BRIAN Johnston, the former Bank of Scotland corporate banking chief, is to join a hotel gift voucher company as it prepares to land its first international client.
Johnston, who recently became a non-executive director of the merchant bank Noble Grossart, will join Kaye Taylor and Stephanie Wilson on the board of Edinburgh-based SK Chase, which creates and sells vouchers for luxury hotels.
Taylor and Wilson set up SK Chase in 2003 as a spin-out from the Town House boutique hotel group, which is chaired by Peter Taylor. It provides software for hotels to organise gift vouchers for overnight stays and pampering experiences, and runs a website which sells the vouchers.
SK Chase has just landed a contract to sell vouchers for Rocco Forte's Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh and is in talks with an international chain of 220 hotels which is likely to become its biggest client.
Johnston has been working with the company as an adviser for two months.
Taylor, the company's managing director, said: "I think we underestimated the value that Brian would bring. He gets his teeth into the real nitty-gritty of the business and helps you to look at things from a different angle. And if he asks for an appointment with somebody, he usually gets it."
The company has been funded entirely by the founders, with the exception of a loan from Town House's Taylor and a 10,000 award from Scottish Enterprise.
But Kaye Taylor said SK Chase may start looking for external finance next year: "At the moment, we are being forced to grow more rapidly than we expected because of the level of demand. Additional funding is something that Brian may be able to help us look at next year. When we started, only 3% of hotels used vouchers. We are just scratching the surface of the opportunities that are open to us. We are now at the stage where hotels are approaching us rather than the other way round."
SK Chase made a small net profit on turnover of 2.2m in the year to October and is expected to grow rapidly.
The company's clients include Macdonald Hotels, the Hand Picked chain of luxury hotels and Gleneagles. Taylor said: "If you ask any hotel about vouchers, they do not like to do them because they are a pain. We do all the things that hotels do not want to do and make it easy for them."
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