CLYDEBANK-based Together Energy has unveiled a new leadership team and invested in a new customer billing system as it looks to strengthen its position amid fierce trading conditions in the UK energy supply sector.

The energy challenger, which gives employment opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, has appointed former Lloyds Banking Group and Rangers director Donald McIntyre as commercial director to help prepare the firm for its next phase of growth.

The veteran financier is one of a number of changes made by Together Energy founder and chief executive Paul Richards to the company’s senior team.

David Stroud, the former chief operations director of Newcastle-based Future Energy, is now Together’s director of strategy and Josh Montgomery has become director of trading, joining financial director Graeme Toolin and director of partnerships Gavin Baillie.

Mr Richards said: “We’ve grown at a substantial rate and currently have 60,000 customers so it’s vital that we have the right team in place to take us from essentially a start-up to a high street challenger brand. Our team has an exceptional skill set and we have ambitious plans going forward.”

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Together, which ex-British Gas executive Mr Richards set up in 2016, has also phased in a new billing system, following an investment of £1.8 million. The software, designed in-house, is said to offer customers greater transparency and easier-to-understand bills, with Together highlighting the possibility of marketing it for use by other energy suppliers.

The investment made by Together has been made at a critical time for small players in the energy sector, which has already seen a number of failures this year. Companies have struggled under the weight of rising wholesale prices, which has put pressure on margins, while there is concern in the industry over the impact of the forthcoming energy price cap.

Late last month, the energy supply subsidiary of Borders-based Spark Energy failed, with its parent company being sold to Ovo Energy. Ovo, which took on Spark’s 400-plus staff in Selkirk as well as offices in the town, Edinburgh and Horsham, has since been awarded Spark’s 290,000 customers by Ofgem, the market regulator. Spark had failed to meet a £14.4 million renewables obligation payment in October, with its chief executive Chris Gauld declaring that the price cap, due to come into effect in January, has thrown the industry into “chaos”.

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Mr Richards said the failure of smaller energy companies makes it difficult for challengers to build credibility in the eyes of consumers, acknowledging that in some cases it does lead to customers switching back to the ‘big six’ suppliers.

He said: “Every time a small energy company goes under, it makes building that legitimacy as a new entry to the market that bit harder. That’s the real challenge.

“We’ve paid our ROC (Renewable Obligation Certificate), we’ve paid our feed-in tariff and we have got payment terms with BP for our gas and electricity. But trying to get those big issues across to a customer is quite a challenge, so you do see a difference when small guys go under.”

Mr Richards, who has hired the vast majority of Together’s 100 staff from Scotland’s poorest postcodes, said the company was exploring ways to raise finance for the business. But, given the company’s ethical stance and commitment to developing disadvantaged youngsters, said he would have to give careful consideration to the type of investor he brings in. Ideally, the company would buy into the company’s philosophy.

Mr Richards, who expects the start-up to post a loss this year and break even the following year, said: “We will need to go and do a funding round, there is no doubt about it. To get to our next stage of growth, we would need a private equity run. The good thing with the billing system is that I think we can say with confidence we have the lowest operational costs in the country.”

Noting that the new system was already reducing his customer service agents’ call times, he added: “It helps our service, it reduces your op-ex, and potentially, if we don’t get what we want from the private equity [investors] it is something we can take to the market and sell.”