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Andrew Herd

Andrew Herd: A journey with a passion for technology at its core

25 Years of Innovation, from PC Sales to Overcoming Complex Communication Management Challenges

You might have heard the saying, “Without challenges, there are no champions.” It’s a statement that encapsulates the essence of what it takes to achieve your goals. In the world of business, challenges are inevitable and often serve as catalysts for growth and success. They push us to step out of our comfort zones, think creatively, and develop innovative solutions.

Andrew Herd, Chief Digital and Information Officer at Adare SEC, exemplifies the statement. His roots run deep in Lancashire, where he was born and where he continues to call home, and his personal background as a married father of two helps to shape his journey in the tech world.

Andrew’s tech story began in an unconventional setting – the military. His initial exposure to technology as a user in the armed forces ignited a spark. However, it was his decision to leave the military in 1995 that set his life on a different trajectory. Fuelled by ambition and an entrepreneurial spirit, he established a small business building, selling and supporting personal computers whilst he completed a degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Manchester.

As a lifelong learner, Andrew went on to study the MBA curriculum at Bradford School of Management as part of a Senior Management development programme, and also attended technology leadership training at Oxford University CIO Academy. His interest in unravelling complex problems and confronting challenges has been central to his 25-year career, during which he has consistently sought out and taken responsibility for challenges of increasing scale and complexity. A natural problem-solver, his commitment and determination have been key to his success and have helped him to thrive in the dynamic, ever-changing world of technology.

Today, Andrew is leading the charge in shaping the digital future at Adare SEC, a significant player in the communications management industry. He continues to inspire with his strategic thinking and dedication to harnessing technology’s full potential.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Adare SEC: A Journey Through Time

Andrew is currently employed at Adare SEC, a business that was established in 1993 and acquired by the private equity company Endless in 2015. He joined Adare SEC in 2019, and in 2021 the business was acquired by Opus Trust Communications, retaining the brand name Adare SEC.

In simple terms, Adare SEC’s chief function is to manage business critical, customer-facing communications on behalf of its clients. For example, the company processes millions of utility bills that consumers receive each month, whether in paper format, digital format, or accessed through online portals or applications. In most cases, Adare SEC is responsible for creating, hosting and sending these communications. The business also handles inbound communication from customers on behalf of its clients, securely storing these communications and making them effortlessly accessible to authorised stakeholders. Essentially, Adare SEC is a customer engagement business that serves organisations of all sizes across the UK, facilitating their communication with end customers.

Adare SEC continuously improves its service platform to meet changing market demands. Historically, the focus was on printing transactional communications, however its services today are multi-channel. Alongside print, the business delivers communications through secure SMS or email, digital engagement solutions and access to secure online portals to enable its clients’ customers to self-serve and retrieve the information they need. The service offering is diverse and continually evolving to meet client needs.

Delivering Unmatched Standardized Service

Adare SEC’s digital product strategy focuses on delivering standardized service products to its clients ideally on multi-tenanted platforms. Before embarking on new product development, the company conducts a thorough assessment of the market and client needs, which in turn ensures the services it offers are relevant and competitively priced. The hosting and management of engagement solutions   limits the need for clients to invest in communications technology, skills development, resource allocation, or expensive software. Whilst standardisation is central to Adare SEC’s approach to service delivery, the business recognizes that each client is unique, with their own distinct challenges and requirements. Via its Professional Services team, the business is able to support bespoke requirements where necessary.

The company follows a robust requirements definition process to ensure that the specific needs of each client are met. Initially, clients provide a general understanding of their goals and then engage in a consultative process with Adare SEC to refine those requirements. This collaborative approach results in the development of a comprehensive proposal that aligns with the client’s objectives. Once the client approves the proposal and mutually agreeable terms are established, Adare SEC begins building the solution. Solution build and onboarding on their standard product suite is often approached using Agile methodologies. However, for larger projects with complex requirements and bespoke components, Adare SEC will adopt a more traditional waterfall approach. Either way, the focus is always on predictable outcomes and high-quality service.

Driving Revenue Growth and Digital Innovation

Over the course of the last four years, Adare SEC has undergone a significant transformation to stay ahead in the print industry, recognising the importance of having a clear vision for long-term business transformation in order to meet client demands and address customer engagement challenges. Over the past 4 years, either through acquisition, new business and expanding existing client services, the company has achieved impressive revenue growth of around 100%.

A noteworthy achievement is that more than 20% of Adare SEC’s transactional revenues today now come from its digital product portfolio, in contrast to the low single digit contribution made in 2019, indicating strong growth in the digital space. Whilst building these products has been a key challenge, the business has also needed to introduce a Product Management function to ensure these products have appropriate supporting collateral, are commercially competitive and are well-received in the marketplace. Adare SEC has also formed strategic partnerships with key technology service providers and partners, embracing collaboration and moving away from working in isolation. To support these initiatives, the company has restructured its technology functions around the principles of core and flex resourcing, thus expanding its capabilities and allowing it to scale to meet demand quickly. It has also prioritized ongoing skill development and alignment with business needs. The transformational change over the past few years has been recognized by the UK IT industry awards, with the business shortlisted in three categories in 2022/3.

The business has also worked hard to maintain market accreditations in line with best practices and has launched a detailed ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) strategy, highlighting its commitment to making a positive societal impact. Earlier this year, Adare SEC was once again awarded a prestigious Gold Sustainability Certification from the globally respected EcoVadis ratings agency, maintaining Gold status from 2022 and improving on the previous score. The 2023 rating puts the business in the top 6% of businesses assessed through the scheme, a superb achievement considering the thousands of companies that use the EcoVadis Ratings platform every month. What’s more, Adare SEC is ranked in the top 2% of companies rated by EcoVadis in the printing industry.

Spearheading Growth and Overcoming Challenges for Success

As Chief Digital and Information Officer, Andrew holds a prominent position within the company as a member of the executive team and main board. The business employs around 450 professionals, with 150 working in the technology team. Andrew’s responsibilities encompass Product Management, Product Development, and Delivery, as well as Change Delivery, Technical Operations and oversight of Information Security. He stays close to the day-to-day operations, adapting his support wherever it is needed, and has assembled a skilled team of technology experts who assist him and the company. Andrew’s main objective is to ensure that decisions made relating to technology development and deployment contribute to client success and bottom-line growth for Adare SEC.

As the company’s digital ambassador, he strives to overcome the challenges the business faces while supporting growth for both Adare SEC and its clients. It’s a demanding role which requires him to seamlessly transition between executive leadership and team support. However, satisfaction comes from witnessing the company’s progress, the positive impact the business is making in its industry and the development of the individuals in his teams.

Upon joining the company in 2019, Andrew dedicated a significant portion of his time to hands-on involvement in daily operations and to establishing and fine-tuning structure and strategy. During this time, he led the establishment of necessary foundations and built a highly capable leadership team to work collaboratively with him, and this team continues to evolve year by year as demands change.  One of his proudest achievements is the growth of Adare SEC’s product suite. Andrew has taken the initiative to lead the transformation of the company’s digital products, remaining actively engaged in Product Management and Delivery. This has been a substantial undertaking, but the positive impact it has had on the organization is illustrated in the digital revenue growth.

Unforeseen challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic have necessitated flexibility and responsiveness across all businesses and Adare SEC is no exception. Andrew recognizes the need to adapt and make necessary adjustments to ensure continued success in the face of unpredictable challenges and circumstances. Ultimately, the effectiveness of Adare SEC’s digital strategy reflects positively on his leadership, but he also takes full responsibility if setbacks occur and works diligently to find solutions in all circumstances.

Making Experience Count

In his current capacity, Andrew is engaged in many diverse strategic tasks, including business process outsourcing, IT outsourcing, divestment, mergers, and private equity. Most recently he played a pivotal role in the leadership team that sold the Adare SEC business to Opus Trust Communications and the ensuing integration of these businesses.

Throughout his professional journey, Andrew has actively participated in various projects, including a Financial Services IPO, the sale of government backed mortgage assets, launch of retail mortgage origination and servicing platforms and the establishment of the UK government mortgage guarantee platforms.

During his tenure at UK Asset Resolution, he provided support for the sale of considerable tranches of mortgage-backed securities. This entailed packaging mortgage accounts and associated data to be sold to other organizations for servicing purposes. Additionally, during this time, he oversaw the creation of the UK government’s Help to Buy ISA technology platform, designed to aid first-time buyers.

Another notable achievement in Andrew’s CV is the development of mortgage origination and servicing platforms for prominent UK retail brands, where Andrew and his teams successfully constructed white-label platforms for their client servicing needs.

Collectively, his comprehensive experience encompasses a wide array of business activities and industries, giving him a track-record that has prepared him well to embrace the responsibilities inherent in his current role.

Project Delivery and Change Management

Throughout his extensive experience, Andrew has consistently encountered challenges in every project or initiative he has undertaken. He firmly believes that facing obstacles is an inevitable part of the delivery process and is able to draw on numerous examples where things didn’t go as planned. Successfully addressing these challenges is a critical aspect of his role along with managing simultaneous conflicting demands. His current role at Adare SEC has not only required him to develop and deliver a digital strategy and drive growth but also to respond to the challenge of managing and maintaining the legacy platforms. These challenges together have required significant growth and reskilling of the technology team, the oversight of multiple, simultaneous product development and change initiatives, contribution to commercial models and product collateral, and considerable effort in supporting the sale of these new products into the market.

The evolution of the past 2-3 years in terms of the ability of the business to manage multiple projects simultaneously within tight timeframes while ensuring commercial viability has been essential to Adare SEC’s success. Since joining Adare SEC, Andrew has overseen a complete overhaul of the approach to change delivery including the introduction of multi-disciplinary delivery teams that utilise both Agile and Waterfall methods and are ring-fenced away from business as usual activities. This approach has dramatically reduced the level of context switching for engineering resource and allowed more focus on the management of technical operations and routine change.

As previously mentioned, these objectives ran concurrently to the global challenges of working through the COVID crisis and playing an active executive role in the management of the wider business through a period of significant upheaval and risk.

Challenges of this magnitude have drawn on all of Andrew’s experience and required considerable personal commitment and sacrifice.

These examples highlight just a few of the challenges that professionals in roles similar to Andrew’s often encounter. Challenges are inevitable for every business and leader, but it is through overcoming them that growth and success are achieved.