In our 2nd Issue, we speak to Ross Seychell who is Chief People Officer at fintech TransferWise. Reporting to the CEO, Ross is responsible for the HR strategy globally which is currently 13 countries and over 2000 employees. TransferWise is headquartered in the U.K. and facilitates online money transfer to over 6 million consumers & businesses worldwide. The company is experiencing exponential growth and has the vision to enable money transfer without borders. TransferWise recently set up their Middle East office based in Abu Dhabi Global Markets (ADGM).
- Describe your current scope and agenda at TransferWise?
I’m responsible for the people experience and HR function globally for over 2,000 employees spanning the Americas, EMEA and APAC. This includes everything related employer brand, recruitment, reward, engagement, technology, analytics and HR operations.
We’re a mission driven business – our mission is money without borders. Current global banking systems don’t let us send, spend or receive money across borders easily. Or quickly. Or cheaply. With more and more people working and living globally, this is a big problem to solve. Our company mission helps to guide our people strategy and plans.
Our people plan this year is built around a 3 key pillars – helping the company to grow at the pace we need to, support our leaders and employees development and investing in technology, tools and analytics so we can scale effectively and sustainably as an HR team for the long term
- Considering your global coverage, how does the HR strategy differ in certain regions?
We’re a global tech company with a big mission and a start-up heart and like to think we’re the perfect mix of big and small. We also must consider the local needs in each of our offices and employees, as well as recognising we’re a global business with many teams working across regions together virtually
We form our overall people strategy based from needs of TransferWise overall – using data, metrics and insights to get clear on the problems we need to help solve. However, we do tailor the implementation of our plans by region and now functionally where it makes sense. It’s important to ensure the work you’re doing is relevant for the markets you’re in, but also not forget that we are one company with one mission and set of values
- What do you think are the key skills or knowledge needed to work in a global role?
For me there are 3 attributes I look for in those who will work in or lead teams with a global reach, other than having the experience needed in their area:
- Use data and metrics to figure out where best to focus and prioritise, plus be able to measure their impact
- Curiosity & openness to learn about new cultures, with the ability to flex their approach to blend local with global
- Being resourceful and using their network, tools and investigation skills to get stuff done fast. It’s ok to launch something that is 80% completed and iterate it to make it even better once people start to use it and give you feedback
- From your own experience, why is international HR experience important (in terms of career progression)?
For me personally it’s helped me to be a much more inclusive leader – for my team, the business that I’m helping to build and ultimately our customers. If you have spent time working with or leading teams in other countries than your own, you must work hard to adapt and consider important aspects like language, communication, cultural customs and different expectations.
- What has been your biggest challenge in a global position?
In the last 2 years we’ve more than doubled in size! As a hyper growth global business, each region and country we have teams have has their own needs and plans, as well as priorities to deliver for the company overall. At some points it has been extremely overwhelming, and it is tempting to try to do too many things at the same time. I’ve learnt hard about prioritisation and focusing on what’s most important. Delivering a project or new product well is much better than trying to do 2-3 things half well!
- Are they any countries or regions you have covered where you feel HR has really progressed or transformed in recent years?
I’ve seen our team in APAC, especially Asia, grow particularly fast in the last few years. Many of the countries in the region have fast growing economies – with nearly 50% of the fastest growing companies in the world hailing from the region. This means that many businesses, together with their HR teams, are working hard to respond to continually shifting employee trends and opportunities, whilst keeping pace as they scale up. Some of these companies also becoming even more global themselves working closer with other regions. This creates new and exciting problems for the HR teams based there to help solve in partnership with business leaders and teams.
- What advice would you give an HR professional looking to reach a global HR position?
I’d recommend getting involved in a project or initiative in your company that gives you some exposure and experience in other countries or regions. If your current business isn’t international – you could find yourself a mentor in another company with an international footprint who could help you. I’ve used my network to do this in the past or reached out to people directly with lots of success! If there are specific countries or regions you’re interested in expanding to in time, you can find a lot of great information and resources online too.