GTT just keeps on growing

24 October 2018 | Natalie Bannerman

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Gina Nomellini, chief marketing officer, GTT, speaks to Natalie Bannerman about the integration of its acquisitions, its plans for further expansion and her advice for the next generation of women in telecoms

2018 has been a year of great growth and expansion for GTT. This year alone the company has completed the acquisitions of Custom Connect, Interoute, Accelerated Connections (ACI) and most recently Access Point. Such change requires an agile and dynamic management team able to meet the meet the large task GTT has ahead.

A not too unfamiliar sight, on the GTT senior management team page of its website, I find only one woman’s name listed in a sea of men.  Gina Nomellini, GTT’s chief marketing officer, is that one woman, who joined the GTT family when One Source Networks was acquired by the company in 2015.

Now faced with the mammoth task of integrating all of GTT’s new purchases into one cohesive brand I spoke to her about the company’s most recent announcements and its plans for further growth.

M&A growth

In September, the company announced plans to upgrade its fibre network in central and eastern Europe to enhance the diversity, scalability and performance of its Tier 1 global IP network footprint for customers in the region. In addition to upgrading routes between GTT points of presence (PoP) locations in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey, we are also adding a diverse, low latency route from Budapest to Sofia.

Nomellini is keen to stress that the network upgrade has no direct relationship to the Interoute acquisition as it was in action before the deal was completed.

She explains: “This upgrade project commenced prior to the closing of the Interoute acquisition and was completed post-close. As a pan-European network operator, Interoute was known for its expansive network reach into the Central and Eastern Europe region and we continue to view this region as an important market for GTT.”  

There is a strong curiosity surrounding GTT and its recent acquisitive activity, with many in the industry wondering how the company has been able to afford all its purchases and still have such strong financial results. In May, GTT confirmed that reached $1 billion in annualised revenues. But Nomellini says that its acquisitions have directly contributed toward its revenue growth.

Nomellini adds: “During the last 12 months alone, we have completed six acquisitions and we are well-positioned to meet our next revenue objective of $2 billion by early next year. Clients acquired through this M&A activity benefit from the expansive network reach and broad portfolio of network services offered by GTT. Therefore, each acquisition is typically an upsell opportunity for us.” 

In total GTT has completed 30 acquisitions over the last 10 years but two of the biggest over the last 12 months has undoubtedly been its $2.3 billion purchase of Interoute and its buyout of ACI for an undisclosed sum. The ACI deal was completed back in March and Nomellini says that integration of the business is complete while the Integration of Interoute is “on-track” in all aspects.

 “We have completed the organisational integration and have announced our leadership teams across each of the divisions and support organisations,” she explains. “We have integrated our networks and will continue to rationalise PoPs in the core IP network to realise further synergies. We have also loaded Interoute client data onto the GTT client management database system, a key milestone for any of our integrations.

Though all seems to be going well in the integration front, Nomellini is keen to stress that “all integrations have challenges” and that they expect that mistakes will be made in the process, “but we practice vigilance to self-correct quickly and minimise any impact on our clients.”

Culturally she says that Interoute and GTT share common cultural values because of their heritage of challenging the incumbents. 

“Together our disruptive force in the market is even greater. Already, the entire company meets each week for 30 minutes on a video conference bridge to learn about an aspect of the business and listen to our CEO, Rick Calder,” she adds.

New teams and divisions

Speaking of new divisions and leadership teams, Martin Ford and Jesper Aagaard were recently named as heads of new UK and Europe business divisions respectively. The new UK division includes Ireland, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific, while Europe is comprised of mainland Europe including central and eastern Europe.

The decision to separate the former Europe division into Europe and the UK, Nomellini says was done to align sales with key functions that impact the client experience. These include quoting, ordering, service delivery, billing, and overall client account management. 

“GTT created two divisions in Europe to keep the local market orientation of our sales operations aligned,” she explains. “We are also considerably larger now in Europe - combining Interoute with legacy GTT – and creating divisions for UK and Europe balances our organisation based on revenue and resources.”

Unlike some who think that not enough is being done to encourage more women into telecoms, Nomellini has more of an optimistic view, it’s just a matter of staying the course.

“We have some terrific women leaders in telecom, including women who have highly distinguished records as CEOs. If the industry stays on a course of recruiting the best talent with equal opportunity and consideration, I believe we are well poised to continue to cultivate outstanding women leaders,” she says.

As for advice for the next cohort of female telecoms leaders, she identifies two key thoughts: firstly, pick a strong role mode. Also, assert confidence in your ability to rise to a leadership position.

“Our industry has a great track record of rewarding performance. If you have the dedication, drive, and good leadership qualities, the telecom market affords great opportunities for career advancement,” adds Nomellini.

What’s next for GTT?

Emerging technologies and business diversification seems to be the growing trend among telcos. SD-WAN, automation, artificial intelligence (AI), machine-to-machine (M2M), 5G and the internet of things (IoT) are all popular buzzwords that to be explored, but GTT is honing in one in particular moving forward and that’s SD-WAN.

“As GTT has a limited base of legacy MPLS services, SD-WAN plays perfectly into our disruptive approach to serving the market with innovative, cost-effective cloud networking solutions,” says Nomellini. “We have unique assets and capabilities to capture a significant share of the SD-WAN market, which includes one of the largest Tier 1 global IP networks, the broadest array of access options and last-mile partners, and extensive experience as a provider of managed services.”

Interesting however, in the June/July issue if Capacity Magazine GTT CEO Rick Calder was quoted as saying: “Intelligent automation and visibility for a CIO of its network will be a huge area of innovation over the coming years, particularly with the vendor community. It’s an area we haven’t played deeply in directly but we’re thinking about how we can,” indicating that company was potentially moving more heavily into automation.

Nomellini says that the company is continuously innovating with networking technologies, which ultimately benefit end user clients in terms of improved security, performance and cost efficiencies and that AI and machine learning play a big part in that.

“We see an opportunity to implement intelligent networking functionality that enables more efficient routing of traffic based on a global view to the network typology versus router-to-router pathways. This will also improve failover capability and network visibility.”

Both SD-WAN and automation all play into GTT’s wider goal of supporting its enterprise and carrier clients with their business transformation. But unlike incumbent carriers that are concentrating their investment resources on the consumer, mobile, and media sectors, GTT is focused on cloud networking services.

“Many of our industry peers that have also expanded through M&A activity are encumbered with disparate legacy systems that undermine the client experience,” says Nomellini. “GTT lives by the values of simplicity, speed, and agility, which is reflected in our approach to delivering solutions for our clients. Many of our clients are contending with complexity, therefore we aim to eliminate the complexity.”

In the same June/July issue of Capacity Magazine Calder was also quoted as saying: “We’re more focused in the Americas and Europe in the short-run, I wouldn’t say that we would never do something in Asia-Pacific”, leading me to wonder whether or not GTT was planning for any expansion into Asia. But as ever Nomellini remains ambiguous, neither confirming not denying my suspicions, leaving the door open for any potential opportunities.

“The Americas and Europe are the clear geographic focus of our business and we see substantial opportunity to expand our scale and market presence in these two regions,” she answers. “But the essence of GTT’s proposition is to securely and diversely connect clients to any location in the world and any application in the cloud. Many clients rely on us to serve their connectivity requirements in the Asia-Pacific region and I expect we will continue to expand that capability over time, whether through organic initiatives or M&A.”

The GTT team will no doubt have their work cut out for them over the coming months and well into 2019. Despite Nominelli’s belief that the company now has the network assets and product capabilities to compete with some of the most established players in the market, she says that GTT “will continue to seek opportunities to expand our market presence and scale, deepening our penetration in key vertical markets, broadening our network reach, and enhancing our capabilities”.

As previously mentioned SD-WAN will be a clear focus for the company moving forward as GTT continues to build on its platform to “bring next generation virtualised services that improve network agility and efficiency for our clients.”

At this point, the future looks very promising for GTT, as Nomellini that it is on track to meet its next financial goal well ahead of the original target timeframe, whatever the stage is, don’t bank on it slowing down any time soon.