Sound Fundamentals

Shawn Peters, CFO and VP of finance and technology for ISC, details the strategies behind the firm’s entry into the Toronto Stock Exchange

“We don’t just give you software to run a registry; we actually run and manage the entire process.” —Shawn Peters, CFO & VP of Finance and Technology
“We don’t just give you software to run a registry; we actually run and manage the entire process.” —Shawn Peters, CFO & VP of Finance and Technology

If you live in Saskatchewan, chances are you’ve interacted with Information Services Corporation (ISC) without even knowing it. The former Crown corporation, founded in 2000, has had a hand in the affairs of basically anyone in the province who has sold property, bought a used vehicle, or registered a business. It has been so successful, in fact, that this past year the Government of Saskatchewan restructured its arrangement with ISC, taking it public and listing it on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Recently, CFO and vice president of finance and technology Shawn Peters sat down with Advantage to discuss the IPO and his plans for taking the company global.

Advantage: You went public in 2013. What led to that moment?
Shawn Peters: ISC was the Crown corporation in Saskatchewan that provided the land titles registry, land surveys directory, corporate registry, and personal property registry. The company was originally formed in 2000 to convert the paper land titles to an electronic system and has grown over the years by adding additional registries. ISC had performed well in Saskatchewan, and the government indicated it felt the growth potential for ISC to expand its service offerings would be greater as a publicly traded company. To do that, we had to make some big changes.

What were the most important changes?
As a Crown corporation, we were under sole ownership of the government, and it still is a significant owner. But now, they are also our largest customer. We had to navigate that transition, and we have to maintain that relationship and keep the high level of customer satisfaction they have come to expect from ISC. Beyond that, we have to continue to provide the services that support the economy of our province and keep analyzing growth opportunities across Canada and internationally.

What about staffing?
There were no significant changes in our staff levels as a result of the IPO. There are certainly new functions and competencies that we have had to acquire. For instance, we are taxable for the first time, so we’re working to build that competency internally. We’ve created an investor-relations function and started to manage that. From a reporting perspective, Saskatchewan had some good governance processes, so we’ve always done a fair bit of reporting, but reporting under the stock exchange and to our shareholders is new, so we are working to ensure that is staffed appropriately.

What’s behind a successful IPO?
There are really two things: First, don’t underestimate the task. Surround yourself with good advisors. If they aren’t there internally, then make sure you engage the right professional advisors. It can add a number of people to the whole process, but it is essential. Having done that, much of the time I felt like my job was like an air-traffic controller. I was just trying to make sure all the planes stayed in the air, that they didn’t crash, and that they all landed in the right order.

Second, you need to have a good story to tell. Your business doesn’t have to be the most exciting one, but you need good fundamentals, good performance, and a good management team. If you have those elements, it sends a strong message to investors. Results will follow.

Shawn Peters’s
Career Milestones

1990
Obtains a bachelor of commerce degree from the University of Saskatchewan and joins Ernst & Young Chartered Accountants

1993
Earns his chartered accountant designation

1995
Accepts a position as the manager of project financing at Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan

1998
Joins Group Medical Services (GMS) as its CFO

2004
Expands GMS extraprovincially, helping grow its revenues nearly sevenfold

2012
Joins Information Services Corporation (ISC) as its CFO

2013
Completes the initial public offering of ISC

You mentioned growth as a motivator leading to the IPO. What are your plans for expansion?
Our big focus last year was this move to go public. Then we shifted to the transition. As we move deeper into 2014, growth is an important aspect for us, though the other is continuing to manage the company successfully. We have a new base of shareholders and are cognizant of providing them stability in our current business, but we’re still looking at growth.

So business within Saskatchewan is one area of growth. Another area, though, is outside of the province. We can provide the same services to customers outside of Saskatchewan. The third area is international. We know we’re in the early stages there, but as we build our brand domestically, we are starting to look to partner with international companies to work in that space.

What are you doing that’s unique in the industry?
We call it our “end-to-end” provision of services. We don’t just give you software to run a registry; we actually run and manage the entire process. We provide the front-end customer service; we process the transaction, like processing a land title transfer or registering a lien; and then we interact with the government about policy issues. We provide a complete solution for governments or private-sector organizations, and those solutions allow them to outsource the entire function.

What types of nongovernmental clients do you serve?
Our primary customer on the land registry side is the legal community, which conducts land transactions through our system. Financial institutions and other third parties use our personal property registry for things like registering liens on vehicle sales. Oil and gas companies are also good customers for us on land, mineral, and geographic information, and then of course we have business owners in the corporate registry. So, really, there’s a lot we can do for a wide variety of customers.

What do you look for in suppliers?
There are regular suppliers, and there are strategic partners. We have HP and IBM, who are strategic partners in helping us deliver our technology services. In those relationships, we look for value. The word value is used a lot, but if you compete on price and choose on price, you often get what you pay for. We look for that value because that’s what we want to provide for our customers and shareholders. I don’t mind paying for value if they can get me to the end goal faster—because ultimately that’s how I save time and money.

What do you see coming in the industry, and how will ISC adjust accordingly?
Technology is a key part of the services we provide. The pace of technology is something we are really trying to harness. That pace can be overwhelming, but it offers us an advantage in using emerging technologies that let us process the same number of transactions faster, cheaper, and more effectively.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

THE BOTTOM LINE

Job title
CFO & VP of finance and technology

Industry
Technology and information services

Years in the business
24

Where did you start your career?
Ernst & Young Chartered Accountants.

Describe yourself in three words
Passionate, strategic, innovative.

Advice to those just starting in finance
Take initiative. If you see a place to add value, step up and contribute, even if it’s not in your job description. Doing so gives you exposure and starts to show people around and above you that you have more to offer.