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Keeping HR consistent across the globe – Q&A with VP of HR at Equifax

Posted on by from Ashley Kate HR

Imagine being the VP of HR for a UK organisation, and being asked to live in Canada to continue your job across the sea. That’s what happened to Darrell Abbondanza of Equifax. Here, Kim MacNamara of Ashley Kate HR questions his experiences.

Tell me about you and your firm and role?

Equifax creates and delivers unparalleled customised insights that enrich both the performance of businesses and the lives of consumers through the comprehensive and differentiated data it manages, the expertise in advanced analytics it provides, the solutions it develops, and the leading-edge proprietary technology through which the solutions are delivered. The company organises, assimilates and analyses data on more than 600 million consumers and more than 80 million businesses worldwide and its databases include more than 200 million employee files.

Equifax has operations in the US and 18 other countries in Europe, Asia and South America. The company employs 7,000 employees worldwide. In the past year, Equifax was named a “top 20 company to work for” by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

My current role is VP of HR for the UK and Ireland. Twenty-four hours after running the 2014 London Marathon, I stepped on a plane to Canada – bound for our Toronto office on an eight-month international secondment. The initial focus was to support the general manager and lead the hiring of 4 key executive positions.

Are the UK and Canada very different?

In terms of Equifax, both the UK and Canada are similar in revenue and people headcount, excluding any of our recent acquisitions. The market is quite similar: Canada has one main competitor, whereas the UK has two. Equifax Canada is the dominant bureau, particularly in the Banking and FI vertical where it holds a strong position with the majority of the larger banks like Toronto-Dominion and Bank of Montreal. Moving from a region that was pushing hard to gain market share to one that already had a large market share gave me a different lens to look through.

What were the key challenges you were tasked with?

Our overall approach to employee communications. The Canadian team were impressed with our UK communications approach, our e-newsletter, ‘We’re the Difference’, and our adoption of Yammer. I feel I was able to support the team in taking some tried-and-tested approaches from the UK and rolling them out in Canada. 

Conversely, one of the things I was particularly impressed by was the Canadian approach to wellness and wellbeing. They are committed to doing something new every month, whether it’s a talk on healthy eating and cooking, or a massage. I am looking to do something similar in the UK because I would be able to experience first-hand how engaged the employees were with the approach and its content.

What’s Toronto like?

It’s very much like London: multi-cultural, has its own subway system, plenty to see and do, great places to eat and lovely people. It has lots of European neighbourhoods with Italians, Greeks and Russians particularly well-represented. I would also like to go back for the Toronto Film Festival each year! 

I learned what it meant when someone suggested I “join the rush line” and did some celebrity-spotting, seeing Denzel Washington, Al Pacino and Steve Carrell. 

What have you learnt from your role?

It was fantastic to work with so many amazing people and to have the experience of living and working in another country for eight months. It’s important for anyone looking to undertake an international secondment, to visit in advance or invest some initial time in researching places to live. Getting set up in the right neighbourhood is key to enjoying the experience and cultural diversity that living in another international city can bring. As an HR professional, it’s also been great to understand first-hand the challenges and benefits (both personally and for the organisation), of taking an international assignment. It helps me to better articulate and coach those leaving my region and those coming in. 

On a personal note, this experience has made me want more out of my job and life, so I am ready for the next exciting, international challenge and would certainly like to put to the test everything I learned and experienced in Canada.


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Kim MacNamara

By Kim MacNamara

As HR Business Director – for Ashley Kate HR, Kim drives and leads the HR recruitment strategy for the Midlands region. Heading the HR recruitment team she adopts a highly focused, successful methodology to developing, retaining and nurturing key business relationships with clients in this region and has helped mentor the team in achieving an enviable reputation as the HR recruiter, sourcing achievement orientated HR professionals. She actively embraces a collaborative and results orientated approach to her work, and her responsibilities and passion for perfecting networking skills have resulted in her leading the company's newest initiative-the HR Directors Boardroom forum and is spearheading the roll out and devising of concepts for the group’s social media strategy.

After being educated in Scotland, Kim studied Hotel Management and found her early training in the Hotel sector gave her a keen interest in understanding peoples motivations at work, helped her fine tune her strong people skills (and patience and persistence!!) and generated a strong desire to provide an exceptional customer experience which finally led her in to the recruitment arena. She has amassed over 20 years recruitment experience with the leading recruitment players in the UK and has achieved successes in all of her roles to date.

Ashley Kate HR was established in 2001 by Hilary Scanlon (FCIPD) and Naomi Asher and has grown significantly over the years. We specialise exclusively in the recruitment of HR professionals UK wide and we are the market leading HR Recruitment consultancy managing permanent, contract and temporary HR recruitment in all business sectors for generalist and specialist HR roles. We secure the best HR talent for all UK clients and partner with leading companies including FTSE 100 /250 clients, Fortune 500 companies, SME’s, public sector and NFP organisations. Kim joined the company in 2003 and was initially tasked with creating an executive HR division in the Midlands region.

Strong relationships were made with key HR connections so much so that an executive consultant was recruited in to each of the regional offices therefore offering our clients a UK capability in HR recruitment and Kim’s initiatives and ideas being adopted by the whole company. Kim has undertaken a number of HR project roles since and her results have significantly impacted on all aspects of Ashley Kate HR’s development as a company including initiatives such as onsite meetings with clients resulting in key PSL arrangements achieved with key UK companies, effectively laying the necessary business development foundations for teams to develop further in new regions ,and has been a keen advocate and provider of a portfolio of ideas and concepts that have been adopted by the whole organisation.

Our philosophy, as an HR recruiter, is to embrace the concept of truly working in equal partnership with our HR connections, provide HR talent that will help organisations achieve their overall goals and offer a truly memorable candidate/client experience that will differentiate us in a competitive market. The people agenda is clearly on the HR map and with a constant focus on analysing market intelligence we ensure our business associates are ahead of their game.

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