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Kindred Spirits

Over the last 20 years Kindred has gone from strength to strength, bringing together a powerhouse of 11 of Europe’s most successful online gambling brands.

Katy Micallef sat down with Alexander Westrell, Group Head of Communications, and Martin Dyhouse, Head of Brand Strategy and Delivery at Kindred for a look at how the brand is establishing synergy and clarity around a group multi-brand strategy.

Key markets are re-regulating and existing regulations continue to develop. how has re-regulation affected your business and how has your strategy evolved to deal with it?

The re-regulation winds blowing across Europe and other markets such as the US is the result of the digital transformation in our society, which we have witnessed the past 20 years. We have been arguing for this development ever since Unibet was founded back in 1997, as we could already see where the future development was heading. We have seen similar developments in a range of other industries.

Work life balance at Kindred

A key cornerstone in our long-term strategy is to increase the share of revenue from locally regulated markets, which currently amounts to 43% of GWR (Gross Winnings Revenue) as of the second quarter this year. We are pleased to see that more markets are choosing to adopt a more modern and sustainable local gambling regulation and we are working closely with local authorities to share our expertise and knowledge.

Our most fundamental pillar within Kindred is to offer our customers a great experience in a safe and secure environment. To ensure this, it is crucial that as many players as possible enjoy their gambling within the local license system, i.e. a high channelisation.

Which markets are you looking to make headway in right now and what challenges do they pose?

Our focus has been on Europe and this strategy has not changed. Within Europe, markets such as Sweden and the Netherlands are on the verge of re-regulation, which of course brings with it a lot of opportunities for a leading operator like Kindred. The UK is the world’s largest locally regulated betting market and as such is always a key market for any operator.

Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court overruled the PASPA Act which prohibited online sports betting across all states. The ruling means that states are free to open their markets to online sports betting, which can potentially be a huge market and thus very interesting going forward. As each state in the US is similar in size to a European market, the potential is enormous, but the regulatory complexity is also significant. It is imperative that any operator who is looking at the US knows what they are doing.

Two years ago you rebranded from Unibet to Kindred, was this a stepping stone to embracing a multi-brand strategy? How have things evolved since then?

We have operated a multi-brand strategy ever since we acquired Maria Casino back in 2007, but not fully embraced this until we transformed from Unibet Group to Kindred Group back in December 2016. The transformation is not only manifested in the name change, the entire organisation has adapted to fully capitalise on being a multi-brand organisation.

Meetings at Kindred

The change to Kindred has given us a greater focus on our long- term strategy and increased flexibility to add and remove brands in our portfolio. We have as a result become more agile, focused, and efficient as an organisation, giving our customers a much more relevant and entertaining offering. Adopting a multi-brand strategy has allowed us to create a differentiated proposition for each brand around a specific customer need. This allows us to service our customers with an offering that is truly relevant to them without limiting the broader growth plans for each brand.

What’s the key to improving and establishing the synergy and clarity around a group multi-brand strategy in order to secure continued growth? How have you managed to unite resources across all brands?

Multi-brand success requires three distinct things to thrive and support our growth plans:

The first is a clear understanding of why we have this strategy in place, what it means for our customers and the impact that it has on our ways of working. Having this vision and understanding helps drive the day-to-day decisions to ensure they are the right thing to do over the long-term. It is very easy to get distracted by the urgent needs of the day-to-day activities and forget that the reputation and success of each brand requires a long-term approach.

New office space at Tigne Point

Second is to help colleagues understand the number of brands we have, where they operate, the range of customers they attract but most importantly the differences between the brands. For any multi-brand strategy to flourish it’s important that colleagues understand their responsibilities for delivering the relevant brand promises. They need to know that a Unibet customer has a different expectation than a Vlad Casino or Storspiller customer and all of them must be treated in a way the resonates with that brand.

And third, is in the execution. Brands live and die by the experience they deliver to their customers. At Kindred, we have clearly defined responsibilities of who does what at each stage of the customer journey. We have clarity over the resource allocated to each brand either on priority, growth opportunity or customer value. Having this synergy means we can continue to deliver the right experience for each customer and the right moment in the customer journey.

You recently relocated your old offices to a new, larger space at Tigne Point, Malta. Apart from benefitting the growth of business, the offices offer a lot to your employees too. Can you expand on the importance of having all your Maltese employees under one roof? What is essential to creating the right environment for employee growth?

Since we changed our group name to Kindred we have embarked on a journey to adapt our major office locations to the multi-brand strategy and company values. To date, we have either moved or updated our offices in London, Copenhagen, Gibraltar, Malta and Paris. During the first half of next year, our team in Stockholm will also move into new premises. We can see from internal surveys that having offices that mirror the Kindred brand, culture and values not only improves collaboration, but also raises the feeling of being part of a bigger and common team.

In locations such as Malta and Gibraltar, where we have acquired

Colourful decor at Kindred

businesses, the co-location of teams has been critical in terms of integration and improved efficiency. Getting all teams into the same office has been a key goal and we have pushed hard to ensure we create an inspiring environment for all employees. We also see greater engagement and passion across departments and teams, which is positive across the board.

The office in Malta is located at Tigne Point, with stunning views and a range of benefits such as three complimentary meals prepared fresh seven days a week, a large social area dubbed “The Hub”, yoga classes and access to Pearl Beach Club over the summer months. We also offer generous well-being benefits together with private medical insurance and pension saving scheme to all our employees in Malta. Being able to work in an inspiring environment where teams can easily meet and exchange ideas, as well as live and breathe our values, are critical aspects to help teams and individuals develop. At Kindred you are trusted to grow, and our new office gives you every opportunity to achieve this.

What about future employees? Does your new office space form part of a strategy to give you a competitive edge when it comes to attracting and retaining quality talent?

Absolutely. When we transformed into Kindred we set out five new values, which act as the foundation of our business. These values are reflected in every part of our new office space, however a nice office and great benefits will take you part of the way. Having a sound and healthy culture is the most important aspect to retain talent for any company in any industry. Kindred has always had a great culture – including when we were Unibet Group, which has been manifested from our founder all the way down the organisation.

We are passionate about what we do and about our customers. Giving customers a great experience in a safe and secure environment lies at the very heart of our culture, which rubs off on our employees. Having a strong culture is also critical when acquiring new businesses. Our new Kindred offices help facilitate a ‘one team’ feeling regardless if you have joined from recruitment or through an acquisition.

What do you love most about the industry?

The gambling industry has its challenges in terms of image and perception, but it is an amazing industry with great potential. Very few industries are so progressive in terms of adopting new technology and innovation, very few industries are so aware of what their customers want, and very few industries are growing as quickly. Kindred has always been one of the leaders in this industry and we intend to keep this position by cultivating our strategy on sustainable growth in all markets. We have a great team, a great culture and a great strategy to build on. And we are passionate about what we do as one team.

Can you tell us about what you’re currently focusing on? What are both your long-term and short-term goals?

Our long-term goal is to continue to transform gambling into a fun, safe and secure entertainment industry across locally regulated markets.

Is there anything exciting in the pipeline you can share with us?

The current re-regulation continues to be a key area of focus for the industry, and therefore for Kindred too. Right now, we have the Swedish market re-regulating as of January 2019, and the Dutch market expected to follow in early 2020. The US is also opening up, bringing with it great potential for those operators who enter the market with a sensible and well thought through strategy.

Common to all these markets is the ability to offer customers a relevant and compelling gambling experience in a safe and secure environment. If you get this right, the possibilities are huge. If you get this wrong, the uphill battle will be very challenging.

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