This week Mark Childs, director of global compensation and benefits at
Fidelity Investments, and Carmen Burton, HR director at the Norton Practice,
compare notes on their careers
1 What are your main responsibilities?
MC My job title is something of a misnomer. It is one of the
broadest-based compensation and benefits roles in the UK and is rapidly
evolving into a global HR services role. My responsibilities include global
e-HR strategy, global reward strategy, global benefits (predominantly pension
plan design, medium and long-term incentives, international assignment
management, payroll strategy and employment policy.
CB My role is directing internal HR, payroll, training and
development, members of the board, as well as running an HR consultancy service.
2 What’s the pay like?
MC Over the past 10-15 years HR people with significant international
compensation and benefits or management development experience have been able
to command a significant pay premium over Generalists. In my experience that
gap continues to widen – at all levels.
CB I’m happy with my salary package, I have to say, it has just been
3 How flexible are the hours?
MC Typically I spend 50-55 hours in the office each week. During
visits to offices outside the UK, I choose to work more intensely. There is
inevitably a great deal to do and I prefer to minimise my time away from home.
CB My hours aren’t really flexible, and as with most professionals
they tend to be long. I do get the opportunity to work from home occasionally
which is great.
4 What do you like about the job?
MC I enjoy the diversity. Today’s in-tray is representative. This
morning I have to review a Taiwanese sales incentive plan with the
vice-chairman, discuss a share plan valuation with external tax advisers and
work on a stock option repricing analysis.
CB There are lots of things I like about my job – it is very busy so
there’s never a dull moment. With regard to clients I get the opportunity to
work with a wide variety of companies in different sectors and they all
appreciate the advice and support. Internally within the practice it is nice to
be able to make a difference to the business.
5 What are the challenges?
MC There are two challenges I would highlight. I serve eight
presidents/business heads and eight HR directors. Giving these people adequate
service in a way which makes them feel like they are your only customer is a
real challenge. Added to this is an expectation among second and third- tier
line managers that as head of this area of HR you will be available to them,
even when some of the people who work for you are better placed to provide
superior service. The second is to keep on top of the body of knowledge needed
to keep up with a business operating throughout Europe and Asia. In Fidelity’s
culture you are expected to know your stuff – your credibility depends upon it.
CB The main challenge is building an HR consultancy, which includes
business planning and marketing. The internal challenges we are facing include
ways to introduce more flexible working patterns. It is our experience that
people want to work mornings and our clients want answers in the afternoon.
6 What is your biggest headache?
MC The risk of being tripped up by trivia. Reward, more than any
other aspect of HR, can generate high emotion. It is a peculiar thing that on
the rare occasion a payroll input or medical plan administrator error is made,
the likelihood is one of the presidents will be the victim. The more routine
headache is that operational HR people might think they know the answer in a
specialist area, but if it goes wrong, the resulting problem finds its way back
to me for resolution.
CB Mine is the conflict between being the Norton Practice HR director
and being a consultant to clients. You can’t be in two places at once – I’ve
tried it. All joking aside, it can cause anxiety when you want to do both jobs
7 What size is your team?
MC Twenty-one, located in UK, mainland Europe and Asia Pacific. The
team consists of e-HR specialists, compensation analysts, benefits experts,
international assignment managers, payroll and share plan practitioners.
CB There are four – soon to be five – people in my team.
8 Who do you report to?
MC Brian Reilly, Fidelity’s managing director, Global HR.
CB I report directly to the partners (owners) of the organisation.
9 What qualifications do you have?
MC BA in politics and industrial relations (University of Kent at
Canterbury), CIPD member and an Associate of the Institute of Management
CB I am MCIPD qualified and I also have a City and Guilds 7307 – a
qualification to teach adults.
10 What are your career aspirations?
MC A couple of years from now I will need to decide whether to revert
to a senior generalist role or do something completely different.
CB The role of director is quite new to me so I’m happy to continue
at this level for the moment. In the future I’d like to teach CIPD students.
11 What training and development opportunities are there?
MC Few HR people have yet woken up to just how transformational e-HR
will become to the employee-employer relationship and future HR career paths.
The potential is amazing and my learning still has a long way to go.
CB I’m responsible for the overall training budget – part of which is
allocated to my team.
12 What is your holiday entitlement?
MC Twenty-five days a year.
CB This year it is 24 days.
13 What’s your working environment like?
MC The office is in a country house in the Weald of Kent and the view
from my window surveys an ornamental lake, compared to my last employer’s
offices where I could watch London Underground’s District Line trains go by.
CB Our working environment is a little cramped, as a business we’ve
been growing for two years and we have run out of space to put people.
14 What other benefits do you get? (company car etc)
MC One of the best defined contribution pension plans in the UK,
medical benefits including an annual health check, comprehensive life and
long-term disability cover and various staff discounts.
CB I receive a company car allowance, four times death in service,
pension, critical ill health, permanent medical and health insurance.
15 What’s the best part?
MC The best features of this job are dependent on the Fidelity
culture. Being privately-owned (every employee has a shareholding interest) and
committed to organic rather than acquisition-led growth, a strong culture
exists where managers think and behave like owners. Fidelity’s culture is
strong and positive without being aggressive, strategic and innovative, yet
valuing people who are practical, detailed and action orientated.
CB The best part of my role is being kept on my toes, questions
coming at me from all directions and being able to get out and meet clients.
Director of global compensation and benefits, Fidelity Investments
Job at a glance
Size of team: 21
Qualifications: BA in politics and industrial relations, CIPD member and an
associate of the Institute of Management Consultants
Leave: 25 days
Best part: The incredible diversity of the job
1998 VP reward management, Seagram
1996 Global compensation and benefits director, Forte plc
1993 International personnel director, Forte Hotels
HR director, Norton Practice (Insolvency Services)
Job at a glance
Size of team: Five
Qualifications: MCIPD, City and Guilds to teach adults
Leave: 24 days
Best part: Being able to make a difference to the business
1998 HR manager, Winterthur International Insurance Company
1994 Payroll manager/personnel administrator, Matsushita Communications UK
1993 Senior payroll administrator, Thames Valley University