Meet the MD: Steve Armitage of UD Group

Meet the MD: Steve Armitage of UD Group

Steve Armitage believes a great leader is someone who has a vision of what they want to achieve, and the enthusiasm, energy and dedication to deliver it. As managing director of UD Group, he is now set to put this into practice as the company breaks into overseas markets. BQ found out more

What does your company do?

In a nutshell, we develop software that makes the often complex process of procuring energy and utilities contracts extremely simple. More than that, though, we make life much easier for big energy retailers and their customers.

Our software is already improving the bottom-line for some big energy players like npower and Gazprom but, more importantly, it’s creating better customer engagement and an all round more pleasant experience for the end user - something the energy sector has been crying out for, for a long time.


What does your role include?

My role is all about guiding UD Group’s innovative talent and making sure that our software improves the way our customers work.

An integral part of that is listening to them, learning from their responses and then marshalling that talent across the business to transform it into a solution.


Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I’ve been in the energy industry for over 30 years, starting off as an electrical engineer at the Yorkshire Electricity Board pre-privatisation.

By 1990 I’d become one of the UK’s first ever retail energy account managers for customers demanding over one megawatt, before taking on the role of national sales manager.

I then spent nine years at Marubeni-owned SmartestEnergy before, most recently, directing Gazprom Energy’s commercial strategy in Europe.

Having experienced the industry from the provider’s perspective, it’s great to be able to provide solutions I know can make a difference with UD Group.


What do you believe makes a great leader?

A great leader is someone who has a vision of what they want to achieve, and then the enthusiasm, energy and dedication to deliver it.

They have to be able to listen though – all that enthusiasm is wasted if it’s being channelled inflexibly.


What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

When it comes to large IT projects, most big companies are understandably afraid of change – most of them seem to have been bitten hard by another large business at some point in the last 20 years.

Our challenge is convincing them that ‘small is beautiful’. UD Group is a young business but we have a lot of experienced people who have been client-side and can empathise with the situations they face day-to-day.


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Growing up during the Space Race era, I always liked the idea of being an astronaut. To think we put a man on the moon with just a fraction of the computing power you would find in an iPhone 6 is incredible. Getting those guys up there was all about having a vision and supporting it properly with energy, enthusiasm and talent.


Where do you see the company in five years time?

UD Group is already beginning to grow internationally and our aim is to make it a business with a global reach.

The UK market is a global leader where energy and utilities are concerned and, as an innovator, we’re fuelling that leadership.

With that in mind, our natural next step is to take our solutions into international markets.

Thanks to the simplicity of our technology, we’re in a great position to make sizeable gains in Europe and North America.


What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Hire people that are smarter than you. If a business is to thrive, then it needs people who have the intelligence to question what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

There’s no industry where that sentiment is truer than in software development.

In this sector, innovation often comes from individual brilliance so you can’t discount anyone’s ideas.