Ambitious WANdisco appoints Sage man as new FD

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SOFTWARE firm WANdisco has poached Sage Group’s finance director Paul Harrison, who will move out to California to head up the ambitious group’s finance function.

The Sheffield-based company said it made sense for the finance director to be based in the US as most of its sales are generated there and future sales are expected to be generated in markets outside the UK, particularly in Asia.

Nick Parker, the current finance director, was asked to move out to the US to head up the role but his family ties to Sheffield meant the move was impractical.

WANdisco’s chairman and chief executive David Richards said: “Nick was brought in to get the IPO away and it’s been an amazing success story. Since then we’ve come to the conclusion we needed to move the finance function over to the US.

“The job was offered to Nick and we did discuss it, but I didn’t expect him to move to California with three kids, three dogs and a wife.”

Mr Parker said: “My job here is done. The IPO has been a phenomenal success. The chief executive and CFO have to be in each other’s offices, as sounding boards and I didn’t want to move to the States.”

He will stay in the role until September when Mr Harrison takes over.

Asked what he plans to do after that, Mr Parker said: “Something will come up. Yes, I’d like to do another IPO.”

The market welcomed the news of Mr Harrison’s appointment.

Analyst George O’Connor, at Panmure, said: “WANdisco catches the biggest fish in LSE land with the hire of Paul Harrison, CFO of Sage.

“We are fond of talking about WANdisco’s nifty operational pivot since IPO – ie, float as a single product entity and since become a wider platform business with a horizontal technology base and three product areas ALM, GIT and Big Data.

“With news of Paul Harrison’s hire, ‘nifty’ is replaced by ‘gutsy’ – both for WANdisco and indeed Mr Harrison.

“From here sit back and watch WANdisco ‘mine’ that fresh seam of Big Data sales opportunities.”

Mr Richards said: “We started at the top of the list and that’s the guy we got. It’s quite incredible. He’s coming from a £4bn company and we’re £200m at the moment.”

Asked why Mr Harrison would want to switch over, Mr Richards said: “How many other companies on the exchange are growing at 96 per cent a year? He thinks there’s the potential at WANdisco to do something similar to Sage.”

He reiterated that the company is committed to retaining its development function in Sheffield and Northern Ireland and there are no plans to move these out to California.

Sage is a FTSE 100 company and a leading global provider of business management software to small and medium-sized companies. Mr Harrison joined Sage in 1997 from Price Waterhouse to become group financial controller.

He joined the board of Sage in April 2000 as finance director.

In May 2007, he was appointed to the board of Hays as a non-executive director and, in November 2011, he became its senior independent non-executive director.

Mr Harrison’s appointment will take effect from September 1.

Ahead of that date, Mr Parker will remain in both his CFO and board positions to ensure continuity.