Perivian Press is the printer that loves red tape. Regulations require compliance and compliance means that information has to be published. And Perivan, just north of the City of London, is at the heart of this business.
Financial reports, compliance papers and presentation material form the main type of information that has to be printed and as the largest financial printer in London, the more that companies are forced to disclose the better Perivan likes it.
At its head is Robin Bishop, one of three directors who led a management buyout from Williams Lea in 2003. Managing director Bishop is joined by Geoff Hudson and Philip Williams as chief executive who now run the only financial printer in London with its own print capacity. “Other City printers have a floor of meeting rooms or offices, we have a floor of print machines,” he says. “One approach is costing the business money, the other is making us money.”
That production floor is the basement of the building in Worship Street, just north of the City where it can deliver within 30 minutes of the desperate call for a new set of documents, amended after someone needs to make a change one hour before a crucial presentation. There is a demand for this turnaround and Peruvian supplies it. “We are more than anything else a service industry,” says Bishop.
Perivan used to occupy four levels in the building in Worship Street, just along from the former Maxwell House, head office for Robert Maxwell’s empire back in the day. However, after its landlord changed, the premises were refurbished and market rates charged instead of what was a peppercorn rent in comparison, Perivan needed to make savings.
It looked at every cost and as a result relinquished the top floor and switched from Xerox print engines to Ricoh where the click rate is lower than that Perivan had been used to. It now runs two Pro C9100s and a Pro C7100 below ground along with a Horizon booklet maker and BQ470 perfect binder, wire binding and guillotine. The binder runs with hot melt glues rather than PUR. “PUR simply is not fast enough,” Bishop says.
It is questionable if the binder and guillotine can ever leave as the large access to the subfloor level was changed during the refurbishment, closing off the route used to bring them into the building. On the next floor is an extensive type-setting room with ranks of typesetters working on QuarkXPress or InDesign to produce presentation documents, financial reports, pitch presentations and the like that generate the revenue to oil the wheels of the City.
“We have double the number of typesetters than our closest rivals,” says Bishop. Even so this is well down on the numbers employed at terminals running Linotype, Miles 33, 3B2 or other specialist typesetting applications during the privatisation heyday of financial printing, still less than the numbers of hot metal comps needed when Bishop began his career 43 years ago at Waterlow City.
In part this is because that work has disappeared, in part because following a change in regulations in 2006, a listed company no longer needs to print an annual report for shareholders. Surprisingly this was good news for Perivan. “Our message was why print more than you need to,” explains Bishop. The subliminal message was why not print the very much smaller number you require using our digital presses rather than using someone else’s litho presses.
If the privatisations have disappeared, the desire to take private companies public remains and this provides the core of the company’s work. The key workload is in companies joining the Alternative Investments Market. “We have produced more IPO documents for Aim companies than there are companies currently listed on the Aim,” says Bishop.
It begins with a document to introduce a business to potential backers during low key presentations. Then comes a pathfinder prospectus as a more public document taking on board comments made at the earlier round of presentations. This leads to more presentations as the team of advisers tries to drum up interest from the nancial community.
Then comes the IPO documentation itself and a year later the annual report and accounts. The numbers printed at each stage are low, from 20 or so for those early stage presentations to 400 for a prospectus or annual report. While Peruvian produces a handful of FTSE 100 annual reports, the mainstay is those companies in the FTSE 250.
Each is a crucial document that must adhere to regulations about what information is disclosed and how it is presented in order to comply with FCA rules. There can be ten proofing stages and even then an error might creep through resulting in that call to Perivan for an immediate update. “Being in the City, we can deliver within 30 minutes,” he says. “You can’t do that from Dagenham.”
Even with the advantage of the central location, had Perivan remained a strictly financial printer it might have gone the way of others in the sector. Instead it has managed to diversify, complementing the output of printed pages with a technology offering. Bishop recalls a trip to Guernsey to pitch his company’s report and account printing skills. During one of the first meetings, he was confronted by a table full covered with documents and a frazzled fund manager.
“I remember he said ‘Can you help me with this, it’s a bloody nightmare’. The nightmare was compiling a board pack, the collection of documents that is needed for a boardroom meeting to meet compliance issues.”
It comprises various reports, a spreadsheet or two, the agenda and so on, each page numbered and each document separated by tabs. If there were late changes or a late arriving document, the nightmare of getting everything in the right pace and in the right order would be compounded.
This was one of those light bulb moments for Bishop. The remainder of his presentations in Guernsey were less about Perivan’s ability to print than how it might help solve the problem of compiling board packs using digital technology and typesetting skills to do so. On his return to the mainland, Virtual Boardroom was registered and a partnership struck with a software developer in Edinburgh.
The software gathers the documentation electronically, can accommodate the late changes, automatically prints the correct
tabs on the outside edge of the page, creates any throw outs so that the agenda for example is always visible and if there is need to include a spreadsheet at readable resolution. All sections will start on a righthand page and will be numbered in the correct sequence.
After Guernsey, Bishop took the idea to Jersey, to Bermuda and to other offshore financial centres where dealing with board documentation had been a recurring nightmare. “I spoke to one non-executive director who sits on a number of boards and he showed me a shed in his garden filled with these sorts of board reports,” Bishop explains.
Virtual Boardroom went live in 2008 and has been responsible for generating many thousands of printed pages for the business. More importantly it changed how Perivan was perceived. The company was no longer merely a printer. It worked with a software company to build the application, subsequently buying the business.
“We have found that if you approach someone as a printer, they don’t want to see you. But if you go with Virtual Boardroom and you are providing a portal that solves an issue they have, they will see you,” he says. “We go in with a technology lead and tell the customer that we can print as well.”
The company has discovered the same need for document management and compliance occurs in the NHS where Virtual Boardroom is in place at 35 trusts. “We can sell it to any organisation that requires corporate governance and requires board meetings and reports to a regulator,” he says. The challenge to this lucrative revenue stream has been the advent of the iPad. It led to an app for Virtual Boardroom and a reduction in printed pages, but this was beyond Perivan’s control. And competition from rivals has also squeezed the opportunity.
Instead, Perivan and Electronic Multimedia, which was acquired in 2014, have produced DotApprove, a collaborative portal to pull together all the communication needed for compliance and a means of ensuring that what is published, from official reports to Twitter comments, falls within the boundaries of the regulations that apply. “There is an audit trail to show who said what and who approved it, and it covers historic publication not just current websites,” says Bishop.
Other online applications include DocGen, a template for document design and OnBrand to ensure consistency in marketing. There is also a managed print offering via a portal where independent financial advisers working within a brand can order business cards, marketing collateral and so on. In turn print can be farmed to outside suppliers where Perivan does not have the service or capacity to do this in house.
Bishop uses foiled business cards as an example and there is a relationship with a litho printer in south east London for longer runs that are necessary.
Print management generates a huge volume of print, but not at the same margin that delivering at the drop of a hat does. It is why while other printers have headed for the outer reaches of the capital where rents are lower, Perivan can charge attractive rates for service at this level. “It’s about getting a premium for what we do that others cannot,” Bishop says.
Inevitably though customers can see this as a normal service level rather than exceptional, Bishop explains. “I can see the work to list when I go home at the end of the day and when I come in the next morning and see what has been produced overnight, there may be no comparison. Stuff has come in that needs to be printed.
“I have been in financial print all my life and I love it.” But he points out that as he and his fellow directors and shareholders are “of a certain age”, a new generation will be developing Perivan as a technology business with a strong print offering. Rob Wilson has joined the business with a background in financial print that includes Bowne and Nick Roi will be at the head of the rapidly developing technology side. These are joined by a new FD.
The business has already been restructured as Perivan Technology to reflect these changes and a consultancy business has been acquired. It paves the way for business to evolve while remaining London’s largest financial printer.
Robin Bishop has been in City printing for all his working life, and was part of the buyout team that acquired Perivan from Williams Lea. Now a new management team is taking over and expanding print into digital documentation which had begun with Virtual Boardroom.