Many people began new jobs in the course of the pandemic. However few, if any, took over an organization throughout lockdown, in the midst of a takeover bid, weeks after the enterprise had introduced a strategic overhaul and rebrand, in an trade beneath heavy strain from regulators.
When Jette Nygaard-Andersen was appointed chief executive of Entain, the London-listed playing group, she had the added problem of succeeding the corporate founder’s chosen successor, Shay Segev, who had solely been within the function seven months.
But the 52-year-old Dane appears unfazed by what others may view as a turbulent appointment.
“Actually I wasn’t anticipating that Shay would resign . . . [but] once you get that decision from the chair you definitely say sure, let’s sit down and have that chat,” she says.
Nygaard-Andersen had served on Entain’s board for simply over a 12 months. Segev resigned to take the top job at sports activities streaming platform DAZN with a a lot larger wage, individuals near the corporate have mentioned. “That decision” got here in the midst of the Christmas break, simply days earlier than the US on line casino group MGM made public an £8bn provide for Entain, which the corporate’s board rejected.
By the point Nygaard-Andersen took up her function in January, MGM, which runs a three way partnership with Entain within the US, had withdrawn their offer. “I knew the circumstance however I additionally knew what a unbelievable future we had as an organization,” Nygaard-Andersen says, hinting that there was a measure of reduction that MGM’s retreat allowed her to deal with broadening Entain’s conventional sports activities betting enterprise into new markets and totally different types of digital leisure.
If MGM returns with one other takeover try within the second half of this 12 months, as many suspect it’ll, it’s “a dialogue for the board and as much as the shareholders”, she says.
Nygaard-Andersen joined Entain, which owns bookmakers Ladbrokes and Coral in addition to the net playing model Bwin, in December 2019 as a non-executive director after an method from a headhunter. With 25 years expertise within the media trade beneath her belt, she was introduced in to form the corporate’s technique and its rebrand from GVC to Entain — an effort to refresh the group after its founder Kenny Alexander, a racehorse-owning playing govt of the old fashioned, stepped down in 2020.
The corporate recognized “4 pillars” for development: its core sports activities betting and playing enterprise, the newly regulated US market, international locations set quickly to legalise betting and new digital merchandise, resembling esports.
Nygaard-Andersen picked up the place Segev left off however with out the luxurious of having the ability to meet colleagues in every of the corporate’s 27 territories.
“I had to make use of what I had, which was my platform, the identical platform I’m chatting with you, so in that approach I needed to assume in a different way,” she says over a video name from her residence in Copenhagen. She determined crucial issues had been good communication and choosing her targets. “While you solely have a digital platform you could be very targeted. I selected two issues. One factor was across the buyer and the opposite was round interactive leisure.”
Traditionally, playing firms haven’t been famend for customer support. Within the UK, an overhaul of the playing legal guidelines is beneath approach following campaigns chastising firms for pursuing and benefiting from addicted clients. She hopes strain to indicate regulators that the trade can present technological options to playing habit via one-on-one interventions whereas clients are enjoying will change how the sector is perceived.
“When you actually begin to consider . . . how we’re utilizing our expertise to allow that personalised safety for every single participant then you’ll realise that we’re extra superior than many different industries are,” she says.
Entain has developed a programme known as “Advance Accountability and Care”. It makes use of synthetic intelligence to flag problematic playing behaviour and ship prompts to gamblers to cease as soon as they attain sure thresholds. The corporate has put £20m in direction of accountable playing, although campaigners say that is little for a corporation that reported earnings earlier than tax, curiosity, depreciation and amortisation of £843m final 12 months.
Nygaard-Andersen says the funding is greater than that when the time that has gone into bettering Entain’s platform is included. She admits she learnt the arduous approach about placing the client first. In 2012, she launched a streaming platform known as Viaplay whereas working at MTG, a Swedish media firm. Then Netflix got here alongside. Whereas Viaplay had “an enormous suite” of content material and good expertise, it lacked the US firm’s “deep understanding of the buyer expertise”.
Nygaard-Andersen argues that after 22 consecutive quarters of double digit on-line development, Entain could possibly be classed together with “the Netflixes and the Pelotons and the Facebooks of the world”, however she says with the intention to stay there it should keep forward of technological change and its impression on client behaviour.
The Entain boss makes use of streaming as an analogy for her motive to push the playing firm into different areas of leisure. The transfer from the late Nineteen Nineties when phone-in gameshows had been the extent of interactive TV to on-demand streaming has been speedy, she factors out. “We’d like to consider how am I related in 5 years and the way will I proceed to be related in 10 years, and that’s what is driving the considering round interactive leisure and new areas.”
Three questions for Jette Nygaard-Andersen
Who’s your management hero?
It might be Malala [Yousafzai]. She is vastly inspiring and as a human rights advocate specializing in schooling for girls and youngsters around the globe that actually performs again to my perception that if we’re actually going to alter the actually large challenges we face as a globe it begins with ensuring that everybody will get an excellent schooling.
What would you be doing if you weren’t CEO of Entain?
I’d most likely do the identical factor in one other trade. I thrive in precisely the place I’m proper now: the place we have now alternatives to develop within the trade, alternatives to innovate, alternatives to increase on our platform and actually evolve as a enterprise.
What’s your most essential management lesson?
I feel that the primary one is to hear and be open minded. That can be the toughest one, proper, however there’s a motive we have now two ears and one mouth. One which I’ve thought so much about in the course of the pandemic is I need to lead via context and never via management. Which means you set the context for the place you need to go, you give your groups all the knowledge they should make good choices and that has been essential in the course of the pandemic when you find yourself not on the bottom.
Entain has recruited 2,000 individuals into its expertise group over the previous 14 months, tripling it in measurement, and is piloting a digital actuality “sports activities membership” with Verizon Media later within the 12 months. The corporate can be working to mix statistics and evaluation of sports activities matches into its reside video streams and is exploring an entry into the fast-growing esports sector, which Nygaard-Andersen has been concerned with since 2015.
This week, Entain will maintain a capital markets day, permitting its chief govt to flesh out her plans. As one in every of solely two girls on the head of a big sports activities betting group — the opposite is Denise Coates, founding father of Bet365 — Nygaard-Andersen says she additionally needs to push the playing trade into one other unfamiliar space: recruiting and educating extra girls.
Entain’s expertise workforce is 30 per cent feminine, roughly double the sector common and it has donated $250,000 to Girls Who Code, a not-for-profit organisation that helps girls into the tech industries. In February, the corporate launched a coaching scheme via the College of Nevada to encourage extra girls to work within the sector.
There is a component of self-interest, after all: “I firmly imagine to be the very best in our trade and obtain our ambitions we have to have the very best expertise, interval,” Nygaard-Andersen says.
And being the very best just isn’t one thing the Danish govt, who gave up enjoying the online game Counter Strike as a result of she was not quick sufficient, takes frivolously. “I wish to win,” she says. “I actually wish to win.”