In Greek mythology, Eos is the Titan goddess of the dawn – and what better figurehead for a deals consultancy with plans to cast a new light on a tradition-bound industry? “We wanted a feminine touch, and this is a new beginning for us and for our new industry,” says Ina Kjaer, co-founder of Eos Deal Advisory.

Having left KPMG at the start of 2019, Kjaer and Eos co-founder Maggie Brereton are determined to create a new kind of consultancy that serves the needs of a transforming industry and is open to as diverse a range of talent as possible.

The pair launched Eos in October with the promise of offering a different way of doing complex deals and carve-outs – where sections of companies are sold off to private equity or large corporates – and one that’s focused on future value rather than immediate profit.

It’s a bold ambition, and one that these women believe in passionately. “Only about a third of deals actually deliver value,” says Kjaer. “We want to disrupt our industry and do something really different. The world has changed enormously in 20 years – politically, economically, technologically – but our industry hasn’t. We looked at our competitors and concluded that none of them were ready for that change. But the clients we spoke to are.”

The knowledge that there are clients – both past and potential – ready and waiting for the service they can provide has given the pair the confidence to push forward. “What’s really surprised us is that clients aren’t happy with the advice they’re getting,” says Kjaer. “They want better opinions, stronger opinions, quicker opinions. We have clients who go back 20 years, but we also have people we never met before who are intrigued by the change in the industry.”

Eyes wide open

What makes their approach different is unifying the two ends of a deal: having a single team working on pre- and post-deal transactions, utilising their complementary specialisms. “I’m predominantly in the pre-deal space of doing the diligence, working with the client to get the deal done, looking at synergies, value creation,” says Brereton. “Ina is predominantly in post-deal, delivering on that deal, whether it be an integration or separation. That post-deal experience being brought into the pre-deal space gives a better picture of the risks and opportunity. It lowers the uncertainty over the value that you expect from that deal. But it’s not standard practice within our industry.

Ina Kjaer and Maggie Brereton, founders of Eos.

“What we bring to the clients is what we call ‘eyes wide open’,” adds Brereton. “We’re bringing different people with different experience into the room, thinking about what’s important for the client to give that wide-as-possible view on how we’re going to make this deal successful. It’s not just about financial due diligence, tax, pensions – it’s giving a view on the target operating model, on how you’re going to deliver those synergies rather than benchmarking and theoretical hypotheses.”

As a start-up, Eos is agile enough to make this happen. “There is no bureaucracy. There are no complicated processes, no conflicts. Our main focus is the client,” says Brereton.

Culture club

Against the backdrop of the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship – which in March highlighted the barriers faced by women starting businesses, and how to unlock untapped talent – Kjaer and Brereton have created an employment model free from the shackles imposed by historic pay grades and a culture of a 60-hour working week. In a sector where the gender pay gap frequently hits 20%, Eos’s is zero, and flexible working is the norm. Kjaer and Brereton’s hope is to open the door to everyone, doing away with working practices that keep diverse talent on the outside.

“We spoke to culture and organisation experts as we were designing Eos. Everybody told us the same thing: culture comes from the top,” says Kjaer. “Having us there pushing the right values will determine the culture of the business. We’re changing the way we work with clients but also the way we work with our employees. We can end unnecessary hours and unnecessary bureaucracy, use AI to do the manual labour and free up time for people to spend thinking about solutions for their clients, and to spend time away from work.”

The response we’ve had since we launched has been overwhelmingly positive. We’re pushing on an open door, both in the market and with individuals who want to work in a different way

Ina Kjaer, co-founder, Eos Deal Advisory

It’s an unusual approach in a high-pressure industry, but they believe the business will reap the benefits. “It’s about different people with different ideas being able to access the market,” says Brereton. “We saw a lot of wasted talent because of the barriers that are put up. If you break those down, you’ll bring that talent back in, and that will be better for industry as a whole.”

By the strength of the applications they’ve received, it’s clear that talent wants in. Eos has made job offers to more than 10 people already and is expanding further. “We’re just at the start of our journey. Our ambition is to be a credible global competitor,” states Brereton. “If you’re going to do the more complex deals, most of those have a global element. Therefore, to be able to serve our clients, we need to have that global footprint. We have very ambitious plans in terms of growth and moving into other countries.”

Thinking big

No matter how large they grow, they have no intention of falling into the outdated patterns of big business. “There’s obviously a risk of that, but the whole ethos of setting up Eos is about how we serve our clients, how we change and disrupt this industry,” insists Kjaer.

“Everybody we take on should believe in changing the business model. The response we’ve had since we launched has been overwhelmingly positive. We’re pushing on an open door, both in the market and with individuals who want to work in a different way.”

Central to their success will be the strategic application of technology. “Technology is as an enabler to working differently and to bringing better and deeper opinions to our clients quicker,” says Brereton. “Many people who have joined us have a significant number of years of experience. We want to codify that experience and put machine learning underneath it. We’re democratising our knowledge.”

Data analytics will play an important role. “We want to utilise the available data in a relevant and efficient way – because that’s what deals are really about, getting insight as quickly as possible and with as much certainty as possible,” says Brereton. “In the industry, technology is not being used in the way that it could be. It’s not only the framework for how to do a deal, but offers specific tools for automation, for bringing different views to our clients, and for allowing a more senior team to sit with them.”

A new dawn is coming, built on new technology, new approaches to deal making, and a newly diverse workforce – and Eos will be at the forefront.

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