A fair Exchange is no robbery for Graham Coxell, who, as chief executive of software firm Marlborough Stirling, has just taken over the Exchange.
Thirty-one-year-old Coxell is now determined to take Marlborough Stirling from its present FTSE250 ranking into the FTSE100.
And all this after jumping feet first into the business world when he finished school, deciding he was too busy to bother with university.
In seven and a half years, he has risen from principal consultant to chief executive. When he joined in 1994, Marlborough had 40 staff, today it has more than 1,000. The turnover of the company has increased from £5m in 1993 to £33.7m in the first six months of this year.
Floating Marlborough in April was one of the first major strategic decisions for Coxell, who became chief executive last year. With his first major purchase out of the way, he now has his eyes on Europe. The company already has a marginal presence on the Continent but he expects to make a major announcement within six to eight months. He has set a timescale of five years for Marlborough Stirling to become a FTSE100 company.
His determination to take Marlborough Stirling into the big league is clearly evident. When asked about it, he pauses and thinks before answering: “This business is like a part of me.I have an incredible drive to make it a successful company.”
Coxell says he would not change a thing about his hectic schedule, describing himself as having a huge amount of drive and enthusiasm.
Somehow he has even managed to fit in time for a family. He and his wife had their first child a few months ago, a baby girl, Emily. To escape, they get away down to Plymouth where he has a 56ft motorboat moored. Next summer, he plans to move the craft down to the South of France.
Coxell is excited about what acquiring the Exchange does for Marlborough Stirling's position in the market. The company already has three major software programs for providers. Omiga is designed to assist mortgage lenders distribute their wares, Optimus offers back-office admin for mortgage firms and Lamda does the same task for life and pension companies.
Coxell reckons that what the Exchange brings to the table fits perfectly in with the rest as it does roughly what Omiga does but for the life and pension industry.
Why the three are misspelt Greek words he cannot say but says the Exchange is unlikely to follow suit.
“The Exchange is absolutely going to remain as a brand name as far as I am concerned. It is a very strong brand name in the IFA marketplace.”
Marlborough Stirling counts some of the best known names of the retail financial services industry among its clients, including Axa, Clerical Medical and CIS.
But one of these, Clerical, announced in August that it was temporarily closing to group pension business, effectively meaning it would stop selling stakeholder, because its admin could not cope with the unprecedented volumes of business.
Given that it is Marlborough which provides the admin software, surely this must have been worrying to Coxell? He says it is in no way Marlborough's fault, saying he has spoken to Clerical at length about it and it has never tried to blame the software. “Our software allowed them to launch into the marketplace. In a way, they are victims of their own success.”
Another Marlborough client, CIS, announced last week it is moving into the IFA market for the first time. Coxell says while there was no way CIS could have known about the impending deal with the Exchange, the fact it happened will make it easier for it to reach IFAs.
Most industry observers expect battle to hot up between the industry's two software giants but Coxell maintains he does not view Misys as a direct rival.
He says he has no desire to take Marlborough into the business-to-consumer market by buying IFA networks or nationals as Misys has done, most notably with its recent takeover of the DBS network.
The decision to avoid the business-to-consumer market is not because of any lack of faith in the potential of the market, says Coxell. He believes the UK consumer is ready to buy financial products over the internet, pointing to success stories such as Egg and IFonline.
“There is a propensity to buy over the web but, looking at the quality of the sites out there, a lot are simply not that good,” he says.
“People are naturally coming to the conclusion that we are competing with Misys because they have bought Assuresoft.I do not see us competing with it though. This is not what this business is all about. We do not want to go into the businessto-consumer market because then we would be competing with our own customers.”
Despite this, he cannot resist pointing out that a large number of Misys members of one network or another prefer to use the Exchange instead of Misys.
Industry observers agree with Coxell's opinion that the Exchange deal is a good fit. One says a collective sigh of relief went up among providers that Misys did not buy the Exchange. Another says: “I think it has got more than what is necessary to give Misys a run for its money.”