CTO Sessions: Andrew Hampshire, Gresham House

What type of CTO are you? “I take an entrepreneurial, commercial and practical approach to technology in my role…”

Gresham House

Name: Andrew Hampshire

Company: Gresham House plc

Job title: Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer

Date started current role: 2016

Location: London

Andy Hampshire is a member of the firms’ Management Committee and is responsible for operations, technology and post-merger integration across Gresham House. Hampshire has a strong technology, operations and business background, having previously worked for private equity firm LDC, and the wholesale division of Lloyds Banking Group, where he led numerous operational improvement and technology programmes. Throughout his career, Hampshire has advised companies on identifying value creation opportunities to support growth that can be driven through operational improvement and technology, as well as supporting complex post-merger integrations. 

What was your first job? I learnt to build software and games while I was at school. My first job in technology was building software for businesses while working for myself.

Did you always want to work in IT? I never originally set out to work in IT but I always enjoyed solving problems with technology and it was rewarding being able to earn money from it. My interest was piqued from seeing how technology was helping businesses to grow and scale.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I studied for an MBA at the University of Warwick.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I took an unconventional route to get to my current role. Although I started my career in software development, I soon realised that it was not the technical aspects of the role I enjoyed, but the business and commercial aspects. As such having worked in various operational and leadership roles at Lloyds, I then moved into working with private equity businesses as an operating partner which helped me to really understand how successful businesses are built and run. My skillset aligns strongly with understanding the commercial value of technology than with the technical aspects of IT.

What type of CTO are you? I take an entrepreneurial, commercial and practical approach to technology in my role. I understand the value drivers of my business and therefore like to present and frame technology in the context of shareholder value creation. I am very focused on the ‘so what’ aspects of technology. For example, what does a given technology or operational change practically mean for the business – is it a revenue opportunity, margin improvement or working capital improvement?   

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? Machine learning and robotic process automation both have enormous potential. These technologies are likely to impact businesses of all sizes and help to create significant value in the future by making administrative work or repetitive processes less time-consuming for employees, allowing them to focus on tasks that will deliver more value to the business.

I am excited about it because they are things that will only continue to get better and more useful over time as advances in both ML, AI and process automation systems complement each other and continue to increase the art of the possible. Access to good quality data is key to ensuring that a business can use ML, AI or robotic process automation efficiently. A combination of these factors is transforming lots of aspects of how businesses will be run in the future and has already started to do this in a number of sectors.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? There are not any I can think of that are ‘over-hyped’ in terms of their long term potential, but I do think that there is a tendency with emerging technologies to expect them to realise their full potential in a very short space of time (i.e. ‘over hyped’ - how simple and quickly it will take to leverage the benefits of them). Blockchain, for example, has clearly played an instrumental role as the underpinning technology for a number of cryptocurrencies, however, it is the wider application of the technology to create value that many people have been excited about and yet, for many businesses and industries, the reality is still a way off. I think a large part of this is because utilising the technology in some of the ways people are talking about - in which entire value chains or industries are transformed or disrupted, requires much more than just the technology to make that happen. In some cases, it will require legal and regulatory changes, market-wide co-operation, material investment or a raft of other changes in order to deliver on that potential.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? We invested in the digitisation of our business a few years ago across our operations and client portal, which meant that we were well-placed to adapt when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Being a Cloud-based business allowed us to move to remote working in a matter of hours and ensured that employees, clients, and investors could access everything they needed easily wherever they were working from.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? We are focused on both improving the customer experience and operational efficiency. For example, we are currently investing in updating our client portal which will be re-launched for investors later this year. This will improve the overall experience for the client, provide more information and easier access for investors on suitable investment opportunities. We also continue to invest in CRM and reporting to better assist our fundraising and deployment activities, both of which are clearly linked to revenue.

From an operational efficiency perspective, we continue to invest in process management, and we are also investing in business intelligence tools for better management information and to find ways to produce the information we need more efficiently.

Finally, we are also looking to invest in machine learning technology within our Ventures business, which specialises in investments in companies at a startup, growth and pre-IPO stage as a deal origination tool. There are huge amounts of small businesses with potential for investment. However, finding the amount of information available on this size of business can be difficult because not all businesses are yet at the point where they have to provide full financial reporting or accounts to companies house for example, so we want to ensure we utilise technology to provide us with new ways of identifying these opportunities.

Our business is targeting 40% margins as part of our five-year commitments; therefore, operational efficiency is key and technology plays a huge part in improving that.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? Customers want very simple access to information on investments, reports, and the performance of funds and therefore the client portal is being enhanced to deliver that. Additionally, we are seeing an increasing number of enquiries from clients around ESG and sustainability across our investments as more companies commit to net-zero pledges. Our portal helps to provide more information on this and how our investments embed sustainable investment networks and practices.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? This question boils down to my fundamental views on shareholder value creation and private equity mentality, which I was able to talk about in my first book which was published last year on this topic, “Creating Value Through Technology: Discover the Tech That Can Transform Your Business”. The book focusses on the growth opportunities for businesses that take time to understand how investment in the most effective, time-saving and innovative technologies can create commercial value and generate impressive financial returns for shareholders and clients. But is important to align the decisions we take about where to invest in technology with the overall vision and objectives that a business wants to achieve in the future. Our business would never look at the technology in isolation and I decided to write the book to help other senior business leaders who also want to look at technology from a shareholder value lens and want help translating the technical aspects of technology into the commercial and pragmatic decisions.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Our products align well with our technology strategy. A challenge that we currently face is that we have gone through a period of significant growth the last few years with the assets we invest in, which includes fast-growing areas such as infrastructure, renewables, energy storage and housing. There are several exciting opportunities available to us and therefore prioritising in line with the business’ wider objectives is important.

What makes an effective tech strategy? A great business strategy provides the foundation for a great tech strategy. You can’t build a technology strategy in isolation; ultimately, it is about understanding the value drivers for the business, the strategy for the business and understanding how you can apply technology to maximum effect within that framework.

At Gresham House, we take great care to ensure everyone in the business is aware of our GH25 strategy, the company’s five-year growth plan to boost shareholder value and grow our assets under management (AUM) significantly over the next few years, which will include finding new ways to improve our operational efficiency and make our client processes more efficient. Therefore, a successful tech strategy will make sense in the scheme of the overall business plan and demonstrate the commercial value that technology brings in a real-world context.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? The CTO role will undoubtedly continue to become more visible at board level in the future, because it will become more important for businesses to have technology expertise at the highest levels of the organisation. CTO hires that have a good understanding of how to run a business and that can get involved in the commercial and financial aspects of the business will be increasingly desirable for businesses. For the role to evolve, CTOs will need to evolve their commercial understanding given that historically the CTO role has been naturally quite technical.

What has been your greatest career achievement? I am most proud of being part of the team at Gresham House and playing my part in helping to grow Gresham House into the asset management business it is today. When I joined in 2014, it was a small team with expertise in specific areas of investment and today we have more than £6.5 billion in Assets Under Management (AUM) and are rapidly expanding within areas of green infrastructure that will be crucial to a more sustainable future for us all, such as renewables, energy storage, vertical farming and housing.

We had significant ambitions for where we wanted the business to be in the future and I am incredibly proud of the business that we have been able to build, which now has more than 120 employees and is continuing to grow. We are not just proud of the speed at which we have expanded, but also the thoughtful way in which we have grown our team. We have a strong entrepreneurial culture at Gresham House and long may it continue.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Despite a challenging year for many businesses, Gresham House had an incredibly strong year. Our team has been resilient and has adapted to the changes in their working lives remarkably well. They have worked hard and stayed positive throughout. As such, I don’t have much that I would have done differently, our thoughts remain on the future and how we can continue to build the business successfully and execute on our five-year plan, GH25.

What are you reading now? Me by Elton John. I have always been a fan of his music since I was young and was lucky to be able to see him live a few times.

Most people don't know that I… Am a keen musician and like to relax playing the piano

In my spare time, I like to…Play sports – golf, football, motorsports, my beloved West Ham United, music, socialising and spending time with my family.

Ask me to do anything but… Climb a very tall building. I have a fear of heights!