TMF Group's CFO On Knitting The Business Together

TMF Group's Chief Financial Officer Gordon Stuart talks about how we have focused tirelessly on knitting together disparate parts of the business.

Sometimes it's a struggle to ensure your company is more than the sum of its parts. For TMF Group, that challenge has been particularly acute as we acquired more than 60 businesses around the world between 2005 and 2008.

TMF Group embarked on a land grab, buying up businesses to build our international footprint, and when that acquisition spell ended, we had to build a common culture. We had to work out how to absorb and administer our new territories even as we acquired new ones. It was vital we got this right. Our success depends on giving clients the same experience, no matter where they operate and who at TMF Group they deal with.

TMF Group helps companies expand overseas by allowing them to outsource critical back-office functions. We provide expertise on everything from tax regulations in Jakarta or payrolls in São Paulo, to trade licences in Guangzhou. We do this so our clients don't have to, leaving them to concentrate on what they do best.

In 2008, we were acquired by private equity firm Doughty Hanson and three years later it merged us with another portfolio company, Equity Trust. It was only then that we were able to pause for breath and begin turning our huge global footprint into a competitive advantage. We embarked on our "One TMF Group" project, introducing common systems and processes and adopting a multi-jurisdictional approach to sales.

Local self-starters founded many of the businesses we bought and their entrepreneurial spirit endures. If there is a choice between going to a client meeting and hitting an internal filing deadline, the client meeting will win out every time. So creating some basic corporate discipline has been vital. To deliver services to our clients we need to have the right people in place and we can only do that by planning and forecasting.

We have also worked hard on making the business more productive and efficient. We used to have a decentralised and disparate IT operation because local MDs had the autonomy to buy whatever products they deemed appropriate. At one point we had more than 4,000 different applications. We are now...

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