• Simon Verdon

Does the share price of Idox or Civica really matter to you?

Updated: Jan 7, 2019

“I think shareholders are the great evil of this modern world”

Chris Martin may have written a few great, and many more admittedly awful, songs for Coldplay, but did he hit the nail of the head here? Is there any hidden truth behind this throw-away statement? And is this true universally, especially in niche markets such as electoral services, or is it just an ill-thought out sweeping statement of a tree-hugging leftie (not my words).

Well, the studies tell us he may have a point. Numerous articles, including those from revered publications such as the Harvard Business Review, do suggest that one of the worst things that can happen to a successful business in a relatively specialist sector is to be acquired by a larger conglomerate. Particularly where the corporate objectives of the new ownership may extend wider than the demands of the market that the company used to serve.

From my own experience, the focus does seem to immediately shift to the bottom line, to the demands of the shareholder at the price of the customer. And you really can’t blame those employed by the former company for this – they’re just doing their job in a new commercial environment. But does that mean that customers, the people that depend on the services those suppliers previously supplied, have to buy into the new commercial realities?

In a world where the London Stock Exchange is the main driver behind all key strategic decisions, gone are the days that the success of a product is judged by what it can bring to the end user – in our world the delivery of successful elections – instead, it’s a question of what those markets can bring to the overall objectives of the business as a whole. And so mark-ups for existing services increase, pressures on up-sales and cross-sales dominate Account Manager considerations and the statutory services we provide are reduced to add-ons in a larger corporate strategy of market share acquisition.

I get it, I really do, from both a commercial and customer perspective – I’ve been on both sides. As a Chief Executive, if they’re throwing in an EMS as an extra to a new housing or planning system, surely that makes the most sense for the wider local authority’s immediate, cash-strapped budget?

But as electoral specialists, as Chief Executives, that misses a much more important point. The services we provide underpin the whole legitimacy of local government. There a fewer news-worthy stories than a failed election. And with the huge amounts of money that are required to deliver electoral registration and electoral events, there a fewer areas of local government that can achieve immediate cost savings by investing in innovative, digital-focussed solutions that ultimately significantly reduce overall annual spend.

That’s why companies such as ours are essential to the future of electoral services in the UK. We continue to innovate, we continue to move the focus away from outdated print services, we continue to put the needs of our customers, and ultimately electors, first. We continue to provide year-on-year annual savings to the electoral services budget. Because we can. Because elections are all that we do.

In the new electoral services world, Democracy Counts are the only supplier that can truly dedicate all our resources to ensuring that our clients are the best equipped to face the specific challenges in their domain. Because our success depends upon your success.

We work in an environment like no other; and we believe you should have software, and a focused team behind it, that understands that. At the end of the day, when you’re standing in a count venue at 5am with angry candidates, frenzied local journalists and disgruntled staff members, does the share price of Idox or Civica really matter to you?

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