Oxygen Finance

Leadership Profile: Libby Daniels and The Growth of Early Payment

The growth of the early payment programmes that Oxygen operate has been remarkable. Over the last seven years the number of early payment clients has trebled. This has been in no small part due to the company’s success in attracting increasing numbers of public sector suppliers to existing programmes, and central to that success has been Libby Daniels, Director of Client Services.

We sat down with Libby to learn more about her professional journey, the real-life impact of the programmes her team helps deliver, Libby’s inspiration, and what she believes the future holds.


Q: Hi, Libby, it’s a pleasure to have you here with us today. Let’s delve into some questions about your role at Oxygen, starting with a bit about your background. What was the journey that brought you here?

A: My background is in public sector procurement. I began my career as an apprentice in the commercial team at HMRC, focusing on contract management and procurement, and working on the rollout of an e-procurement system. The transition to Oxygen came about seven years ago when I joined the supplier onboarding team, handling negotiations with Tier 1 suppliers and gradually assuming more responsibilities within the organisation: becoming Head of Supplier Onboarding in 2019, taking on Sourcing in 2020 and then more recently the Client Success team.


Q: Can you walk us through a typical day in your role at Oxygen?

A: Every day is different, which is one of the reasons why I love my job. Generally, I spend time coaching and supporting the team, addressing the more complex issues that come up, and helping them drive our clients’ programmes to success. I also spend a lot of time analysing data to inform our longer-term strategy and where the team should be putting their time, and identifying ways that we could do things better. Additionally, I devote as much time as possible to engaging with stakeholders, keeping up to date on important developments in the industry, or skimming through our Insights product to see the latest from Cabinet Reports and important tenders.


Q: With Oxygen’s continuous growth, how has your team evolved over the past year?

A: Over the last year, we have witnessed significant changes within the team structure to align with our key objectives more effectively. Combining the Supplier Onboarding and Client Success Management teams has led to enhanced collaboration and clarity in pursuing our shared goals – getting suppliers on board and ensuring they are paid as quickly as possible! Additionally, we have welcomed several new team members, reinforcing our capacity to cater to a growing client base and focus on delivering exceptional service.


Q: What motivates you in your role at Oxygen? What excites you the most about your job?

A: Three key things drive me at Oxygen. Firstly, witnessing the significant growth of the company has been really exciting – it’s great to be part of an organisation that is growing so quickly and going from strength to strength. Secondly, the impact we have on clients and suppliers, particularly the growing number of suppliers we assist in getting paid promptly, is incredibly rewarding. I love hearing the success stories from suppliers we’ve supported, and the positive feedback from the councils where our partnerships have delivered savings – in this economy, every penny counts! Lastly, the dedicated and passionate people I work with each day – everyone at Oxygen is so enthusiastic about delivering a gold-star service, supporting each other and our clients, and continuously improving in every facet of what we do. It’s a pleasure to work alongside such hard-working individuals.


Q: How do you ensure you stay updated on what matters to customers?

A: To stay current with our primarily local government clients, I use our own Oxygen Insights system, read Cabinet reports summaries, and stay informed on new legislation. Additionally, as a personal commitment, I am studying for a CIPS Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Procurement and Supply.

Engaging with stakeholders on LinkedIn and hosting the quarterly CPO Forum events with our clients also provide valuable insights both broadly into the procurement space, but also more specifically, on exactly what our customers want to see from us.


Q: How would you simplify the concept of early payment for a five-year-old?

A: Ok, here goes: “Councils are organisations that look after the places where we live; they keep the streets clean, keep the streetlights on, fix our roads, and collect our bins every week. What Oxygen does is help councils pay the people collecting the bins and sweeping the roads as quickly as possible, so they can use that money to keep doing those helpful things in future.


Q: Could you share the effect you’ve seen early payment have on people’s lives?

A: The early payment programmes we implement have had a profound impact on local authorities, generating £54m in rebates, £11m of which fell in the last year, directly benefiting the services they provide.

Early payment also gives firms a positive alternative to costly forms of financing. One supplier we’ve worked with is the owner of a small care home company. He’d had to re-mortgage his house to make sure he could pay his staff on time. Now, early payment has allowed him to keep paying his staff without the use of factoring or personal loans, his organisation is growing, and I see them popping up in other areas of the public sector. That was a particularly positive personal experience.


Q: Given your experience working with both public and private organisations, what do you think each sector can learn from the other?

A: Doing more with less usually means having to rethink how things are done, and that can be tough to do when you are delivering a lot of services on very tight budgets using overstretched staff with lots of responsibilities. Anything the public sector can do to give their staff the room and space to be creative when problem solving, something that is a real strength of the private sector, is to be welcomed.

On the other hand, the private sector should seek to learn from the public sector by looking further than just the bottom line. The business world wants to deliver on their ESG commitments, which means embracing a stronger focus on community outcomes and working out how what they can positively impact society.


Q: What inspires you outside of work?

A: I find inspiration in outdoor activities like gardening, hiking, spending time with my two dogs, and engaging in creative pursuits such as painting and writing. This really fuels my creativity and that in turn helps me be more creative in my day job.


Q: Reflecting on your time at Oxygen, what would you say is your proudest achievement here?

A: Since taking on the role of Head of Supplier Onboarding in 2019, my team has onboarded over £1.4 billion worth of spend annually across 3,500 suppliers. This has made a real impact, boosting the cashflow of those 3,500 businesses and of course, creating much needed funds to protect public services. Looking back on the difference it has made to the business and our mission has been a real proud moment for me.


Q: What advice would you offer to individuals embarking on leadership roles?

A: Seek feedback proactively, embrace growth opportunities, and learn from both experts and peers. Be open to stepping out of your comfort zone, as personal development often occurs outside familiar territories. Instead of viewing colleagues as competitors, leverage their strengths to enhance your own skills, fostering a collaborative and growth-oriented environment.


Q: Looking ahead, what are your thoughts on the future of your team at Oxygen?

A: Moving forward, we aim to further integrate AI and automation into our processes, streamlining operations and enabling our teams to devote more time to adding value and building relationships with clients. Our focus remains on optimising early payment programmes and ensuring the delivery of top-notch services for all our clients. Continuous improvement and adaptability will be key to helping us do all this, and more.


Thank you, Libby, for sharing your insights and experiences with us today.

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