Mayank Patel’s big on his five-year plan. It’s a buzz phrase he drops more than 10 times into our two-hour meeting.
In comparison, the value of relationships crops up eight times, a strong culture gets six mentions, and organic growth four. Admittedly he’s responding to questions, but there’s good reason for his talk of targets. After all, he’s set himself a pretty stratospheric one.
£5bn. That’s the target. Simple. A turnover he fully expects Currencies Direct to hit, as a group, by 2011. He’s quite happy for people to dismiss it as crazy talk – it wouldn’t be the first time. So is there reason to take him seriously?
Right now, the foreign exchange company boasts an annual turnover of £750m, with £7.5m gross profi ts (the bottom line figure is around £2.5m – “a healthy figure, it keeps adding to the pot”).
Profit is built into the price of the currency itself. It buys in bulk and hedges against fl uctuations in exchange rates, enabling it to transfer without charging commission or management fees on top, providing at least £5,000 is changed.
Nine years ago though, former futures and options broker Patel and co-founder Peter Ellis were stationed in a box-sized office in Paddington with equally grand designs but a zero turnover.
Ellis left the business some time later and Patel’s exuberance has not abated. “I know it’s very ambitious to predict a £5bn turnover, but organic growth, without any external funding whatsoever, has got us to where we are in nine years.”
Being in financial services, where the product to sell is money, makes a high turnover almost a given, particularly when corporate clients, representing 85% of revenues, and private individuals alike are changing up currency to make hefty outlays overseas. But, then again, Currencies Direct, has established itself as arguably the leading independent player in the overseas property market with a database of 1,600 estate agents and property developers, and claims to be the UK’s top commercial foreign exchange company – so whichever way you look at it the company’s pulling up trees.
What’s more, Patel’s ambition knows no bounds. “It’s hard to describe, but if I said to you that from the early days I’ve had a very good vision of what I wanted, people would have said ‘where the hell has this guy come from? Is he barking mad?’,” he admits. “Even as a small entity, I’d talk about a global business and international growth with offices here and there.”
His conviction is 100% and while he says little with a straight face – he’s usually beaming – this is something he states with the utmost sincerity. It’s a level of enthusiasm that must either inspire colleagues to match it or else be exhausted by it. So far the former appears to be the case.
All this begs the question: How’s he going to achieve his lofty aims? First up, and any company looking to make a step change will face this, he’s spent a considerable amount of time strengthening his management team.
It still needs further refinement, but the nonexecutive directorships he’s handed to former TSB England & Wales Plc chief executive Leslie Priestley and Tory peer and High Court judge Lord John Taylor represent a shift in class to Patel. He believes the appointments will enable the business to extend its international reach, introduce new vertical markets, make large-scale acquisitions and provide the corporate infrastructure to cope with the changes.
One of the things that strikes you about Patel is his self-awareness. Entrepreneurs tend to be imbued with such confi dence they believe they can pull off most of the acts needed to grow a business. When your personal touch has made the difference before, why not again?
No doubt, he feels he would make a fair fi st of a major acquisition, despite never having made one before. He’s also made Currencies Direct an international company, so what’s to stop him conquering new lands?