More than 100 jobs are to be created at Solihull-based LaSer UK after the firm struck a deal with Asda to launch the country’s first supermarket cashback credit card.
The partnership is likely to see the creation of a further 100-plus jobs at the store card specialist for the retail sector to service the Asda contract over its five-year lifespan.
The new jobs will be created at the company’s Solihull call centre where it will manage customer services for the card.
Chief executive Stephen Hunt said: “What you will see with the Asda business over the next few months is that we will be taking on at least 100 extra people to service that account.
“We are currently in the launch phase but headcount will increase by about 100. And over the life of the programme with Asda – set to be five years – we will see the volume of people we need to service that increase by about another 100.
“The Asda project will probably double the size of our card business in the UK and gives the opportunity to create new jobs.”
The Asda deal represents the latest step in a phase of rapid growth for LaSer UK both in terms of business and jobs and Mr Hunt said at least one other big deal was in the pipeline.
It currently employs around 500 people at its Solihull town centre site and another 200 in Belfast, with at least 200 jobs created over the last three to four years.
Although many of the new jobs will be created in LaSer UK’s Solihull call centre Mr Hunt said he was keen to get away from the negative associations such roles sometimes have.
“A lot of roles are within the customer service area,” he said. “And one of the things I have been very keen on is trying to make people aware that working for a call centre doesn’t have to be a negative thing.
“We’ve invested quite a lot in the environment, training and working with the community to try and create a good environment to come to work.
“One of the things I wanted to see when we took people on was that eventually we would see people moving on around the business.
“We have had people who have moved into marketing, finance and even into the legal area.
“It is important for us as an employer to show people there are opportunities in the organisation no matter what role you come into.”
Asda has joined a host of household names working with LaSer UK that includes Flybe, Dell, Sony, Selfridges & Co, Dixons Retail, Sharps, DFS, Dreams and Ultralase.
Though the firm has a new name, it has actually been around for almost 40 years, beginning in 1973 as the financial services arm of Selfridges. It eventually became SearsCard, with its primary function to provide store card facilities for retail companies within the Sears Group.
Reflecting on its growth during the recession, Mr Hunt said: “We were able to be a very stable business through the downturn and despite the downturn we were able to attract new business to us.
“This comes after three or four years of growth for us, during which we have pretty much doubled the size of the business and that is through working with major retailers with instalment loans”
The Asda card partnership, a project that has been in development for nine months, represents a major new step for LaSer UK though, as Mr Hunt explained.
He said: “For us it is something as a business we have been aiming at for the past five or six years – to work with a major UK retailer to develop their company branded credit card.
“We saw the opportunity to grow that side of our business.”
The firm’s ability to land the deal and create further similar partnerships rests on what Mr Hunt said was experience of working with major retailers and the ability to reflect their brand values.
“We’re very much focused on the retail sector, we understand retailers and understand what is important to them,” he said. “We make sure products we deliver reflect the brands of partners and that helps us stand out over others in the market. It’s a partnership and that’s what it is all about.”
Mr Hunt said people were often surprised at just how much work the firm did. Last year it wrote around £16 billion worth of finance, a figure that is set to grow still further.
In the short term he said the firm would be focusing on consolidating its partnership with Asda, a tie-up he described as “exciting”.