It’s just over two years since Anne Williams took up the role of Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Newport-based Henry Howard Finance (HHF) and already she has been named COO Of The Year at the Global Venture Awards 2019. For those who know Anne well, it’s news which likely comes of little surprise.
From her previous role as a senior manager with GE Capital, Anne has made short work of her time in post with HHF. Today, she is on the board of HHF, with responsibility for all HR, Marketing, Sales Support, Pay-Out, Credit, Customer Services, Collections, IT and Compliance teams delivering Asset finance solutions to SMEs countrywide.
Established in 1996, to date the finance provider has helped over 30,000 business access adaptable and flexible support packages quickly and easily, and also achieved record growth both in 2017 and 2018.
Here we chat to Anne about taking the title of COO of the year, and her contribution to the firm’s ongoing success since she joined the company back in 2017.
Congratulations Anne – how does it feel to have been named COO of the year by Global Venture?
I’m very flattered to have won this award but think of it in real terms as a company-wide win for the team here at HHF, who have worked extremely hard to bring HHF as an organisation to where it stands today.
For me, great business results are only achievable through even better teamwork, and this title is the culmination of just that. I’m proud to accept this award on behalf of all the fantastic and inspirational colleagues I am fortunate enough to work alongside every day.
It has been a very busy time for HHF as a business. What have been your highlights so far?
I’d be lying if I said that getting my head around such a diverse range of business areas in what is still a relatively short time in post hasn’t been challenging at times, but it’s one that I’ve positively relished thanks to the ‘can do’ attitude and overall dedication of those around me.
Together we have been able to sustain the rapid growth trajectory HHF as a business has been following in recent years, despite access to finance continuing to prove challenging for many SMEs, and this is something that I feel as colleagues we can take great pride in.
Where high street lenders are often constrained by red tape and lengthy approval processes, our in-house underwriting team and own book facility has continued to allow us to be more agile as a lender, providing quicker credit decisions for customers. This means that, over the past two years we have extended our outreach and developed our offering even further to the benefit of more businesses and their customers across the UK.
To continue supporting British SMEs in achieving their goals and to ultimately thrive, especially in the current climate, is an ongoing highlight for me of the job I have and the wider work we do here at HHF.
What have you brought with you to the role of COO at HHF that may not have been there before?
For me, diversity is very important. It’s not an outlook with is at all ‘new for HHF by any means, but it’s certainly an ethos that I’ve carried through with me to my current role with HHF and, I like to think, in the most positive of ways I can.
I’m really proud of the fact that we now have a near equal gender split in office-based staff, with 51% of us female employees. At senior level, the company’s Head of Marketing, Head of Compliance and HR, Head of Legal, Group Finance Controller, Head of Business Partnering, Compliance Manager, HR Manager, Business Analytics Manager (and more) are all female too.
In a business sense, achieving this is only possible through the creation of an environment where employees are supported to champion each other regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity or anything else. I like to think of this as a ball which was rolling some time before I joined HHF, but which I have picked up since my time in post and run with to the benefit of our workforce and ultimately our customers too.
HHF works in a very competitive market. How does HHF stand out from the crowd?
Contrary largely to what’s happening elsewhere, at HHF we’ve spent the past 12 months expanding our network of account managers ‘on the ground’ across the UK and see the need for personality-led SME support financially as being greater than ever.
In addition to office in South Wales, we have also been recruiting in the Midlands, Devon, Cornwall, St Helens, West Wales, Bristol, Manchester and other areas too. This human touch approach to finance remains at the heart of everything we do at HHF, supported by ongoing investment in and development of new technologies.
We see the availability of new technology as a means to enhancing, where others may view it as a means to replacing, the service provided by our staff out in the field. This approach has also seen the creation of a best in class business intelligence platform, enabling the company to pull together data from across the enterprise to create a single version of the truth. This year we are investing £1m in HowApp, our online leasing application which was developed in-house, and which has created ground-breaking capabilities now leading the way when it comes to technology in finance as a result.
What can we expect to see next from HHF beyond 2019?
Henry Howard Finance has achieved record figures for the past two years running and supported more than 8,000 customers within that time. It’s been a great year and 2019 so far certainly shows no signs of slowing down, so hopefully it’s more of the same for us into 2020 and beyond.