Powershop’s Mark Soper sealed one of the sector’s largest international deals in 2015, with the license of its digital platform and brand to RWE npower.
Powershop’s key international goal for 2015 was to be the first New Zealand energy retailer to secure a major utility partner in the Northern Hemisphere. Germany-based RWE is the third-largest utility in Europe with almost 30 million customers and $38 billion in annual operating profit.
Soper, as Powershop’s Head of Strategy and Corporate Development, was responsible for identifying opportunities to expand Powershop’s value proposition into new international markets.
The company offers a subscription-based franchise model, the development of which was overseen by Soper. It targets rapid overseas growth and enables the Powershop platform to lift easily into international markets. The agreement includes use of the technology platform, brand, trademarks and marketing collateral, as well access to intellectual property developed in New Zealand. Powershop also provides support in creating a customer-led culture.
Soper began analysing the UK market opportunity in 2014, with sights on its ‘big six’ energy retailers, all of which had high levels of customer dissatisfaction.
He fronted negotiations with RWE in the UK, and hosted their due diligence process in New Zealand. Powershop UK is set to launch in early 2017. Powershop views the deal as an opening to further expansion in the Northern Hemisphere.
Now promoted to General Manager, Soper is focused on establishing a leadership culture within Powershop that allows it to scale domestically.
Retail and development were originally integrated as one arm of the business. With the firm’s international expansion, Soper has now established a dedicated retail office in Wellington. The retail team has grown significantly to focus on core New Zealand business activities: selling electricity and maintaining a high level of customer service.
In order to build an active leadership pipeline, Soper has created career incentives for top New Zealand employees, which has included promoting New Zealanders into global roles and offering more senior opportunities to young employees.
He personally advocates for staff, and stepped-in to secure approval for Powershop’s latest marketing campaign – featuring children dressed as Donald Trump – which had more than a million Facebook views.
Raised on a farm in Southland, Soper approaches his responsibilities and interactions in a direct, unthreatening manner; he convinced one executive on an unlikely deal while wearing jandals.
He has a reputation for refusing to accept the status quo, which is well-suited to Powershop’s expansion goals. Despite scepticism that incumbents in large energy markets wouldn’t be interested in changing the way they operate, the Powershop-npower deal represents the first weightless digital export for the New Zealand energy sector.
The Young Energy Professional of the Year award category is sponsored by ABB