A Manchester tech firm is using data to drive the evolution of the energy market after signing deals with four of the Big Six energy companies.

UD Group provides online portals which suppliers and brokers can use to deliver the best deals to customers, based on their usage, and register new clients.

One of the firms it is working with is npower but the other three cannot be named publicly. The other five large suppliers are British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Scottish Power and SSE.

Chief technical officer Andy Calvert said UD Group simplifies complex processes to the benefit of everyone.

“The Big Six are just behemoth in getting things done,” he told BusinessCloud. “Our platform uses technologies, APIs, to streamline processes such as getting a quote.

“Traditionally this takes a long time, with a lot of paperwork going back and forth – maybe two weeks. UD Group bolts a load of technology on to do this in two minutes.

“Our analytics can then provide knowledge of what’s going on in the marketplace. Where are the trends? Where are the better deals coming from?

“One of the Big Six might say ‘we’re missing a trick – we need to target our deals differently’.”

Calvert’s success in scaling Cloud Affinity and iCritical, companies he founded, saw him join UD Group in December with a brief to develop its disruptive software as it targets international expansion.

The firm, founded in 2009 as a true bedroom start-up, employs around 40 people in Northenden, south of Manchester, and expects to grow that number to 50 by the end of the year.

It recently doubled its office space.

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UD Group office

As well as delivering 24-hour support to clients through the cloud, Calvert says UD Group’s agility is a key part of its offering to large suppliers.

“They have their own digital teams but they rely on us because we have the flexibility to move fast and cut through the red tape that is inherent in that Big Six,” he said.

“To begin with, we’ll create an off-the-shelf portal so they can achieve three basic things. They’ll then ask us to incorporate things like Experian credit checking and video analytics. They might compare customer journeys and customise those.”

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Such agility is crucial for suppliers looking to comply with Ofgen regulations due to come into force on June 1st.

“Suppliers will have to provide all their prices to customers,” explained Calvert. “Because they cannot move fast enough, they turn to us and ask for our help. We’ve got a lot of that code already in place so we can sort that for them.”

UD Group is hopeful of securing a fifth Big Six supplier, and this year announced the addition of water to its portfolio by signing a deal with the largest supplier Water Plus, formed out of a merger between United Utilities and Severn Trent.

It is now working with several water companies.

“We can just slot energy out of our platform and put in water,” said Calvert.

“Brokers are telling us that it makes sense to make water part of the package: it’s a new revenue stream for the brokers and more information to feed into the analytics.

“We are also about to enter the American and Western European markets.”

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