Jim Marsh: the strategy we had at Energis is very simply
the strategy we are pursuing in our business here
Cable & Wireless has reinvented itself several times
over the past few years. It's moved into and out of businesses,
and in 2005 it took over a rival, Energis — though as
part of that deal many of Energis's top people, and its
culture, have moved into C&W.
Today, the whole of C&W still has something of an identity
problem. It's split into two businesses, says Jim Marsh, who
runs one of them. Most people call his unit Cable &
Wireless UK, and the other one is called Cable & Wireless
But things aren't what they seem, says Marsh: "See my business
card." That describes his as CEO for Europe, the US and Asia.
Not Cable & Wireless UK.
"The international business is where we are the national
incumbent, and that is 30-plus geographies around the world,
that largest part of which is the Caribbean." That's not his:
Harris Jones is the CEO.
"The key international business, what most people call the
international business, is actually a series of national
businesses," says Marsh. "We run the telecoms industry for
The other business, which is international but most people
call Cable & Wireless UK, "is everywhere else in the
world", he says. "That's my bit. In reality my business covers
Europe, US and Asia, predominantly. In that business I am the
chief executive, which means I am responsible for our strategy
and business plan, and I report to John Pluthero, who is the
executive chairman of the same business."
Clear? Marsh's side of the company is focussed on delivering
services to large multinational corporations "who want
connectivity globally", he says.
How big a challenge was it to merge the operations of Energis
and C&W? "It was not a merger, it was a straight
acquisition" of Energis by C&W, he points out.
Until the day before, the two companies had directly competing
account teams. "We interviewed all the account teams, both
sides, and made a decision who we thought was best. We did it
very quickly." A period of uncertainty was "almost the worst
Marsh's unit now has 5,500 employees and "we've had probably
about 400-500 leave", he says, "but in that time we've
recruited about 450. We have exited a number of colleagues in
the business but one of the things we are focussing on is that
50% of any cost saving we re-invest back in front-line
colleagues — colleagues who touch customers all the
Those who have left "tend to be management senior colleagues
— expensive people", he adds. "What we have replaced
them with are more people who are service management, fault
management, help desk people for customers. We've taken out
layers of management. The business was significantly
The way Marsh puts it, Cable & Wireless's strategy "was
refreshed when Energis was acquired by Cable & Wireless".
Good word, refreshed. He and Pluthero "became part of Cable
& Wireless". The Energis brand vanished the night before:
when everyone turned up to work on completion day their
buildings bore the new — or old, that should be
"Actually the strategy we had at Energis is very simply the
strategy we are pursuing in our business here," says
"We are focussed on major multinational corporations,
delivering their full telecommunications needs. Those
corporations will have a significant UK element in most cases
— that's a significant part of our network reach
— but we're very focussed on those large users of
telecommunications services. We are providing them with full
services — voice, data, contact centre services, in
some cases their mobile contracts. The full piece."
Does he regret the disappearance of the old Energis? "No. No,
because we are absolutely part of Cable & Wireless." That
company has "fantastic international capability and reach,
which of course we never had in Energis".
However, the team is bringing "a lot of the philosophy we had
in Energis is the philosophy we're bringing to Cable &
Wireless". But that team is now working with an international
brand: "We're a very big, significant international
Meanwhile the consumer side has vanished. Not the consumer
side that was, a decade ago, Cable & Wireless
Communications, a cable operator, but a later attempt to
develop a broadband residential product. The company bought an
operation called Bulldog and hired a former Fastweb CEO,
Emanuele Angelidis, from Italy to run it, and then sold the
customer base, but not the network, to Pipex.
"It's very easy to say we're focussed on major corporations.
For me, strategy is not just about what you are going to do but
also what you're not going to do. And of course the thing that
was a surprise to us when we were acquired by Cable &
Wireless is how many very, very small customers there were in
Cable & Wireless: thousands and thousands of customers who
spend less than £1,000 a year."
But the move brought some bad headlines, as the company said
it was moving from 30,000 customers "to a number much closer to
3,000". That was right for the company, says Marsh, but it
meant writing to the other 27,000 to tell them C&W was
going to cease their service.
"We want to very focussed on the major enterprise space. We
want to make sure we're delivering great service to those
customers." The company recognises "it's very hard to do that
while serving these thousands and thousands of smaller
Many of those dated back to the Mercury days. It had been a
business that, frankly, Cable & Wireless had neglected.
"It's a different market. It's a different experience to what
you provide to the very large customers. If you're spending in
excess of £50 million a year with us it's a different
C&W wanted to be focussed, "focussed on one or the other
and do it really well, and not try and do both".
The company is "on plan with the customer exit programme", he
adds. "A number of alternative providers have sought to work
with us to provide a seamless transition." Some offered a
commercial deal to take over the customer base, "but we haven't
done that: we see our responsibility as helping them move to
what's right for them". BT has picked up some of that 27,000,
It's been "time-consuming and resource-hungry". And the
Bulldog "was part of the same theme for us", he adds. "Our view
was that we are not going to be a residential broadband
provider. That's absolutely not the core of what we do."
But C&W can provide a managed network to a company that is
in the consumer market — which is exactly what it does
provide to Pipex for the Bulldog service.
What's the lowest you need to spend with C&W to me a
customer? "That's always a tricky question to answer," says
"Half a million pounds a year plus is enough to suggest it
might be the kind of customer for us. We do have customers that
spend a bit less than this, which is why the 3,000 is not a
hard a fast number."
But there are smaller companies that are expanding "who we
think we can help", says Marsh. "We do have a significant
number of customers who spend £10 million plus a year as
C&W does a lot of business "with organisations based in
Asia", he adds. "There are some banks in Asia, and we do a lot
with a major financial services institution based in the US as
well." He's unwilling to give names.
"Asia is important for us. We're investing in our network
capability in Asia. Cable & Wireless is a very proud brand
in Asia." Despite selling Hongkong Telecom several years ago
the company keeps its connections in the region, he says.
"What is that presence? It's not about building in-country
networks. More often than not it's about providing connectivity
from one country to other countries in the continent and across
continents, and working with partners in-country to provide
in-country network services."
C&W is not competing with local carriers. "We're looking
to work with them in a number of places," he says.
What sort of infrastructure does C&W have now? "We have
connectivity to roughly 130 countries. The bit that's ours and
owned by us is about 110 countries and the rest is with
It is looking for network interconnect deals with carriers in
a number of countries, he says. "For many of our customers
India is very important, because they are moving more of their
capability to India. We have good reach to India, but we're
looking at how we may more explicitly partner in India. The
licence arrangements in India have changed and we have to think
whether to get our own licence or not."
The company has "just short of 300 people in India", says
Marsh, mainly focussed on services there to multinational
corporations, "whether that's providing a managed service,
managing other carriers or providing the interface to the
And C&W has moved its own Asian network management to
Bangalore in India. "We used to manage it from Hong
It had been in Hong Kong because C&W used to own the local
incumbent. "There has been a whole range of those operational
decisions that we have to make as part of the
The company is "right in the middle" of deciding on its links
into China. "I keep coming back to our customers. If our
customers are saying we need reach here, then we provide
Does C&W look for customers in those markets looking for
network access into the West? "We do have sales teams in most
of those geographies," he says. "There would have to be a
significant proportion that is on-net for us that would make it
the right kind of commercial deal."
So UK capability usually features, though that isn't an
absolute rule. "We have some oil companies — I can't
give you the names yet — that we've just won
provisioning of all their global network services." Those deals
cover Europe, Africa and other areas, he says.
Ultimately, though, it's clear — though Marsh did not
say so — that the two units of C&W do not make a
natural partnership. The old C&W has been running incumbent
operations in small countries across the world for a century,
from Jamaica to Monaco, and it is a very different business
from the new C&W that owes a lot to Energis.
In this renewed era of consolidation, it will be interesting
to see where both parts go. GTB