Chris Morling sold his financial comparison site to ZPG in a multi-million deal last year
What it does: Money.co.uk is an award winning financial comparison site created by a team of money experts to help make financial decisions as simple as possible.
Founded: 2008, Cirencester
Founder/s: Chris Morling
Size of team: 62
Your name and role: Chris Morling, Founder and CEO of money.co.uk
Three reasons you should be watching Chris Morling
1) Chris was recently dubbed as “Britain’s Best Boss” after he spent £3m refurbishing a Castle in the Cotswolds to give his team an excellent working environment.
2) In 2015, the Sunday Times ranked his venture as the second fastest growing business in the UK in the Profit Track 100. The following year they awarded money.co.uk the Outstanding Achievement Award in the Tech Track 100.
3) Chris donated 10 per cent of money.co.uk’s profits to charities last year.
What is your growth story?
I graduated in electronics but decided it wasn’t for me, so I went into computing and worked for a company called Hoskyns (now Capgemini). Three years later I moved to an insurance software development company, then on to Oracle in 1997. In the year 2000 I wasn’t enjoying my job and a chat with my wife triggered me setting up on my own in my spare room. My wife, Gael, bought me a laptop and away I went.
At first I created lots of affiliate websites, selling a wide range of products and services. In 2008 I combined a number of sites and money.co.uk was born.
I’ve purposely kept the team small – we’re up to 62 now. In September last year I sold money.co.uk to ZPG who own websites like Zoopla, uSwitch and Prime Location in a deal worth up to £140m.
How do you make money? Who’s bankrolling you?
In the first few months of starting money.co.uk I funded the business with a few 0 per cent credit cards to get the business off the ground but was quickly making a profit and I’ve managed avoiding taking on any debt or investment ever since. We allow companies to market their products and services on our website and we’re then paid a commission of a sale that we send their way.
You were recently dubbed ‘Britain’s Best Boss’. Tell us more about it?
This was off the back of me spending £3 million on refurbishing our offices which is a Victorian castle. It’s a special place to work – we have a Star Wars Cinema, two gyms, an ice cave and a ski lodge! It has all the bells and whistles to help make working efficient and enjoyable.
The benefits at money.co.uk includes:
-An all expenses paid 5 star holiday abroad for the whole company once a year
-3 days off a year to volunteer for a voluntary cause of your choice
-For the past 2 years I’ve given each member of the team £5000 to donate to a charity of their choice
-Match funding – for any money anyone in the company raises for charity I’ll match it
-Free beer on a Friday
-Cinema onsite – Staff can bring friends and family at the weekends if they want to
-In the past the bonuses here have been up to 45% of salary
-Christmas party – all expenses paid including a taxi home and partners are invited
-Generous maternity leave, and so on
In the past I’ve read comments like “I bet the staff are slaves to the company and they work really long hours”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We actually have a rather strict no working late policy because I believe a work life balance is essential and I want people to look forward to coming into work.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs trying to secure that kind of finance?
Because we’ve not taken finance, I can’t really offer advice from my own personal experience, however as a general rule you often need to consider the balance between speed with which you can grow and the % equity you’re prepared to give away. Lower funding generally means slower growth and more reliance on organic growth. It’s an important decision you need to make early on.
What do you believe is the key to growing your business is?
You need people who can think for themselves, spot and resolve issues proactively and deliver time and time again. I still try and interview every single person we hire here because I believe fitting in with the culture we’ve created is as equally as important as qualifications.
What metrics do you look at every day?
Our revenue, marketing spend and return on investment by product type.
What’s been the most unexpectedly valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far?
You don’t need to be a large company with deep marketing pockets to go up against your biggest competitors. You just need to play the game differently.
What’s been your biggest mistake so far?
There are always plenty to choose from when you grow a business! I wouldn’t include attempting something that subsequently didn’t work. That’s how we learn, discover and progress.
Do you have any expansion plans?
We’re now part of ZPG, who also own Zoopla and uSwitch, so, yes – without a doubt. There’s massive synergy opportunities working with those brands and we’re going to be launching more and more innovative solutions that make our customers’ financial decisions easier and easier.
What do you think is on the horizon for your industry in the year ahead?
More personalisation for our customers to help them understand the pros and cons of different financial products given their specific individual needs.
Which London start-up/s are you watching, and why?
RideTo.com – where you can book motorcycle training from a trusted school and Kagoo.com where you can compare prices, specs and reviews on a crazy number of electrical and electronic products. Why? Because I’m an advisor and investor!
I’m also intrigued to see what Monzo, the online bank, do next. Being a new kid on the block, they aren’t constrained by the cumbersome legacy systems of the big banks, so they should be able to innovate rapidly. Given they were granted a full banking licence last year, I hope we see new products and services being launched over the coming months.