The Ambition Nation Listed 50 identifies the top 50 leading smaller UK-listed companies that offer the best blend of growth and quality as ranked by finnCap's equity analysis tool, The Slide Rule. To celebrate those who appear on the list, journalist Rajan Datar toured the country in an all-electric black cab interviewing a selection of the UK’s leading business leaders and discovering the key factors behind their success.
Brendan Mooney joined digital technology company Kainos as a trainee software engineer in 1989, just two years after it was founded, and became CEO in 2001. Kainos had fewer than 30 employees in 1989; now it has more than 1,400, working from 12 offices around the world. Head-quartered in Belfast, it provides IT services and digital platforms for organisations including Airbus, Puma and Netflix, alongside UK government departments and the NHS.
Working in healthcare has specific challenges, especially when the NHS is still heavily dependent on paper. "We help digitise records, so NHS staff can deliver them electronically to the point of care," says Mooney. "It leads to better outcomes for patients and more efficiency for clinical and nursing staff."
Complex projects – such as digitising a traditionally non-digital organisation like the NHS – are Kainos’s speciality. Mooney puts much of the company’s success down to collaboration, both internally and with its customers: "We have to help our customers be successful and sometimes that means helping them to become self-sufficient, which is strange for a supplier to say about their customer! But that can be the right outcome for them. Respect is really important."
Kainos also puts a huge amount of time and effort into understanding its customers’ needs. For instance, when it was working with HM Passport Office to enable people to apply for passports online, the company wanted to find out how the process worked currently.
"We went into post offices," says Mooney. "We stopped people leaving and asked them, ‘Why have you got three passport forms in your hand?’ They’d say, ‘It looks complicated; I’ve taken a couple of extra copies to make sure I get it right.’ Even with all that care, many paper applications that are received by the Passport Office have errors." That information informed Kainos’s passport-application software.
It’s this attention to customers’ needs that means Kainos is holding its own against much bigger companies in the tech world. "Generally, larger companies tend to be myopic about customer need," says Mooney. "If you’re able to demonstrate value to customers – however that value is articulated – then you’ll beat most of your competition."