Case study

Helping the next generation sustain an entrepreneurial spirit

Steve and James Rigby are driving the growth of the family enterprise that their father founded nearly 50 years ago – with support from EY teams.

The better the question

How does a family-owned global IT giant transform at speed?

Powerful new technologies, along with evolving customer behaviors, are driving growth.


Rigby Group is one of the UK’s most successful family businesses, with annual revenues of more than £3.8 billion and a workforce of over 9,000 people. It is also one of the largest 500 family businesses globally, according to the 2023 EY and University of St.Gallen Family Business Index. Since 1975, the group has flourished as a business operator and investor, specializing in the technology sector. Its long, proud history began when founder Sir Peter Rigby set up an IT recruitment consultancy.

Over time, Rigby Group has grown into a multinational company with a diverse range of business interests. Its main trading company, SCC, provides tech products and services to large organizations, and it owns other tech and non-tech businesses. Sir Peter is the group’s chairman, while his sons, Steve and James Rigby, oversee daily operations as co-CEOs. The pair are determined to lead the business with the same entrepreneurial zest as their father, pursuing ambitious growth strategies while holding true to the group’s values of agility, customer first, passion, responsibility and — crucially — family.

“The tenets of this business that I set at the beginning continue to be followed today,” explains Sir Peter. “It is 100% family owned. We look after our people, and we are philanthropic. Also, one of my qualities, which I’ve hopefully passed on to my sons, is the ability to see the big picture and to see the opportunities.”

Chris Romans, EY Private and Midlands Tax Leader, has been a trusted business advisor to the Rigby Group for several years. Over time, the EY teams served as collaborative advisors on tax, law, and valuation. As the company has pursued acquisitions to achieve growth and leadership in the technology sector, the EY teams have worked closely with the Rigby family, providing tax structuring advice and supporting the group in accomplishing its business objectives while helping to secure the future of the family.

SCC is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Rigby Group, constituting around 85% of its revenues. It operates in the UK, continental Europe and southeast Asia. In addition to being a value-added reseller and a managed service provider, SCC provides digital transformation services, working strategically with clients to modernize their digital applications. “What we do is really important for organizations’ success,” says James. “And we’re doing that day in, day out, for hundreds of large companies and the public sector.”

Today, the big opportunity for Rigby Group is adapting at speed to the acute transformation underway in the technology sector. This is being driven by the emergence of powerful technologies such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as changing customer expectations and behaviors. “SCC is helping companies to become more modern, more secure, more efficient and more ‘green’,” James explains. “But, without doubt, what’s going to drive growth for our industry is AI. Every customer wants to talk to us about the art of the possible there.”

Steve describes the current era as a “particularly complicated time for the technology sector”, but he believes Rigby Group is well-placed to navigate, and capitalize on, these complications. Through its investment arm, Rigby Technology Investments (RTI), the group acquires promising technology companies, builds and nurtures those companies, and then sells them to reinvest in new business opportunities.

The EY teams have assisted Rigby Group in making strategic choices on critical investment and divestment decisions.

As a business, we’re not risk-averse. We take on big projects, for big corporations, and achieve big outcomes. And we are driving the business; the business isn’t driving us.
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The better the answer

Transforming at speed while seizing new opportunities

To capitalize on this era of rapid change, Rigby Group is investing in dynamic tech businesses.


The company has a long record of making strategic acquisitions. This has accelerated with its investments in dynamic, fast-growing tech businesses that are the game changers of tomorrow. Rigby Group has shown keen expertise in unlocking the potential of these organizations to deliver long-term sustainable growth.


The EY teams have supported the Rigby Group in optimizing their “buy and build” strategy. Steve describes the EY teams as one of Rigby Group’s key transactional partners, since they’ve supported the Group through several complex transactions.


Chris says, “EY teams have assisted Rigby Group on several acquisitions and disposals as it pursues its long-term desire to be global leaders in technology. Where we have added value is in the discussion around transactions aligned to their strategy.”


He explains, “When Steve said he was thinking about exiting from one of their businesses, we put a team together to work with him to explore his thinking along with the goal he wanted to achieve. We concluded that it wasn't the right solution. Instead, we supported them on a separate disposal that achieved what the Group wanted to do. So, it's the idea of thinking wider than just the question you're asked.”


Additionally, Chris has helped to establish share incentive schemes for Rigby Group, to incentivize senior leaders and family members to support the growth and exit of businesses as part of the overall growth strategy.


“Business is lonely at times and in a family business you sometimes don’t want to discuss all matters with the family,” Steve explains. “Sometimes you want to form your ideas first and have an intelligent proposition rather than verbalizing unformed thoughts. So, I have a very small group of people I turn to for advice – and Chris is one of those people. I want experts around me to ensure that we achieve the best result.”


When Rigby Group acquired Nuvias, an IT distribution business, in 2015, it embarked on further acquisitions to build its cloud and cybersecurity capabilities and expand its distribution internationally. EY tax teams worked with the company to do the structuring for the Nuvias sale, which included a complex carve out of one of the businesses and structuring the disposal of Nuvias, and subsequent reinvestment into the purchasing group.  As a result of the transaction, Rigby Group achieved its first exit worth more than £100m while also taking advantage of the opportunity to reinvest.


“We tend to seek professional advice on many of the key topics as we start to examine strategy,” says Steve. “EY teams have been at the heart of that, with some key individuals that focus around transactions and taxation. EY teams have helped us through some complex decisions around not only disposing businesses, but starting up businesses, long-term remuneration for key employees, and general tax planning for what has become quite a complicated family business, including the affairs that sit above the family business into the areas of trust. So, EY teams have become very much a trusted advisor to us during this time. “


Steve’s advice for other family enterprises looking to get the best out of their professional advisors is to “right-size the advice” – in other words, go with an advisor that has a scale appropriate to the size of the family enterprise and the extent of its vision. Also, he recommends finding advisors that you can build a strong personal relationship with, as well as taking multiple pieces of advice in complex situations.



Family ties


Rigby Group is a rare example of a very large, privately held technology company that has stayed in business for a long time. So, what’s the secret to its success?


Sir Peter has been a force in the business ever since it started, and his daily presence continues to motivate and inspire to this day. “He gives time to people,” says James. “And people see that. He’ll talk to the teams in the warehouse, and on the sales floor, just as much as he’ll talk to a government minister. He’s still very involved.”


Steve describes his father as a “big inspiration”, but a “tough taskmaster”. “I’m really, really proud of what he achieved,” he says. “There were other entrepreneurs of his generation who were also doing well, yet he outpaced them with his work. While they were enjoying the trappings of life that came from having a very successful business, my father kept his head down and pedaled very, very hard. That’s a significant factor in where we are today as an organization.”


As for Sir Peter himself, he describes his sons as the best thing ever to happen to him and is proud of what they have achieved. “I set high standards and I expect my sons to step up to those standards,” he says. “And they absolutely do.”


According to James, much of Rigby Group’s success can be attributed to its people, culture and family-led operating structure. “As a family, we have created a culture of hard work, entrepreneurialism, experimentation, accountability and performance,” he says. “And our 9,000 colleagues are essential to our success. Also, as a private company, we’ve been able to take long-term, thought-through decisions, stay in control of our own destiny, and preserve capital for the future development of the business.” 


Through its core operating business, SCC, as well as its investments in dynamic, fast-growing tech businesses, Rigby Group has also been very successful at anticipating and responding to disruptive market trends, including cloud technology, cyber resilience, and data analytics. Today, the Rigby Group and EY teams are continuing to work together to make sure the Rigby Group is strategically placed to take advantage of the huge explosion of interest in AI.  “AI is widely billed as the most disruptive technology for decades and we absolutely subscribe to that prediction,” says James. “For our group, it means a huge opportunity. Companies will need lots of help to work out how to deploy and consume AI technology.”


Between them, Steve and James have six children of their own, so their priority is to ensure that Rigby Group continues to flourish as a family-owned business. With their father, they have established a family council that brings together the three generations to discuss what that future might look like. The focus is on family cohesion, happiness, respect for what the family has built, and respect for the communities where its business operates.

College Students Studying Computer Design In Classroom

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Family enterprises take a long-term view and give back to society

Rigby Group is targeting net zero by 2040 and investing in health and lifelong learning.


Family enterprises are critically important to both the global economy and society, according to Steve. “They typically take a longer-term view than other businesses,” he says. “And they want to give back to society. They want to pay taxes, employ people and support their communities.”


Chris points to his experience with the Rigby Group. “What really stands out for me in the Rigby Group is the family behind it. Their ambition and strategy have been incredible in driving their growth over the years. But behind all that is always about giving back to the community.”


Rigby Group’s long-term perspective is evident in its approach to sustainability. It has set a target to achieve net zero by 2040 and has established Project Sequoia, an initiative to track its progress against this target. The group is also focused on ensuring that it has gender and racial diversity within its business.


To give back to society and support the community, Sir Peter established the Rigby Foundation in 1992. The Foundation operates on the principle that success in business goes hand-in-hand with giving back to society and communities. It supports a wide range of charitable causes including lifelong learning, cancer care, children’s mental health, and training for aviation professionals. During 2023, the Group pledged £2m to the Foundation. “It’s very much in the DNA of the business to have this philanthropic approach,” says Sir Peter. “And the way we’ve structured our giving means it will be there as long as the company exists.”


More recently, the Foundation launched the SCC Academy to tackle the issue of digital poverty. The West Midlands-based academy is one of the first employer-led training hubs in the UK and has already equipped over 500 people with vital digital skills. “In a world that's moving at a fast technological pace, you’re totally disadvantaged if you haven't got IT skills,” explains Sir Peter. “So, as an IT business, we’re introducing people to technology. I think our charitable efforts in the future will be heavily geared to education and to helping people gain digital knowledge and skills.”


Rigby Group is a forward-looking business, led by a forward-looking family. By navigating the challenges of the current economic environment, the group plans to pursue an ambitious business strategy of growth and innovation, while preserving the dynamic, entrepreneurial spirit that has underpinned its success to date.

James believes that, as a leadership team, the family benefits from being able to make fast decisions while taking a long-term perspective. “We get some things wrong, we get some things right,” he says. “But that’s OK because we’re on the journey together.”


“As a business, we’re not risk-averse,” concludes Sir Peter. “We take on big projects, for big corporations, and achieve big outcomes. And we are driving the business; the business isn’t driving us.”

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