An American integrator in London.

Verrex corporation is a large full-service integration operation with three offices spread throughout the USA, so why then did it announce in June that it would be opening an office in London, with plans for further expansion soon to be announced? InAVate spoke to newly appointed International Executive Director George Massey, the Englishman who will be heading up the London site, to find out why..

George, explain your background, how did you come to be IED for Verrex?

Well I was actually a client of Verrex for a few years. I was the global AV manager for AllianceBernstein in Manhattan, and built up a relationship with the company over time. It culminated in January this year when I joined Verrex as International Executive Director with a view to overseeing the company’s expansion into Europe with the set-up of the UK office. I have been in the United States for 20 years and am now looking forward to going back to my roots in the UK.

What about Verrex itself?

We started in 1947, and a lot of people still tell us that isn’t possible since there wasn’t any AV back then. However, we have 60 years under our belt of executing projects successfully in the USA and abroad – we did some work on the Barcelona Olympics for example, back in 1992.

The company actually started out designing, installing and servicing distributed background music, school PA, sound and CCTV systems. Sound distribution was really the beginning and we’ve evolved over the years into a full service AV integration firm.

What’s your view of recent activities amongst other integrators to increase their global reach?

I can’t really comment on other business but we’re a very client driven, client centric organisation, which differentiates us from some of our competition, who will run around and chase work from any client. We don’t chase work, we chase relationships. Over the years we have established very strong relationships with our core client base. Therefore as the business world has expanded and gone global, so have we. Our clients have imposed the requirement on us to move overseas to handle their needs there.

We considered partnering with local companies around the world but we felt that we would compromise the Verrex brand and the confidence that our clients have in us. We didn’t want to damage our reputation at home based on overseas partnerships we have little control over. We felt it was very important for us to establish our own presence in the European market. We wanted to make that commitment to our clients to serve their interests abroad.

What do you anticipate the role of the new office to be in business terms?

Our mandate in that office will be to service the needs of our international clients. Having been such an international client, I have experienced the frustrations that can arise in trying to standardise internationally. Although as an organisation you can develop global standards, it’s actually very hard to realise that concept of a standardised interface across the world.

No matter how much effort you put into nailing down that standard, if you put it in the hands of different integrators they will always come up with slightly different answers. There’s a lot of artistic temperament involved and a lot is lost in translation. My own experience of this frustration means that I completely understand what our customers are looking for.

What has prompted this move now?

A major driver has been our client State Street. We started by fitting out their headquarters in Boston via a competitive bid a number of years ago. Following that we became their preferred technology supplier, and now they are consolidating their London operations into a new office in Canary Wharf and we were approached to bid on that project. Since it involved a key client, we agreed. As a result of a successful bid process on the Canary Wharf project State Street have said they want us to carry out work for them across Europe over the next few years. This has lead to the decision to establish our own London office.

Following the announcement of that office to our other clients, they’re beating our doors down to work for them in Europe. They have a high level of confidence in us via our work in the USA and they know we will deliver for them in Europe. For them it’s one stop shopping as we are a full service provider, but better yet, it’s one stop shopping with a friendly face.

And how will you operate business from your new office?

The whole idea is that we will work with locals and not import people. We will recruit local talent. We will be running a full team in the UK, but we won’t be looking to recreate the same size of operation we have in the states. As needed we will utilise local partners for labour around Europe but this will be supervised by Verrex personnel on site.

We will be relying heavily on the human resources we have at home in design terms and also leveraging our relationships with manufacturers to operate what we call a buy/build/ship model. All the racks will be designed and built here in the USA before being crated and shipped out to the UK. The UK office will therefore operate as a local testing site and distribution centre as well as an installation office. It will also manage ongoing service contracts as well as smaller scale projects.

We believe that this can be a highly effective model, especially given the value of the dollar at the moment.

What’s the next step for Verrex?

Well we’ve got a huge amount of work lined up in Europe – Projects in Dublin, Frankfurt, Paris, Luxemburg and Milan. We can’t talk about who the clients are right now, but watch this space!

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