Utility Week

UTILITY Week 17th March 2017

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UTILITY WEEK | 17TH - 23RD MARCH 2017 | 11 Water brokers Apollo Energy Apollo Energy was founded in 2001 by its now directors, Jackie and Eddie Gray. It is a limited company, privately owned by the Grays, who have more than 50 years' experience in the utility sector. The broker is also a founding member of the Utilities Intermediary Association (see UIA opinion column, p7). Apollo employs a team of 15 and works with approximately 300 clients, ranging from single-site small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to major multi-site brands. Its procurement services are usu- ally commission-based, while its metering, site works and bureau services are fee-based. As an energy broker, the company's procurement team sources best-value contracts and provides a range of services to moni- tor, manage and control usage as well as advise on regulatory compliance. Apollo views the opening of the water market in England as a "huge area of potential growth", and intends to continue servicing its existing clients as well as attracting new ones. In the run-up to market opening, the company has invested in a new branding and communications strategy. As part of this, a new logo, tagline and colour palette have been rolled out across a range of marketing collateral including the website, data sheets and email communications. The company says the investment means it is "well-positioned" to seek new business opportunities and begin con- versations with potential new clients. The company will offer its clients a range of water services, includ- ing procurement, account management, bill validation, online portal access, bespoke reporting, and site works project management. It is not targeting any specific sector, and says its offering can be applied to any segment of the market – from owner-operated SMEs to major multi-sites. Apollo has entered into third party intermediary agreements with a number of suppliers, and is currently waiting to finalise arrange- ments with others. Black Sheep Utilities Black Sheep began as a lead generation company for the mobile phone industry. At that time, most telecoms companies that entered this market called themselves something relating to animals, so managing director Joe Anderson called his company Black Sheep Telecommunications. This was sold in September 2013 to Onecom, but the name Black Sheep remained part of the utility business. The broker's founders – Dave Curnow and Joe Anderson – started working exclusively for Scottish Power five years ago. It ended this in July 2013, at which point it decided to set up as a broker – Black Sheep Utilities. The company began with five employees and has grown to 70 staff serving around 10,000 clients. Black Sheep says it will continue to focus on growth during 2017/18, and intends to increase its headcount to approximately 100 by the end of 2017. The company is privately owned by two directors. It operates on a structure based on both fees and commission. Black Sheep plans to enter the water market, and says it has suf- ficient cash flow to fund both the entering of this market and its growth strategy. It views the opening of the market as a retention strategy for its energy customers, because the customer savings are minimal and the remuneration small. Therefore, the company plans to cross-sell to its existing customer base and offer water services to its new customers. It will not focus on a specific segment of the mar- ket, but will focus heavily on customer service. Curnow says brokers break up the "cosy renewal processes" that the suppliers adopt. "If brokers didn't exist, then suppliers would have many 1000s of more customers on higher contract prices and Make It Cheaper Make It Cheaper has been active in the energy market for ten years. The company was founded by its now chief executive Jona- than Elliott (pictured), and currently employs around 200 staff based in London. The broker is privately owned, and says all founders and shareholders are actively involved in the business. It has an advisory panel that includes, among others, former Lovefilm chief executive Simon Calver, for- mer RSA chief executive Simon Lee, and for- mer B&Q chief executive Martyn Phillips. Make It Cheaper's client base con- sists of approximately 50,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and 50,000 household customers. Its core mar- ket is micro businesses. Its model relies on inbound enquiries from its partners – mostly SME energy price enquiries via large price comparison websites. The broker operates on a commission. The fees it earns are the same for each con- sumption band, regardless of supplier . The company has an energy procurement propo- sition called "Do it for you", which handles renewals for customers based on their pref- erences. Around 66 per cent of its SME cus- tomers opt for this. The broker also has a guarantee that, if it does not deliver for the customer, it will forfeit any commission it would usually receive from a supplier and give it to that customer. For water, the com- pany will offer a similar model. The company says it "makes sense" to bundle water with other products, to make it easy for customers to engage with the mar- ket. The firm believes customers looking to switch will "always be price sensitive". How- ever, it says there is plenty of evidence to suggest that customer service holds a great deal of weight in the decision. Make It Cheaper is a partner of the Feder- ation of Small Businesses to advise its mem- bers on energy.

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