Q&A: Robert Marrill, managing director, Three Sixty

Kelda Group, the parent company of Yorkshire Water, has launched a brand new non-household retail business, which it has called ‘Three Sixty’. Managing director of the new business, Robert Marrill, speaks to Utility Week about the idea behind the name, how the company will stand out in the market, and its plans for the future.

Q: How long had Three Sixty been under discussion?

A: It has been under development for circa 12 months. The decision was made circa 12 months ago to compete rather than to exit. The group went through a significant period of evaluation during 2015 and decided that we could bring something new and different to the market, so we’ve chosen today to launch that new business. Albeit we have been active in the market prior to this.

Q: Where did the idea for the name come from?

A: The industry at the moment is full of a sea of blue and green water. We wanted to stand out and be different from the rest of the market. Three Sixty is more than just water. Other people will talk about their products and services in ‘water company speak’, but we’re very focussed on thinking about our customers and their businesses. Our strapline is “we make water work for you”.

The idea is that Three Sixty is in the background and it is all about the customers. It’s all-encompassing, it’s looking out, it’s looking beyond, and it fits with our vision to be a leading water retailer. We want to be leading the market, we want to be known for our thoughts, our ideas, our contribution.

We don’t need to be the biggest, but we do want to be the best. We’re passionate about that.

Q: What differentiates the company in the market?

A: The start point is the focus on the customers. I know everybody will say that, but it is important for us. We talk about customer needs not only in terms of the cost and the impact on their bottom line, but also about the risk to supply.

I think what differentiates us more than anything else – and it is hard to describe in numbers or facts – is the people and our values. Also transparency and honesty. We’re very keen that people understand our bills and we’ll always admit if we’ve made a mistake.

It is a really exciting time for the market, but it is particularly an exciting time for our business. For us it’s about refreshing the market. Without being different for differents sake, it is really important for us that we bring something new and have a different approach.

A lot of customers think the water market is complicated. We can cut through that and add value to their businesses.

Q: How is the business recruiting staff?

A: We’re putting a lot of effort and focus into developing the team. There are around 50 people in the business at this time at our HQ and a further 70 at our customer centre, and that will grow.

We’ve had a mixture of people – some from Yorkshire Water, some from Kelda Water Services Retail, and a large number of people joining the business from outside. When you look at the business, what you don’t see is a microcosm of Yorkshire Water. It’s great because you start with something new, rather than starting with something you have to change. 

Clearly there are a lot of challenges, but it is the people that will make a difference going forward. There’s an endless amount of passion in the business.

Q: What are the company’s next steps and plans for the future?

A: It is about growing the business.

Key things at the moment are the regulatory side – entering shadow and then, ultimately, market opening – so there’s a fair piece around that. We are focussed on growth, that’s important to us. We secured some large contracts in Scotland, for example BT and Royal Mail Group this year.

But also, we’re focussed on what we call the ‘winning organisation’ – which is the people, our culture and our values. That’s really key.

It is anticipated, as you would expect, that the Yorkshire Water customer base will ultimately transfer to Three Sixty and when due process has happened, that will be formalised.

Q: Do you have any pressing concerns ahead of market opening?

A: I think we could get ourselves hung up on a number of features of the market. My view is that we’ve got what we’ve got, we should make it work to the best of our abilities. You won’t find us lobbying or shouting from the houses about margins, what you’ll find us doing is trying really hard to make the market work and make a contribution to the market.

I suspect in time things will need to change, and what you see today and the way it’s constructed probably isn’t fit forever.

There are bound to be teething troubles as we go through shadow and market opening, but until you start playing in it, you don’t know what these will be. We’re very much about working with the market, rather than shouting about why it won’t work – that’s not our nature.