The reward factor: Interview with Simon Hemmings, global head of reward at ICAP

Written by
Matthew Clement

03 Sep 2015

03 Sep 2015 • by Matthew Clement

Tell us about your role at ICAP

In short – anything “reward” related. This means different things to different people but ultimately I am responsible for everything that attracts people to work at ICAP.

ICAP is a leading financial markets operator and provider of post trade risk mitigation and information services. This means that we provide a wide variety of electronic execution, broking, risk mitigation, messaging, and information services to wholesale financial market participants.We have a strong presence in all the major financial centres – with a local footprint in 32 countries and more than 70 locations worldwide, employing approximately 5,000 people. 

How is the reward function perceived?

It’s only relatively recently that we’ve called it “reward” but there have always been people at ICAP who have managed the different elements. The function and the people in it are seen as the experts in their areas, and trusted advisers to the business.

The concept of reward has evolved enormously in the last few years and it’s something I’ve been interested in for a while. My background is in pensions and benefits and the roles that I have done have simply got bigger and bigger as my career has progressed to the point that I am now global head of reward. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision, more of an evolution.    

What are the main challenges you are facing at the moment and how are you planning to deal with these?

The challenges I face are similar to reward professionals in many different businesses and sectors. The way I see reward is that whatever business you are in, it always relates to people  and regardless of the industry, people’s motivations, priorities and challenges will vary.

In a nutshell, my primary challenge at the moment is that we want to do a whole range of things, but resource and funds aren’t infinite so I need to prioritise.   

How can reward engage with business?

It’s a case of being clear about our role, and where our skills are best applied. So, the HR business partners are the primary interface between me and the wider business. However, I also get involved at the initial stage when something is being developed to be implemented by the wider HR team, or where there is a specific need for the input from a reward person.

Do you feel there are issues around regulation when it comes to reward teams and how can reward teams overcome this?

I don’t think there are issues with regulation, but it’s fair to say we do spend more of our timeensuring that we are complying with regulations generally. The key is to ensure that when you are complying with the regulations you are also using them to improve the reward offering or helping to drive the business forward. Regulations shouldn’t be seen as something to “overcome”, rather something to be embraced when you’re looking at designing reward offerings.

What capabilities do you need to be successful?

I think you need to have a variety of skills at your disposal if you want to reach a senior level. The basics are key – you need to have a good grasp of maths and English, or the appropriate language required for your role. If you are multi-lingual then all the better.

In addition, you need to have good people skills and realise when you need to speak, and when, more importantly in my opinion, you need to listen. Listening is a skill that is greatly undervalued these days but you won’t understand the real challenges of your business unless you spend more time listening than talking. Finally, be passionate about your role.

What skills do you look for in your team?

All of the above, or a combination of them. It ultimately depends on where they want to focus their skills as reward is extremely varied.

What skills are in short supply in reward?

I don’t think there’s a shortage of skills. The important thing is for employers to be clear about the kind of people and skills they want and to ensure they employ the people who have them. The key is to get this balance right and the rest will follow.

What’s your best piece of advice for reward teams to elevate their position in their business?

Be passionate and enthusiastic. No-one gets everything right all of the time, but if you are passionate about what you do every day, and are enthusiastic about what you can offer to your particular business, you can overcome most obstacles.