• Transform magazine
  • January 23, 2020


Opinion: How can a brand inspire staff after acquisition?


How does a business inspire and support its staff to champion a ‘one company’ ethos following a series of significant acquisitions? Nick Walker discusses the approach taken by global payments company Paysafe

In August 2015, Optimal Payments acquired Skrill, a competitor payments company. I led HR at Skrill three years prior to this and became group HR lead for the enlarged business. It was a transformational transaction at every level. With an enterprise value of $1.3bn, it effectively doubled the size of Optimal Payments and propelled the AIM-listed company to the Main Market on the London Stock Exchange and a subsequent listing on the FTSE 250 Index in early 2016.

The combination of the companies, which themselves had been buying businesses in preceding years, resulted in new dynamics in newly-formed group functions. Integrating teams with different geographical and cultural backgrounds and building a ‘one company’ ethos presented significant challenges that needed to be resolved quickly. In addition, headcount had risen from 600 employees in six locations to 1,300 employees in 12 locations.

When two well-established organisations combine, resistance to change is common, and to ease the process, we focused on establishing one new common brand – Paysafe. This took place in November 2015. Our new identity then posed another issue: the need to build credibility internally and externally and identify what Paysafe represents, wants to be known for and what the company actually means to employees.

From the outset, it was clear that the rollout of the new brand had to come from within. The creation of our ambassador programme began. It complemented what we did at an operational level, namely to come together as one company, while preserving the internal and external strengths of the businesses we had acquired. Promoting an entrepreneurial culture has always been vitally important to our ethos and DNA, and the approach taken helped to make sure our business lines and their teams could flourish rather than flounder. HR led the a selection process which involved working with the business to identify ‘champions’ – employees who were respected by peers, understood the broader landscape and reflected Paysafe. Around 40 employees in different departments, from various levels, representing each office location, were brought together.

This initiative was key to define the culture, ethos and values that reflected Paysafe. The champions promoted our ‘one company’ identity globally, by preparing 60 compelling rolling workshops over a six-week period designed to identify and explore our new values and generate new ideas on how to embed them throughout the organisation. Based on input from more than 650 colleagues, the champions shortlisted four values, which became our internally-created core values: open, focused, pioneering and courageous.  

While phase one of the programme involved the planning of the workshops, phase two was key in implementing and embedding the newly created values through ambassador champions-led workshops for employees, which allowed them to explore each value through an engaging and creative spectrum of exercises.

The final phase of the programme involved identifying other creative ways to embed the values. Some ideas generated included the deployment of a ‘We are Paysafe’ mantra; a strong internal poster campaign supporting four cultural themes that reflected our journey together. Other ideas implemented during phase three were a new reward system and ‘Paysafe University,’ where introductory and tutorial videos of each business unit are available for new joiners. The employer brand values were also embedded into our annual employee survey, our appraisal process and our recruitment activity.

The results were notable in several aspects. In April 2016, just six months after the Paysafe name was launched, we carried out our first employee survey, based on the internationally recognised Gallup Q12 survey. In a year of considerable transition and integration, we scored 68%.

Additionally, 73% of our employees said they believe their manager lives the values, while 83% of employees said to have an open and trustworthy relationship with their manager. Further, 68% of employees agree with the statement ‘We are Paysafe,’ which has been used in social media and internal communication tools. Engagement and eNPS scores are much higher than industry norms.

We recruited around 850 staff in 2016, with 85% brought into the business through our direct channels and of these individuals more than 100 had been referrals by colleagues.

Voluntary employee attrition during 2016, a year which saw us buy two further businesses in North America was only 11%, a figure that reflects particularly well in terms of the change the business was going through and the internal-led culture and values alignment we delivered.

Today, Paysafe has more than 2,250 employees and the group’s full-year results issued in March showed annual revenue had surpassed the $1bn milestone. Central to our success has been our approach to making sure we have a strong and dynamic employer brand. Investing the time and energy into our brand through employee engagement is vitally important to our future success, given this so critically influences the quality of staff we have, how long they stay with us and our ability to attract new talent in a competitive market.

Nick Walker is the chief human resources officer at Paysafe Group plc