Infrastructure + Digital = Innovation Shortfall?  

Having developed expertise across the Infrastructure sector and Digital function, our experience tells us that the industry is not only short on innovation, but also lacks the ability to challenge and change this.

From a digital perspective, the Infrastructure sector seems to be falling way short of other similar industrialised sectors, such as Oil & Gas, Utilities, and Basic Goods manufacturing. These other sectors seem to be ‘holding their own’ against the heavily digitised sectors of ICT, Media, and Professional services. Given that the majority of firms are low margin businesses with many facing numerous challenges, even the largest firms are unable to innovate within the sector. Project planning, for example, remains uncoordinated between the office and the field, and a lack of innovation and ability to change sees many firms still running paper-based systems to manage processes and deliverables.

Is the technology in place to change this?

Innovative technology being used in the Manufacturing, Engineering and Construction sectors is nothing new. Robotics, sensors, data analytics, and BIMs have already been implemented in process design. There has been small scale, almost ‘proof of concept’ projects implemented. IBM as an example, have been experimenting with wearable technology such as bio-sensing, GPS, Environment sensors, and accelerometers to transform Health and Safety within Construction. They have also been working with the Internet of Things (IOT) to make a cognitive and connected industrial machinery ecosystem. This allows for remote performance monitoring, predictive analytics on productivity, and cognitive assisted repair, resulting in improved safety, reduced maintenance costs, reliable availability and increased productivity.

However, it is apparent that within the Infrastructure sector, there has not been the large-scale adoption necessary to fully manifest these changes. Even when there is a defined problem, it is difficult to make a business case. For example, despite the immense amount of data that is created by a complex build programme, there is very little adoption of a real-time data analytic backed dash-boarding technology. Conversely, this practice is relatively wide spread in other sectors like banking, insurance, risk, and technology.

We’ve seen that the innovation is possible and witnessed the fruits of its labour. Yet implementation remains an issue. If there is not a technology gap, is there something else missing?

Lack of Research & Development?

Norman Broadbent Solutions recently carried out research around this question. During conversations with respondents, we regularly heard about the lack of R&D within the Construction industry. The McKinsey Global Institute reported that R&D spending is a mere 1% of revenue within Construction, compared with 3.5% and 4.5% in Auto and Aerospace respectively. The report went on to say that the world will need to spend $57 trillion on Infrastructure, specifically Construction, to keep up with projected global GDP growth. This not only shows a clear lack of investment, but also a vast potential market for R&D.

When asked why there had been little investment in innovative technology, respondents cited historically low profit margins. Putting this into context, profit margins among the UK’s biggest contractors more than halved in 2015, with the average operating margin across the top 25 firms down to 1.2%.  EY predicted margins among the top tier firms would exceed around 5% by 2020 as companies diversified their portfolio of businesses. With a low margin environment expected for the next few years, firms need to work out how they can innovate under these circumstances.

We have seen several technology firms invest in R&D for the consulting sector (although this is in its infancy). It should be expected that with an advisory firm’s wide client base, proof of concept designs can be built, tested and refined faster than in an end user. However, if this is contrasted against other sectors (technology, retail etc.), Construction is lacking behind even advisory firms.

Respondents to our research argued that there is an innate risk aversion across the industry when it comes to implementing innovation in capital projects.  With the projects becoming larger in scale and more complex, firms have been unwilling to add another variable/risk by moving away from traditionally accepted technology. With new contracts wrapped up with increasingly stringent risk management clauses, it is argued that this is one of the factors holding back innovation. With a lack of risk sharing, more complex projects, and an air of caution, a culture of ‘tired, but tried and tested’ is prevalent.

So what does the right person look like to drive this change and implementation?

As the Infrastructure industry waits for its moment of distribution, getting the human aspect right is crucial for businesses, especially those seeking to exploit this time of huge opportunity. Companies who attract and retain digitally minded talent, who in turn, can adapt, implement change and innovation, will have the advantage in a digitized world.

As available technology has not been adopted, R&D has been restricted, cross-collaboration has been difficult, and innovation has a reputational problem. If we are able to adapt the profile of the individuals within the industry, we can go a long way to fixing these problems.

To adapt to new innovative digital technologies, a change in business climate must take place first. This can only occur through finding the right talent internally, that can lead such a significant and impactful change from within. For businesses to change and adapt, senior leadership teams need to adapt to pave the way for long-lasting and sustainable change.


Chris Smith is Director of Global Energy & Utilities for Norman Broadbent Solutions, supporting large corporations, SMEs and PE-backed businesses to help restructure, assess their internal capabilities, and plan proactively for future leadership requirements.

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The Brexit Fiasco


Following the overwhelming rejection of Theresa May’s Brexit deal in Parliament, there is now real concern amongst infrastructure clients that continued uncertainty will cause long-term damage to the sector. These concerns are heightened given that delays are starting to creep into major infrastructure projects such as HS2, the Wylfa nuclear power station, and Heathrow. 

In business, time kills a deal. And in the Infrastructure/Construction sectors this is even more true! With delays surrounding certain infrastructure projects, a large number of construction businesses will be unable to maintain the level of resources they’ll need over the next 25 years.  This will llead to restructuring, and may cause them to have to let some capability go.  Based on experience, we know that this will create very real problems in the future. Once talented individuals leave a sector to pursue other opportunities, it can be very difficult to entice them back. So what happens between now and the 29th March (and the months beyond)will be critical.


Despite Goldman Sachs forecasting a 10% rise in the value of Sterling this year, many clients in the Construction sector are concerned about its decline leading to increased pressure on material prices and margins. To some degree this has already happened, with the cost of imports from the EU rising to their highest level since 2011. Any decline in the value of Sterling, combined with the widening skills gap, leave many wondering how they are expected to deliver projects on time and budget. 


This toxic mix of increased costs, skills shortages, and the ‘Brexit fear factor’, has seen a number of sector leaders express concern that growth will stall.  With Theresa May’s draft Brexit agreement rejected by the House of Commons, there is as yet no clarity around how the EU skills shortage can be managed. Despite this lack of clarity, a number of our clients are still keen to press on in preparation for our exit from the EU. In light of this we are being asked to help find experienced change and transformation interim executives who can help them overcome these and other challenges.


On a positive note, the date of our exit from the EU could be pushed back meaning we should be able to operate as normal for a period beyond the 29th March. What is indisputable,however, is that some investors do not currently regard the UK as an attractive proposition.  


As we approach March 29th, we are increasingly supporting clients find experienced interim executives, as they seek to meet these challenges. This is especially the case in high impact areas such as Supply Chain & Procurement, Technology, Organisational Design, and Change & Transformation. If you would like to find out more about how Norman Broadbent Interim can help you, or discuss a specific assignment, please do not hesitate to contact Nick Behan on +44 (0) 0207 484 0106 or via nick.behan@normanbroadbentinterim.comfor an initial confidential discussion.

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Real estate & Property people moves January 2019

High profile moves within the real estate & property sector haven’t been slowing down recently. Organisations have been investing in talent at the top level in spite of the economic uncertainty. The following appointments have all taken place across the wider real estate marketplace over the past few months

If you would like to discuss the real estate & property practice or how Norman Broadbent can help your business, please contact Tony Robinson at

  • British Land announces senior leadership changes, with the appointment of Darren Richards as Head of Real Estate.
  • Consultant Atkins has named Lizi Stewart as the head of its UK and European transportation division.
  • Scottish contractor Robertson has appointed a Nigel Brooks as its new managing director for its business which covers England.
  • McCarthy & Stone, the developer and manager of retirement communities, has appointed Nigel Turner and Mike Lloyd as dual chief operating officers.


  • NCP has appointed Nick Gravells as head of property asset management.


  • Colliers International has appointed Dylan Taylor as chief executive of its real estate services businesses, effective from 1 January 2019.


  • Bouygues UK has promoted Gerald Farque to managing director of construction.


  • The residential arm of Wates has brought in a new development director. Lia Silva’s appointment comes as the business looks to expand its presence across London and the South.


  • London Square has appointed Mark Evans as chief operating officer.


  • Debenhams has appointed Clive Bentley, formerly global property and commercial director at Costa, as its new property director.


  • Dutch consultant Arcadis has completed a shake-up of its senior management team in the UK, naming Steve Bromhead as UK chief operating officer.


  • Cushman & Wakefield has hired Karen Clements as managing director in London. Clements has joined the firm’s UK valuation and advisory business from Endsleigh Insurance Services, where she was interim head of market development.
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Transport & Infrastructure People Moves January 2019

High profile moves within the transport & infrastructure sector haven’t been slowing down recently. Organisations have been investing in talent at the top level in spite of the economic uncertainty. The following appointments have all taken place across the wider infrastructure marketplace over the past few months

If you would like to discuss the transport & infrastructure practice or how Norman Broadbent can help your business, please contact Nick Behan on  or Tony Robinson at

  • THE i360 has appointed a new boss. Ian Hart, from Rustington, comes in as general manager


  • The Board of the Company today announces that Marina Wyatt has been appointed as the new Chief Financial Officer for the Associated British Ports Group (“ABP”).


  • As part of the company’s commitment to strengthen its global sourcing and distribution, Norwegian Cruise Linehas appointed Eamonn Ferrin as vice president and managing director for its UK, Ireland, Israel, South Africa and the Middle East markets.


  • BIRMINGHAM Airport has appointed a new chief executive 18 months after the departure of its long-serving previous incumbent.


  • London Luton Airport (LLA) has promoted planning and investment director, Alberto Martin, to the position of CEO with immediate effect.


  • Jet2holidays has strengthened its commitment to independent travel agents in Birmingham and across the Midlands, by appointing Vicky Edwards as a Trade Sales Executive to work with agency partners across the region.


  • INTERNATIONAL construction consultancy MPG has appointed Ryan Dando as commercial manager.
  • A big-hitter from Laing O’Rourke is set to lead the £600m transformation of Stansted airport. Gerry Whyte has been named as delivery director for the scheme by the airport.


  • Chineham-based InstaVolt, which installs, operates and maintains rapid electric vehicle chargers across the UK, has appointed Alex Vane as director of finance.


  • Emrill, a leading facilities management (FM) company, said it has appointed Louise Arkley as the senior facilities manager for its Dubai International Airport contract.


  • Heathrow Airport announce Emma-Jane Houghton as delivery commercial director for expansion


  • National Express has unveiled its new managing director. Commercial director David Bradford has been promoted to managing director of the bus division.


  • FirstGroup has appointed Matthew Gregory as their new chief executive


  • Aberdeen International Airport in the UK today confirmed the appointment of Steve Szalay as its new managing director.
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Private Equity: The end of a Golden Age?

Whatever your views, Brexit uncertainty continues to raise questions for the PE and VC Community. These range from passporting arrangements for fund marketing, through to the potential disruption of ongoing fundraising, and the management of existing portfolios.

Whatever the outcome, the UK Market is still providing good opportunities. According to the Centre for Entrepreneurs, the UK registered more than 663,000 new businesses in 2018, many of which will be looking to the VC industry for funding at some point. Equally, a number of privately owned established businesses will look for strategic investment at some stage in their lifetime.

A key component in all activity however is people.

Norman Broadbent Group has been supporting investors and their portfolio companies in a number of different ways. Increasingly, this means helping to identify and engage with Interim Executives at pre-deal stage, who are able to bring detailed sector knowledge and insight during due diligence. Often retained for a defined (and short) period of time, with clearly defined deliverables, our research has shown that:


  • 39% of Interims were extended post-deal to support management and provide an additional useful link between the investors and the business. Post-deal, (and usually mid-cycle), Interims have been used to replace and/or supplement management teams for a variety of different reasons


  • 86% of PE firms who hired an Interim, appointed at a time of change (including gap management) where speed to hire was critical


  • 76% of all assignments required an Interim who had previously worked with Private Equity investors


  • In the main, Interims were engaged to fulfill the roles of CFO and CTO. However, in 2018, our research shows a 37% increase in demand for Interim CEOs as well


  • Whilst most demand was for the UK, we are forecasting greater international need. Q4 of 2018 saw an increase in global portfolio roles especially in Finance and Operations.


  • In terms of specific sectors, there was a noticeable uptick in and around Health. This has been driven by the trend for healthy eating, as well as technology enablers related to sport and well-being. Whether driven by Millennials, or a shift in public opinion, this sector seems to be growing. These types of companies have already seen success in 2018, with investments including vegan meal delivery business, AllPlants‘ £7.5 million funding investment from Octopus Ventures. We have has also seen growth in all things ‘green’, namely renewables, recycling, and green energy.

Technology has played a significant part of our Interim work undertaken in 2018 and anticipated for 2019. The demise of the high street, and the growth of online shopping, has created demand for technology to deliver the very best experience, the very best product, at the very best price (and quickly). End-to-end solutions have demanded both experienced Technologists with ideas to create innovative platforms, and agile fulfillment and logistics to deliver a positive customer experience.

It may be that 2012-2018 will be viewed by some as the PE ‘Golden Age’ due to exceptionally generous economic conditions. However, with 40 years experience of providing people solutions into the ever changing world of PE, we’re sure there is both excitement and challenge ahead!

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, or discuss a specific assignment, please do not hesitate to contact Kristian Lee, Director, +44 (0)  20 7484 0119 or via for an initial confidential discussion

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Deal barometer

The following deals have all taken place during the last few months, covering the full breadth of the wider  marketplace.

If you would like to discuss how Norman Broadbent can help your business, please contact Kristian Lee on or +44 (0)  20 7484 0119


  • Beringea has led a £9 million investment in AccessPay, the Manchester-based fin-tech company providing money transfer and fraud prevention technologies for corporate clients.
  • Synova Capital sold insurance broker Stackhouse Poland to Arthur J Gallagher for around £275 million, generating a 5.6x return on its initial investment in 2014,
  • Seafood restaurant chaIn Rockfish, operating in the South West of England, has received a multimillion-pound investment from Gresham House with the aim of tripling the number of restaurants over the next four years.
  • Investment funds including Apollo have sold hot tub manufacturer Jacuzzi to Italian PE firm Investindustrial for an undisclosed sum. The company reported sales of £388 million in 2018
  • Edition Capital has announced its second investment in London-based Hotpod Yoga, Europe’s largest yoga business. The deal secures £1.6m to support the next stage of Hotpod’s expansion and franchise development. Investment is being made through Edition EIS, a high-growth portfolio service focused on Leisure opportunities.
  • YYX Capital has purchased London-based Mahabis, rescuing the luxury slippers brand from administration. In 2016 – 2017, Mahabis took in sales of £25 million and profits of £2.5 million;
  • Beringea has a led a £6.5 million investment in Exonar, a data privacy and cyber security company, alongside existing investors Downing Ventures, Amadeus Capital Partners and Winton Ventures
  • Augmentum Fintech has announced a £4 million investment into Farewell, a start-up that enables UK customers to write and manage their own will online
  • Goldman Sachs has taken a stake in UK digital wealth manager Nutmeg as part of a £45 million funding round.
  • Acuris, the owner of Mergermarket, is reported to have attracted interest from US and European private equity groups after putting the financial information service business up for sale following a valuation of more than £1 billion,
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