Matthew Webb, Head of International Benefits, Thomson Reuters

When I graduated I knew very little about HR or any other corporate department, but the British Airways’ graduate pension development programme was a great programme to join. Although pensions are seen as “niche” within HR, it has many sub sections of “expertise” within it – actuarial, legal, finance and accounting, administration, member contact and communications. The programme gave a great introduction to each of these elements and during this time I also gained a professional qualification. 

Moving on to Burmah Castrol four and a half years later, I extended my scope to become an International Pensions Analyst. I then joined Merrill Lynch as European Benefits Manager and during my time there I moved to Tokyo to manage an employee benefits change project. 

I returned to the UK to take up the role of head of UK benefits with UBS, staying there for eight years before joining Thomson Reuters in my current role. 

I have been fortunate to sit on HR management teams that have been involved in all of the areas of expertise that I first encountered on my BA graduate programme and I have been interested and enjoyed contributing to HR policies and development. In more recent times, talent and engagement are becoming priorities within HR, and each function within HR is focused on supporting these issues. 

I have been very lucky to be able to visit each of the continents during my career and live in Japan for two years. The experience this provides is invaluable and the diversity it brings certainly adds to the toolkit of skills relevant for HR. 

I have also seen an evolution of the HR function. This has moved from transactional to strategic, with the HR fraternity being seen as business partners rather than operational. The value of HR depends critically on their credibility within the business to be a trusted adviser, not just an implementer of business requirements. 

HR Challenges

  • Not being a profit centre within the organisation. 
  • Being treated as corporate police or an obstacle. 
  • Moving the employee mindset for HR from a welfare department.

Career advice and tips

It is important to understand the business of the employer as well as the business of HR. HR is a multi-faceted discipline and an understanding of these various elements will bode well. Treat the role as an internal consultant, applying all the behaviours to internal clients as an external consultant would to external clients. Find ways to be able to demonstrate continuous added value to the organisation 

You’ll need to have flexibility, resilience, the ability to drive objectives to a conclusion, be analytical, a technical and legal bedrock, and a relationship builder. 

Career highlights

The experience of visiting different continents and living in Japan as a result of my career and the cultural appreciation a role of this nature demands and feeds. 

Managing pension and benefit plans. This has given me access to all parts of the companies I have worked at. From the CEO down, pensions and benefits affect all employees and at certain pivotal moments in people’s lives, it is an important aspect to be involved in. Pensions and pension funding has become a critical aspect of corporate financing and risk as well as HR – this has expanded the scope of interaction within a large corporate to the CFO, Treasury and legal functions.

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