SPS recruits industry expert to help expand acquisitions policy

THE PRIVATE equity backed diversified recruitment group Specialist People Services (SPS) has appointed a new director to help it find acquisitions.

Neil McManus (left) and Chris Chidley of SPS

The Bradford-based business, which is backed by LDC, has hired Neil McManus from Victoria Plum, the TPG Capital-backed online bathroom retailer.

Mr McManus has 10 years’ experience in corporate finance, including seven years at KPMG and, before that, at Barclays Capital in the City.

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His role at SPS will see him work with chief executive Chris Chidley as the group seeks to acquire complementary businesses in niche recruitment and business support services in the UK and overseas.

Mr Chidley said: “Thanks to our financial strength, along with the continued backing of LDC and our lenders, we are well-placed to make further strategic acquisitions as and when we identify them.

“Neil is the perfect person to work with me as we seek to acquire businesses which will add value to the SPS group.”

SPS acquired rail services group ISS Labour in 2013. It has since grown to become one of the UK’s biggest providers of specialist labour for the overhead electrification of Britain’s rail network.

Mr McManus joins SPS’s senior management team alongside Paul McNulty, who was appointed group finance director last month.

Among the recruitment services brands in the SPS group are Driver Hire Nationwide, which provides temporary labour to the transport and logistics sectors; Driver Hire Training; eServices, which offers online people management services; Driver Hire Australia; and ISS Labour.

In the year to the end of March 2015, SPS recorded group turnover of £116.5m, up 32 per cent year-on-year.

Mr McManus told The Yorkshire Post that there were two core elements to how he saw the role developing, “both strategically and opportunistically”.

He added: “Our strategic merger and acquisitions plan covers the type of businesses we want to acquire, and will outline those organisations we intend to approach directly, whereas opportunistic prospects may come about via our relationships with the region’s adviser community.

“As part of this, I will be meeting as many advisers and members of the network as possible to brief them on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

He added: “By nature the recruitment sector is a relationship-led industry, and when you relate that to the size and type of deals we will be looking to complete, then you are essentially looking at owner-managed businesses where the shareholders are extremely active in the day-to-day management of the business.

“While this is a positive, as the shareholders are likely to have built strong relationships that underpin the success of the company, it poses a challenge upon sale as you need to ensure that the value that sits in these relationships doesn’t leave the business when the shareholders exit.

“For us, we will be looking to acquire small businesses with strong management teams – from both the recruitment industry and additional value-add service lines.”

He said he was excited at the prospect of using his merger and acquisition experience to build SPS into a formidable business.