Coming through – an interview with Katy Stafford
Katy Stafford has proven herself on the Affiliate Management scene, and is now involved in one of the most exciting projects out there. She takes us behind the scenes at ComeOn Connect.
When it was announced in late 2016 that Cherry AB would exercise its option to acquire the remaining shares in ComeOn Malta, one of the most significant deals was well and truly cemented. Integration work had already started during the summer, and the signs had been good. The deal was expected to result in an increased competitive advantage, with a large number of successful brands already in tow. However that was far from a foregone conclusion, there was a lot of work that had yet to be done to make the acquisition a successful one. The sneaky secret behind a lot of mergers and acquisitions, in iGaming and in wider industry, is that they don’t always work out as expected. The value of expected synergies and economies of scale is often overestimated, and the teething issues that accompany the necessary integration frequently overlooked.
This let-down hasn’t come about in the case of ComeOn Connect, and Katy Stafford actually plays down the amount of teething friction that accompanied the deal. Cherry Affiliates and Earn Affiliates had been drawing rave reviews for a while, even before their union was consummated – so the underlying quality was not a great concern, and their joining forces proved to be a reasonably straightforward process. “It’s actually been quite smooth,” claims Katy. “We didn’t come across any major issues that we couldn’t resolve relatively easily”. She explains that her experience with both teams helped her manage the transition more smoothly. “It really helps that I straddled both sides of the relationship prior to the deal,” Katy says. “The familiarity certainly helped make it a more effortless process than it might have been otherwise”.
The level of preparation and diligence in the way the business is conducted is also impressive, and goes a long way in explaining the relative smoothness of proceedings in ComeOn Connect. Although the full merge and migration of reporting systems is delayed, the two original teams are now working as one unit, with a new website www.comeonconnect.com showcasing their portfolio of brands. There isn’t the sense that the organisation is built on shortcuts, and that involves a rational and fair approach to doing business – one that will lead to continued and sustainable success. “We know that we have to make sure we’ve got an excellent ROI on our deals,” Katy explains. “We want to have fulfilling partnerships going forward”.
I manage to steer conversation towards regulatory developments, which have obviously been of great concern of late, particularly in the UK. Anyone with UK-facing affiliation in their stable has been looking at the regulatory picture in the UK with some measure of apprehension. However, Katy does not necessarily think of regulation in negative terms, and lays out the reasons for her optimism. “We’ve had very good talks with our UK-facing affiliates,” she tells me. “For the most part they’ve been incredibly compliant, they want to work with us, and we want to work with them going forward to ensure that everything needed from the UKGC is actually done from our end.” At the same time Katy believes that the ultimate result will be positive.
“I think it’s actually quite good that the UKGC are doing this right now, because this type of compliance and these types of rules in place for operators working with affiliates, will spread to all the regulated markets sooner rather than later,” she says. “So it’s a good indication for us and gives us a head start, in a way. The idea is we know it’s going to happen, so we need to make sure we’re compliant right now.”
Katy points out that this is her opinion, but it’s certainly a very educated opinion on the matter. It also reflects the generally proactive mindset within the larger organisation, which is definitely future-focused in thought, but also in preparation. There is a sense that nothing happens by accident, and no shortcuts are taken at the expense of long-term progress. Even in regulatory and compliance matters, ComeOn Connect is very well positioned as a result of foresight and advance preparation. This promises to help the newly-integrated brand to keep up its lofty standards going forward, and offer great value to its partners and players alike.
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