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Gocompare CFO on how early boardroom experience put him in the fast lane


Kevin Hughes, CFO of Gocompare.com

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Gaining boardroom experience early in his career is the one skill that Kevin Hughes reckons helped catapult him - aged 30 - into the role of chief financial officer. That, and getting on with people, says the CFO of comparison website Gocompare.com.

Hughes, who has spent the best part of his career in the insurance industry, became CFO of Gocompare in 2007, shortly after the website’s launch by founder and CEO Hayley Parsons - a former work colleague of Hughes’.

The two qualities together with a strong focus on marketing helped Hughes develop the business alongside Parsons from a start up business with a large loan from esure into a 96-strong workforce with a turnover of £101.6 million - a rise of 35 percent on 2009 - in five short years.

Kevin Hughes, CFO of Gocompare“It’s been tough for wider economy but Gocompare managed to sustain significant growth in a tough economy. Our product is a grudge purchase so we have been able to save money for customers.

Recently we had an email from someone who said we had saved them £1000 on car insurance! It’s a recession-proof business. The last year and a half and for the next year it’s all about building the business and investing,” Hughes says.

His enthusiasm for the job is palpable, but then he is still 35 years old. “My career couldn’t be any better than it is at the moment. I’m at the pinnacle of what I wanted to achieve,” the Pontypridd-born CFO says.

Brand awareness has escalated since the company launched its infamous advertising campaign fronted by Welsh opera singer Wynne Evans, better known as his alter ego GioCompario with over-sized moustache. It might be one of the most annoying campaigns to be launched on to British TV screens but it boosted brand awareness by 450 percent a year after its launch.

It was a necessary evil in a tough and highly competitive insurance comparison market after the runaway success of Comparethemarket’s equally annoying meerkat ad campaign. A big marketing campaign was also interestingly championed by the CFO who oversees marketing.

“We started off with more educational ads with a great response rate but we got to a point where there was little differentiation between all the competitors. So we decided to come up with something new. We felt it was time when we needed to differentiate ourselves very strongly. Hence the opera singer was born,” says Hughes, an ACCA-qualified accountant and enthusiastic sportsman.

It wasn’t just brand awareness that GioCompario helped with however. Thanks to the ad campaign’s success the company was able to repay early a £30 million loan facility secured from esure, says Hughes. In April Gocompare posted a 2010 full year pre-tax profit rise of 84 percent to £29.9 million.

Hughes is confident that there remains a lot more room for growth despite the crowded marketplace. “Over 25 percent of consumers have not yet used a comparison website so there’s still so much room for growth.”

Aim high

Hughes’ began his career as an accounts clerk at Admiral in Cardiff, after eight months and a hunger for greater things once he’d learned the basics of business, he moved to Cardiff-based Avana Bakeries as a trainee accountant where he began his accountancy training. But 18 months later Hughes got itchy feet again and began searching for another post.

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Gocompare CFO on how early boardroom experience put him in the fast lane
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