Welcoming our new CFO - Neos Networks

Welcoming our new CFO

New C-level

In August we welcomed our new Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Craig Forrester, into the Neos Networks family. Craig is a telecoms industry veteran, having held senior roles at BT Global Services and Colt Technology Services, with remits across Finance, Procurement and Commercial Operations. As Craig settles into life here at Neos, we sat down with him to find out more about his experience, passion for the industry and what his plans are for the business.

So, Craig, tell us about yourself, your experiences and how you got into the telecoms industry?

Well, my educational background at a degree level is in Engineering and Material Sciences. Career-wise though, I’m a qualified accountant. I trained with one of the ‘big six’ firms and have worked with technology businesses at an international level – companies like Sony – for most of my career.

It was around 2008 that I made the decision to move to a UK multinational telecoms company, joining BT where I was initially responsible for managing its global networks. Subsequently over the last 15 years I’ve worked for three different telcos with roles that covered financial and operational responsibilities.

I’d describe myself as a hands-on commercial finance leader who’s accountable, leads by example and believes in removing bureaucracy whilst maintaining strong controls aligned to the success of a business. I’m looking forward to getting my feet under the table to understand where Neos is as a business, exploring our go to market strategy, and ensuring our team is continuously adding value and challenging the business in the correct way.

Having worked for several telcos now, what is it about the telecoms industry that has kept you interested?

If we look back at the last three years alone, we would have had a very different COVID lock down had it not been for the outstanding work of this industry. There were numerous new challenges that the industry hadn’t faced before. Despite having little time to react and adapt to those changes, the transition to virtual meetings or a virtual pub quiz on a Friday night was made seamless by telco. The industry showed how critical, reliable and resilient it truly is.

As an industry we enable so much of our daily lives. We connect people and businesses. We’ve helped diminish barriers to working with people around the world and democratised access to information and new opportunities. Communications are a core foundation of providing support for humanitarian aid and disaster relief. Our networks underpin support for some of societies biggest issues, enabling the mobilisation of people and the distribution of resources.

And we, Neos, as a business, are integral to supporting the development of this country, providing new opportunities for UK businesses and citizens.

Why did you choose to join Neos Networks? And what are your ambitions for the company?

I’ve been aware of Neos for many years through my previous roles. What’s really impressed me are the investments it has made; from expanding its network, to unbundling BT’s exchange estate and increasing its presence across the UK. I think Neos has a fantastic asset base and a great set of customers. The SSE heritage coupled with the role we’ve played in supporting Three UK’s 5G network rollout and our model for aggregating UK alternative network providers has made us a key, established connectivity player in the UK.

Looking at where the business is now and our opportunities to support the UK’s digital economy through initiatives like Project Reach, we have several strong footholds to help impel the growth of the UK’s businesses and its communities. Project Reach is a huge opportunity for the business – I was part of conversations with Network Rail about such a project more than 10 years ago. It’s exciting to join the company as it takes on the build and design of a new national backbone for the country.

I’m looking forward to working with other leaders in the business to both leverage that strong asset base, but to also make Neos a fun place to work, and a company whose employees are proud to work for. We have a significant base in the UK, and I’ll be exploring how we can continue adding value for our employees, shareholders and customers to help drive new business opportunities and talented people towards us.

It’s undeniably a challenging time for the telecoms market, both in the UK and internationally. What are your priorities for the business to help navigate this period of turbulence?

The last three to four years have been interesting for any business that is looking to grow. Traditional channels for growth were completely changed and the needs of businesses and individuals evolved to support flexi-working models. Businesses were so focused on stabilising as the economy recovered that there was less change in terms of procuring new telecoms solutions, despite how imperative connectivity is for business resiliency.

With organisations moving to the cloud to support new working norms, there is greater need for digital infrastructure and services. As a business, our focus needs to be on continuing to bring value to customers. That means delivering continuous service innovation and developing our understanding of how our customers are impacted by circumstances like the cost-of-living crisis and finding innovative ways to support them.

What do you see as the key challenges that Neos helps UK businesses to solve?

Fundamentally, we’re an enabler for our customer base. The digital infrastructure and services we provide act as a springboard to support their wider business functions, regardless of industry or sector. There is a fair amount of the ‘invisible’ that our services are core to. Providing our customers with the connectivity solution that fits their needs now and into the future, is instrumental as a foundation for their growth and profitability. The UK is also on a trajectory towards Fibre-to-the-Premise connectivity, a country-wide transformation that will be key in driving socio-economic growth and regeneration projects. We really are at the heart of the UK’s digital future.

We can also help UK businesses with commercial flexibility behind our services and offerings. We need to think about how we structure deals, how we measure, agree payment terms and how we operate with our customers in a way that suits their needs whilst ensuring our own are met. We also need to ensure the right level of CxO engagement with our current and prospective customers, to ensure they get a complete feeling for what it is like to work with us as a business.

And finally, who has inspired you in your career, what’s some advice that you live by?

I wouldn’t say there’s a singular role model that stands out for me, rather, I’ve worked with lots of leaders who I’ve learned a variety of valuable skills from. Pulling from different environments and different personalities has helped expand my capabilities and helped me to develop meaningful relationships with my colleagues. Little learnings from a lot of people have made a big difference.

In terms of advice, something I tend to apply to everything I do is to be inquisitive. Take an interest in an area or a new subject, look at how to optimise, leverage opportunity or address inherent risks, identify solutions, and deliver the changes needed.

I encourage anyone to always ask questions. Business is about empowering ourselves and each other for the benefit of the whole organisation. I think it’s so important to spend time with people, and to find out about them to recognise what works for them. Encouraging learning and fostering a culture built on curiosity is key to our continuous development.

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