Allison Bainbridge has spent her entire career in Yorkshire and enjoyed great success . Mark Casci caught up with the Vp finance director.
As years go 2016 was one of the most interesting of Allison Bainbridge’s life.
Working as finance director of equipment rental specialist VP Group, she has borne witness first hand to the last 12 months of growth which has seen the business oversee a series of acquisitions which have taken the VP name across the globe.
Based in Harrogate, the listed-business operates several divisions renting a plethora of different equipment into various markets such as house building, construction and the oil and gas industry, as well as into infrastructure projects for water, rail and transmission businesses.
In total it has six brands with a UK division and an international division, with the latter having delivered much excitement and value during 2016.
VP bought a business in Australia for $17.4m (Australian) called TR Pty Ltd, a market leading specialist provider of test and measurement equipment, rental and calibration services in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia.
It is one of four major acquisitions that Ms Bainbridge has overseen in the last 12 months.
“I have really enjoyed this year at VP,” she said, speaking from her offices in Harrogate.
“I really enjoyed the acquisition in Australia.
“To go out there and see the business was very interesting. Although I do love working and living in Yorkshire I do like to get out and see the world.
“I have worked on lots of acquisitions in my time but I really enjoyed that one.
“We are in an exciting growth phase, not only in acquisitions but investing capital expenditure. We made £46m in gross cap ex last year.”
Ms Bainbridge has been with VP for the past six years and enjoyed a stellar career with some of Yorkshire’s biggest firms.
Prior to this she was group FD of Kelda from January 2008 to March 2010, during which time the business moved into private ownership.
“It was a very exciting time from going from being a big plc to going into private ownership.
“I was FD of Yorkshire Water prior to that. I had worked my way up to that. It was a good time to be working there when Kevin Whiteman was setting up his new team.
“We were very cost-efficient, very focused on customer service and won utility provider of the year for three years. It was a great time and a great business.“
Ms Bainbridge worked briefly as a teacher following her graduation before she qualified as a chartered account when it was still with what was then known as Price Waterhouse.
The businesswoman speaks highly of the region’s business community and is gratified that all of her career to date has been spent in the region.
“I think it is lucky. I think there are lots of opportunities for the area. There is more of a momentum.
“All the talk around the Northern Powerhouse, some of it may have been talk but it developed a momentum of its own.
“I think there is a great pool of talent in Yorkshire, I like the cultures in organisations with the stereotype of straight-talking and bluntness.
“It means you can share your ideas and get down to work quicker. I think we are good at getting on with things and getting things done.
“If you look at Brexit for example, we are where we are with the decision that has been made but the key thing is to get on with and make the best of what we have. And that certainly is a key Yorkshire attribute.
“We have good universities as well which helps.”
Other than successful mergers Ms Bainbridge said that one of the highlights of her career to date had come from the building and enhancement of the various teams she has either led or been a part of.
“I have been lucky to have done a lot of work around building teams. Going back to working with Kevin Whiteman, he invested a lot not only in his own executive team but in Yorkshire Water as a whole as well to develop leadership and teamworking skills.
“Nobody can do anything on their own, I do a lot of that sort of thing now within VP.
“I like it when I recruit a good person or when I can develop a good person.
“You can actually see the benefits for the business. It is not just doing the right thing for the wrong reason.
“If you do the right thing for the right reason you get the double benefit for the business as you are helping the person to come on then they are happy and doing a good job, and so are you.”
Ms Bainbridge was named Best Finance Director of a Plc at this year’s FD Awards and she has high regard for the role of FDs generally and the work they do to keep businesses strong.
“I get resentful of people referring to finance directors as bean counters.
“We are not just there to tell you what has happened.
“I am very passionate about the fact that myself and my team are there really to say ‘look this is what has happened and this is what we can do about it’. Being more of a partner with the business and to help drive it forward.
“A key theme we did at Yorkshire Water and VP is constant change.
“You have to adapt to constant change and change is the norm.”
Speaking of her success at the FD Awards she said: “Yes I was pleased, it is always nice to have some recognition.
“I went along for the dinner with my team and we had a nice evening.
“There are a lot of good plc finance directors in Yorkshire.”
The FD Awards were sponsored this year by BDO, Sewell Group, Lockton and Walker Morris.