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Headlines > Commercial Services

UDG slims down services business into single unit

By Fiona Barry +

04-Feb-2014
Last updated on 04-Feb-2014 at 17:57 GMT

Pharmaceutical services provider UDG Healthcare (formerly United Drug) announced today the integration of its sales, marketing and medical service divisions into one group, named Ashfield.

The change affects the segments Ashfield In2Focus, Business Edge, Pharmexx, InforMed, Watermeadow Medical, Pharma Marketing Academy and Universal WorldEvents.

Gareth Davies, Global Marketing Director for Ashfield, told Outsourcing-Pharma.com the integration was a response to UDG’s growth. “We’ve made 16 acquisitions in 14 years – including six in the last two years.

Until last year we kept them running as they were, integrating them a bit but essentially keeping the old formula going.

But the business had become unwieldy, he said, as different brand teams within UDG would pitch separately to the same customers.

He gave the example of Universal WorldEvents, a UDG division now known as Ashfield Meetings & Events.

In the past, that team would have pitched without mentioning we also do investigator meetings.

The same went for United Drug’s medical communications businesses, Watermeadow, iMed, QXV and Infusion, now working under the umbrella Ashfield Communications.

As we started looking at who we were working with – client A in our meetings and events business, and client A again in our communications business,” the company decided restructuring would make it “a more valuable partner,” Davies told us, adding this realisation was accelerated by UDG’s acquisition of Pharmexx in 2012 .

12 months’ prep

Today’s announcement is the culmination of changes begun a year ago, Davies told us.

In 2013, UDG created a divisional board led by Chris Corbin to which heads of the various boards reported once a month.

The company also appointed regional presidents of North America, and of Europe and South America, “to pave the way” for integration and the businesses’ official restructuring.

Davies gave the example of a European biotech developing and producing innovative therapies, which recently engaged United Drug to organise a standalone meeting for more than 300 international delegates.

To get the contract – which included included scientific content, delegate engagement and logistics – two UDG divisions worked in collaboration: Ashfield Meetings and Events and QXV (part of the Ashfield Healthcare Communications Group).

We won business as a result of the internal collaborations,” said Davies, “especially in Germany, the US and the UK. We also heard from clients ‘I didn’t realise you did all of these things.’”

‘More acquisitions’

The new alliances mean that several contracts with a client have been reduced to one, and only a single project manager is now needed for commissions which might have previously taken four. But Davies said the company had not reduced jobs, only reallocated resources.

There is an efficiency that we pass on to the client, but it hasn’t been designed to be a cost-saving initiative.

The integrated approach has so far led to business growth, the marketing director claimed, especially in North America where 300 staff has grown to 700 in two years. UDG will build a new US head office in Pennsylvania, and the company expects further expansion in the near future, he told us.

The division integration brought together a broad range of knowledge, said Davies, but he denied the company was making plans for a divestiture:

Not at all. We’re really focused on continued organic growth, in Europe in particular where we think there will be more outsourcing.

We’ve set up a business in Japan [a sales company in partnership with contract research organisation CMIC] – we’ve got capability in South America. We’re looking at emerging markets and more acquisitions.” 

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