be a part of the LV team and family, we are looking forward to seeing some new faces to help us redevelop the sourcing department and if that is you, please come and join us.
It is an exciting time to build a new team and reengage the stakeholders.
What is it like from a day-to-day perspective at the moment?
It is a really busy time for LV and the department is really exciting, really challenging and I believe if someone is really and truly to procurement there is probably nowhere more exciting to be right now to get your teeth stuck into a department.
If you are interested, please do apply.
We will be looking at the new policies and business operating models and engaging with the new and old stakeholders and account managers as some of them have been neglected for quite some time.
So absolutely there is a lot to do but once again if you are into procurement there is no better place to be.
What is it like working in sunny Bournemouth?
Ups and downs!
It is England after all so there are good days and bad days depending on the weather!
But it is a very nice place we have new offices and a lot of really nice and professional people.
You feel from day one that you are part of a team, it is not like with big corporate companies where you are anonymous you sit in the background.
People actually engage and introduce themselves to you, so far it has been great!