Just 10 years ago, Copylab founder and chief executive, Ross Hunter, decided to start a business from his spare bedroom in Scotland. Enticed by the easy commute that meant no more delays or crumpled suits, he knew the longer journey would be in steering his business to success amid the inevitable bumpy roads.
For Copylab, however, the journey hasn’t been long and the road has been far from rocky. In the past decade, the company has grown to over 50 professionals who are employed in 10 countries worldwide, and turnover currently stands at more than £2m ($2.5m USD/SGD3.5m).
The business that's full of surprises
Ross’s formative chapter in communications was with major investment firms in Scotland, progressing to leading a business now thriving in all corners of the globe. Copylab creates investment commentary, editorial content and marketing communications for over 40 financial services and asset management clients in the UK, the US, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, France and Ireland.
More recently, the Glasgow-based firm has announced a venture with Advert One to provide specialist financial-communication services to listed companies and financial services companies in the Middle East; and Copylab has also a hired a Regional CEO for Asia.
Hailing from Berwick-upon-Tweed, Ross is as modest as they come: "We believe we are the largest investment communication business in the world,” reveals the 43-year-old, surprising even himself. “Copylab has grown organically in less than a decade by tapping into the niche of investment writing outsourcing, spurred on by firms that decided to re-examine the way they communicate after the 2008 financial crisis. The sector wasn’t really aware of a more cost-effective and scalable way to outsource its investment communications until we came along."
Scotland’s financial sector has provided excellent foundations for growth
Today, the firm supplies many of the world’s largest asset managers with financially-astute investment writing and creative marketing communications tailored to the individual markets they work in. Headquartered in Scotland, the UK’s second largest and most complete financial hub next to London, the company has forged an ‘enviable reputation and a stellar client list’. Copylab works with six of the UK’s 10 largest asset managers (by total AUM, Investment Association May 2016) and 17 of the top 30.
Around 50% of the business is commenting and reporting on funds, with the remainder including content marketing, articles and newsletters, brochures, digital copywriting, marketing communications and quality control. They have all taken off via a natural and upwardly-mobile trajectory of diversification.
From the agency’s head office in central Glasgow (Ross no longer works from the spare bedroom) the firm is testament to how Scotland’s financial sector and connected businesses are a springboard for firms to branch out regionally, into London and globally. Scotland’s financial sector is not short on numbers either. It manages no less than £800 billion in asset funds – a sector with all the right foundations to project Copylab skywards.
Why has Scotland been such an ideal location for Copylab to expand?
He adds: "Compared with other parts of the UK, Scotland has all the right credentials for financial firms to thrive. Its sheer number of companies, supply chain network, business ethos and culture are all agents for success. For clients and their talent, Scotland also has a great quality of life. Its financial sector is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and is an undiscovered gem where overseas businesses can prosper."
Brilliantly connected with London
Fortified by Scotland’s extensive financial sector, the business has expanded through symbiotic and strong links with asset management firms, with operations in London and around the world, for example Standard Life Investments, BlackRock, Aberdeen Asset Management and Kames Capital.
"Scotland and London complement each other as locations to underpin the UK’s financial sector. Most of our clients are positioned in both UK locations and overseas, benefiting from the wide range of talent, connections and business opportunities,” remarks Ross.
Copylab has grown to over 50 professionals in 10 countries.
Hiring excellent talent to grow in Scotland, London and globally
In the early days, Ross soon realised he couldn’t get enough fingers on keyboards; he also heard the call of London’s asset and investment firms. Back then, he reveals that he spent an ‘entire summer holiday’ working before appreciating an extra pair of hands was needed. And fast.
His first hire in ‘the city’ was Stuart Grant, Copylab’s Commercial Director, in 2012. Since then the headcount has grown to match the scale and diversity of the business, home and abroad. Stuart helped Ross build out the London team, paving the way for the firm to take root globally, staffed by a prolific pool of highly-experienced investment writers and agency personnel.
"Scotland provides a rich and diverse talent pool to sustain ambitious financial businesses wanting to branch out here or abroad,” he explains. “The country’s 19 universities are amongst the highest achieving in Europe. Many have the proven pedigree and infrastructure to supply businesses with well-qualified talent across a diversity of financial careers.”
And this talent includes his business having access to the right blend of investment writing and financial expertise, key attributes enabling the firm to branch out overseas where Copylab has more recently opened offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Boston and Vancouver.
Globally, Ross has also experienced no difficulty in attracting offshore talent to be part of his firm’s success story in Scotland and the wider UK. His multinational team are from as far as the US – a country with three times as many pension funds as the UK – and New Zealand.
Exporting from Scotland
When not contemplating where next to grow Copylab, Ross spends time with his young family, playing tennis with his son in the shadow of Andy Murray’s childhood home in Dunblane and watching his daughter’s gymnastics competitions. He also tries to find time to sharpen his eight handicap on Scotland’s golf courses – though there is no handicap in his firm’s healthy business.
The numbers speak for themselves: More than 60% of its clients are large global fund managers, operating not just in the UK, but also in North America and Asia (Singapore/Hong Kong).
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Support from Scottish Development International
Scottish Development International (SDI) and Scottish Enterprise (SE) have helped Copylab expand in Scotland and overseas through a strong connectivity with London’s financial sector and beyond.
And, being in the communications business, Copylab can be a prophet in its own land too. It was quick to communicate with potential clients internationally, with SDI and SE providing the introductions and networking opportunities – most notably from overseas trade trips. Copylab also benefited from access to SDI’s soft landing space in Singapore.
"We have benefited hugely from Scottish Enterprise’s Account Management team which has supported us in key areas of the business, including networking, and helping us with training and leadership,” he comments.
“They’ve also helped with research trips to America, with networking events proving very useful. We’ve had the opportunity to tap into a wide expat community of 600 Scots around the world through the GlobalScot Network.”
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