Jenny Campbell: A phoenix rises from RBS’s ashes
Banker Jenny Campbell took advantage of a business sell-off at RBS to lead a management buy-out of cash-machine provider, Hanco.
Many entrepreneurs set up their own business as soon as they can; others start out by climbing the corporate ladder, before stumbling into entrepreneurship. Jenny Campbell, 54, chief executive of cash-machine provider YourCash, falls into the latter category. To the horror of her bank-manager father, who wanted her to go on to higher education, she left school at 16 to start work at NatWest.
However, she didn't give up studying, going to night school to study for banking-related qualifications. This diligence helped her rise through the ranks until she was given a key role in the operational integration of NatWest into RBS after the takeover in 2000.
In 2006 Campbell was made operations director at Hanco, a cash-machine provider that RBS had acquired in 2004. Hanco had a network of 6,000 fee-charging machines, but was loss-making; after Campbell's appointment, it began to generate a profit, leading to her being made managing director. Then the global financial crisis struck and RBS had to be bailed out by the British government in 2008. "For the first time, I wasn't proud to be a banker," says Campbell.
However, the crisis also created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. RBS's new chief executive Stephen Hester was determined to refocus the bank by culling those parts of the business that he considered peripheral. Since Hanco "always had a semi-detached relationship with the RBS mother ship", it was an obvious target. After a proposed sale to another company fell through, Campbell jumped at the chance to lead a management buyout. When institutional investors balked at financing the sale, she turned to wealthy private individuals.By 2010 she had taken over the company, which she renamed YourCash.
Despite her enthusiasm, Campbell came down to earth quickly once the deal was complete. She had mortgaged her house to invest, she was responsible for more than 90 employees and she had to learn to work with a board made up of people who weren't bankers. What's more, an agreement with the British government limited the extent to which she could either close ATMs or charge customers for withdrawals. This left her with little room for error had things gone wrong. To combat this, she focused on"building the right team", while expanding into Holland and Belgium.
This strategy has worked well. In 2014 YourCash made a profit of £5m on a combined turnover of £30m. Campbell consolidated her control as majority shareholder by borrowing money to buy out some other investors. She now plans to grow further by adding more ATMs in additional countries and is also trying to expand the firm's partnerships with banks. While the growth of mobile and contactless payments is leading many people to predict the "end of cash", Campbell is confident that notes will remain the dominant way of paying for many transactions for years to come.
In addition to running YourCash, Campbell spends her time supporting entrepreneurs through two charities, Young Enterprise and Tomorrow's People. Her advice to potential founders is to "do your homework" before you start. And while if you're looking to set up your own firm you "need a heart", you "can't let it override your head".