De La Rue had a turnover of £640 million with a 200-year history in the international financial sector. It is the largest independent printer of banknotes and the largest provider of cash handling solutions that include ATM mechanisms, note & coin sorters, note dispensers & recyclers and banking software. I reported to the CEO, Ian Much, with executive responsibility for all technical development.
My first role was to resolve numerous field issues resulting from a previous disastrous product introduction programme in the late 90s. Next to ensure better quality development, I formed Group R&D by integrating all of the worldwide technical resources into a single project focussed team of 260 scientists, engineers & technicians operating from 6 sites across the US & Europe. The organisation was a matrix structure with key disciplines in one direction against projects and the divisional businesses in the other. The Currency division could now access engineering skills from Cash Systems and Global Services could access the chemistry skills from Currency. This obviously led to the cross-fertilisation of ideas and the creation of new products.
I also introduced best practise product development processes such as project phase reviews, technology road mapping, an R&D intranet and Intellectual Property management. The performance of this new organisation was then demonstrated by the successful development and launch of a wide range of new banking and retail cash handling products that exploited the opportunities from the Euro introduction and that contributed £57M of good margin (50%) sales to the Group within their first year of introduction. Also some multi-million government identity card contracts were fulfilled with a 40% margin enhancement (£8M out of £20M), many new anti-counterfeiting tools for banknote production were developed, 140 new patents were filed and £1M of license revenue was developed. I also supported the CEO with M&A work resulting in the acquisition of several medium-size businesses in the USA.
However, De La Rue had been in a boom-bust cycle for some time. In the early 1990s, the bonanza was due to the break-up of the Soviet Union when they benefited from a large number of lucrative banknote manufacturing contracts. During the aftermath, R&D was scrapped which resulted in a new product crisis by the late 90s. I was then recruited from the Automotive Industry to introduce better product development disciplines and design for manufacture.
During my time, the bonanza was the introduction of the Euro. Again, De La Rue wrongly portrayed this benefit as on-going rather than a one-off. And once again during the hangover period it was R&D that was scrapped. I failed to smooth the cycle and introduce a more measured and continuous approach to new product introductions, despite having ready access to the board and CEO. Hence after dismantling my own structure that had performed so well, I resigned.