An entrepreneurial mindset

Interviews, View from the Boardroom | Wed 4 Jan | Author – Business & Finance ciaran harvey
Ciaran Harvey, senior managing director and CIO, Pramerica Systems Ireland

Ciaran Harvey talks organisational culture and motivation with Deanna O’Connor.

Pramerica, the contact centre and software development division of US-based Prudential Financial, opened its doors in Donegal with just eight employees back in 2000.

Ciaran Harvey was one of those first eight, and now, recently returned from a stint in El Paso, Texas, he has come back to his homeplace to head up operations, with almost 1,500 staff working out of the Letterkenny base.

While the Irish operation was originally set up to combat the huge Y2K consultancy fees that Prudential were dealing with, Harvey credits the “entrepreneurial mindset” with the expansion of the business, which “sought opportunity after opportunity” and now encompasses everything from actuaries to data science to property accounting.

Harvey says his aim is to “move into cognitive space…developing high end products…and at some stage in the next five to ten years we are also thinking about business development and becoming more front of house.”

He adds, “Historically we were hired to be order takers and we’re moving ourselves into decision-makers and now we are owning a lot of the functions.”

“The other interesting thing,” says Harvey, “is that we always had to compete all the time with third party vendors in Asia and other places, and we still do. We’ve stayed very economically competitive. We’re 17 years in existence and in all of that time we’ve only increased rates once.”

TALENT PROGRAMME

As a local, he is acutely aware of how important the company is to the locality: “It brings it home because I have a lot of family in business and retail so they are very dependent on Pramerica in Letterkenny.

As a manager Harvey describes himself as “very people-focused”.  He says, “I focus in on the individuals and all of my leaders of leaders, I spend time getting to know them and figuring out what makes them tick.”

“The main focus for the last six months for me is, ‘Are we focusing on the global mindset?’ Do we see ourselves as a global organisation that is headquartered in Letterkenny?”

He reveals, “We have within the organisation about 182 different functions. We’re going to try and group them together into 40 functions where I’ve got 40 entrepreneurial leaders who are out there trying to build the global centres of excellence for each of these functions for Prudential. My purpose in this is not really setting objectives for each of those functions, but pulling together an entrepreneurial talent development programme for these leaders. And then really empowering them to go off and build the organisations we need to build.”

MARKETPLACE TURMOIL

When asked what motivates him, he says, “It’s always been about learning and development, watching people evolve is a fantastic motivator for me, why I get up every morning and come to work.” Continuing professional development (CPD) is high on the agenda at Pramerica and Harvey estimates between 30-50% of staff would change job annually within the company. “Our attrition is quite low as a result of the career movement we do internally,” he says. “We have close to 52 development programmes, or something in that range, going on at any one time. There’s an awful lot of effort that goes into talent and career development.”

Looking to the future, although the business environment is hard to predict right now, Harvey remains optimistic, based on the core company values and way Pramerica operates: “It’s interesting for us because business challenges are really opportunities for us. When we’re facing turmoil in the marketplace, like Brexit, or challenging economies, it always presents a lot more opportunity for us than presents negative impacts. Over time we’ve been able to prove that out.” 

Business & Finance, A View from the Boardroom

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