Big Payroll Interview: Justin Cottrell, chief executive of IRIS FMP

19th August 2016

Justin CottrellAfter sealing a £30 million private equity deal, the payroll services chief executive speaks exclusively to Holly Corbett.

After a year and a half of courting various institutions in both the UK and abroad, IRIS FMP, Bond Payroll Services, and Bond HR and Payroll Software has been sold to an MBO led by the charismatic CEO.

Finalising the deal to fund the payroll services specialists for £30 million through private equity investor Tenzing, chief executive Justin Cottrell revealed that finding the right suitor who shared the vision for the next stage of growth was essential.

“Tenzing’s track record and acquisition support, tenacity shown throughout the process, support for the management and cultural fit with the business and our team made them the perfect partner for the next stage of the development of our business.”

Cottrell believes the three businesses will work well together and will catapult the new combined company, to be known as IRIS FMP, to new heights. IRIS FMP will continue to be the UK independent market leader in International Payroll services, for its domestic clients providing payroll bureau services, and mission critical technology solutions to its UK payroll partners.

Cottrell says the new investors will help stimulate further growth in the UK payroll market and accelerate plans to expand services throughout the UK and globally.

Same Team. Better set-up.

“Being part of a recruitment software business was always limiting” he says, “We needed a new investor away from the shackles of plc listing for our long-term plans.

“We want to shake up the payroll market and make new acquisitions, and Tenzing is known for that.

Cottrell says there was “ongoing interest” over a year and a half from private equity firms and international companies wanting to snap up IRIS FMP and he believes this to be down to the company’s business model, which in mid-2015 started to find its own voice away from the the parent Bond International Software brand. Focussing on the website, social media and search engines has proved very beneficial. And with a clutch of awards under their belt the company has set a precedent for service in the industry.

“We are very different from other providers,” he says. “and we are genuinely excited about investing into the business, broadening our offering and continuing to drive service excellence for our clients and partners worldwide.”

The current management team will become the management team of IRIS FMP Payroll, ensuring continuity of service and systems for existing clients.

Expansion plans

Tenzing’s backing of IRIS FMP comes with a war chest for growth and acquisition, and Cottrell already has his sights on a number of targets.

“We’re looking for acquisitions that will complement the existing set up and help us expand our offering in the first instance within the UK. There are some fantastic opportunities for the right businesses to join us on this journey.”

Not just business as usual.

The new company retains the talented professional, customer centric teams that currently serve the company’s diverse national and international audience. For customers the change of ownership will be seamless, with a planned transition over a number of months.

“Our ambition is to shake up the sector with products and services that really deliver the support that businesses need.” says Cottrell “But more than that I want IRIS FMP to be the ‘employer of choice’ within the payroll sector.”

IRIS FMP will retain and build on existing software platforms developed for the payroll and HR markets, but will add complimentary services as part of a flexible, complete package that ranges from fully outsourced payroll, bureau services, software, and international services across 135 countries.

Attracting talent to a growing team.

Cottrell’s already on the look-out for talented people to join him at IRIS FMP.

“We want to build a professional team to grow and support the business, and reward talented people no matter what they do for the business. And the normal rewards will be supplemented by a positive environment and special opportunities – everyone in the business will have the opportunity to go on our incentive trip to Orlando in 2017.”


The acquisition completed on 19th August 2016, with the IRIS FMP brands replacing the Bond name in November 2016