Hot on the heels of our SMP Partners business profile, Gef caught up with two SMP employees, Lauren Cooper, and Luke Fisher, to find out how the company kick-started their careers and what it means to be part of a team that values input and supports individual needs.
Thanks for meeting with Gef! Firstly, can you tell us how you came to work for SMP?
LAUREN: I’ve been with SMP for eight years now. When I left school I went to Lancaster University to study languages, but I wasn’t happy with the course. I moved back to the island and wrote letters to companies asking if they were hiring, and SMP contacted me and offered me a job. I’m now a manager in the accounting department. I started off knowing nothing about accounting, but SMP supported me through my ACCA qualifications.
LUKE: I went to Sheffield Hallam University to study Sports Business Management, and when I came back to the island I was more attracted to the eGaming side of things, as it was really kicking off as an industry. I put myself through an eGaming Essentials course and off the back of that I contacted SMP who offered me a job opportunity. I started in administration, then moved to senior administration and now I’m an eGaming manager with a team of five people looking after the Island’s largest portfolio of licensed gaming companies.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do and SMP was a great place to establish that in contrast with your usual gaming operators because the work is so varied. Within the eGaming department we work with lotteries, casino, crypto, slots, sportsbooks and eSports providers, so it’s a good mix of what I’m interested in.
How has SMP supported you?
LAUREN: Looking back, I don’t know how I managed balancing my job and studying for the ACCA qualifications, but coming straight from school, studying was what I was used to. There were people on the ACCA course with me who were working with accountancy firms doing back-office administration, but I had real accountancy work to do, which really helped. I was essentially working through the day and then putting everything practical I’d learned at SMP into my studies, whereas others didn’t have that luxury.
If people want to study, it’s encouraged. I’m always being asked what I want to do next, and I’m given the opportunity to do it. Personal development isn’t a case of how old you are or how long you’ve been with the company, it’s about what you’re interested in and what you can bring to the company through self-improvement.
LUKE: I’m 28 and as it happens my entire team is under the age of 30, which is possible in online gaming because it’s a relatively new industry with most of the major market developments happening in the last decade, making long-term experience less relevant. It ’s refreshing to see a company trust and empower a team of twenty-somethings to manage such a lucrative book of business. We have the support and oversight of more experienced colleagues, of course, but that’s very different to not being trusted with responsibility, which is how I think many of my peers feel in other businesses. Our experienced team has even built a complete online training academy to educate the marketplace in AML/CFT requirements. This is utilised by brands such as Microgaming, BetFred and William Hill. We were all encouraged to provide input into the project and it the result was a real team effort.
What advice would you offer your younger self when thinking about university versus other career routes?
LAUREN: Well I found out afterwards that if I’d have gone to university I would still have needed to complete my ACCA qualification. I’d skipped the uni bit and gone straight into a qualification, so I’m really glad I did that. I felt that after leaving school everyone was off to uni, while a professional qualification never seemed to be an option, so looking back I’d encourage myself to look into all the options and remind myself uni is not the only opportunity after school.
LUKE: While my degree didn’t directly tie into my future career path, it was still a great experience and really good for me as a person. The ‘transferrable skills’ careers advisors like to talk about helped me get my job in the end, so there are definitely routes into great companies like SMP with or without degrees, it just depends on what’s best for the individual.
What’s the culture like at SMP and how do you take part?
LAUREN: I’m an accountant and we’re not really known as being the most social people! That said, SMP really supports the hobbies we do, so in my team we organise events to share with our co-workers. We play tennis together and have been rifle shooting, as they’re hobbies that my co-workers wanted to share. It’s nice getting to know each other in an environment we’re comfortable with, and everybody gets on. We’re not your stereotypical ‘party hard’ department, but having said that there’s a real sense of approachability across the whole business. Everyone is willing to pitch in and offer help where it’s needed.
LUKE: My department is very social. There’s often a few of us in The Bridge on a Friday lunchtime.! We enter all sorts of social events such as The Children’s Centre rounders tournament, which we won, Viking longboats and the football business league. There are a lot of activities and SMP is a great social place to work. Like Lauren said, everyone gets along, and I don’t feel the need to be social is something that’s forced upon us. It’s very organic and feels more supportive than anywhere else I’ve worked before.
What would your advice be to anyone thinking of joining SMP?
LUKE: The positions advertised on the SMP website are mostly junior positions, but the company is growing quickly and organically so they come with real future prospects. Lauren and I have two very different stories, and SMP excels at hiring personalities and rewarding people who do well. As a school leaver it seemed – at the time – that becoming a manager would be miles away, but it wasn’t.
As a manager I essentially get to recruit my own team, which is great, as quite often a company’s HR department or senior management hierarchy has overall say of who’s hired, without fully knowing what works well for the team. Managers lead our recruitment decisions, which means candidates get a good feel of who they will be working with.
LAUREN: There are so many departments across the company and for someone like me who didn’t really know what I wanted from my career, SMP was a great place to gain experience and see which department I was best suited for. There’s a lot of internal opportunities to move into a department that you have a progressive interest in.
What makes working at SMP so rewarding?
LUKE: I’ve guided clients through entire journeys, from obtaining their licence to becoming a big-name brand. We also don’t just help companies operate: we help them operate safely and ethically, helping the industry protect its players, and it really gives meaning to the work we do on a day-to-day basis. Also, having the opportunity to work directly with our clients shows the substance that we can offer. For example, I was given the opportunity to work in London for a number of weeks to ensure a Tier 1 operator launched ahead of the football season in 2016, giving me a real insight into the industry we are working within.
LAUREN: SMP also recognises how long you’ve been with the company with their Length of Service awards. It’s good to know we’re valued and it’s a very inclusive place to work.
Check out SMP job opportunities here