Michael Dembinski: Hargreaves Lansdown, a UK FTSE 100 company, is opening an IT centre in Warsaw. Why did you choose Poland, and why Warsaw?
Michał Głowiński: We started a year ago, the idea was to diversify. From the beginning the goal was to find top quality people. Fifteen countries around the world were considered, including India, Czechia, Germany, Spain and Holland. In the end, our board agreed that Poland offered the best location for HL Tech, giving us access to the best quality IT people. We knew that our IT systems needed constant attention if we were to maintain our market-leading position – we trusted the people in Poland to create a quality IT centre. We will audit the existing systems, plan new solutions together with our stakeholders, develop and test them, and deliver a complete package. And then we'll support it and develop it further.
Hargreaves Lansdown has always invested heavily in IT systems. Back in the early 1980s, the company was already IT driven, with paper notebooks and telephone lists replaced by databases on PCs. We've consistently been improving our IT capabilities since then, and it is one of the things that helps us retain our competitive edge.
Why Warsaw? It had two airports, there were direct flights to Bristol and our CIO really liked this town. He saw an analogy to Canary Wharf 20 years ago – cranes everywhere, a sense of energy and growth.
We looked at Gdańsk and Wrocław too. A while ago we used a Polish company from Poznań to write a small piece of software which the board really liked. Poznań seemed a good location too, but didn’t have direct flights to Bristol. With people in both locations who have to travel frequently between the two sites, that's an important factor. Besides, if people relocate internally they tend to move to Warsaw rather than to Poznań.
MD: What is Hays’ role?
MG: We are fully supported by Hays, our exclusive partner for this recruitment. There are two aspects to working together with a specialist company on this project.
First the volume. We plan to hire 50 people by the end of this year. We have two floors on the Warsaw Spire ready for up to 200 people. Finding 50 people in six months is challenging. We've made offers to about 40 people and we've already got about 30 people working here. This is a software factory, able to produce a specialised piece of engineering. The first software will be prototyped in October. Itcan be difficult to find good IT specialists on the Warsaw market. You have to offer more than a good salary and work hard to attract people to come to you. Software specialists want to work with modern technology and create solutions instead of constant maintenance. Our strategy is for a constant evolution of the software we create.
Secondly, it's about the brand we are building in Poland. We build it by the things we do. People in the IT world in Poland are all talking among themselves about HL Tech, the new player in the market. . Moreover, our employees treat this company as their own; we trust what they do. Hargreaves Lansdown operates in the UK as a company which is trusted by investors – our clients. One of our goals is to make sure they are happy with the services we provide in HL Tech. Here in Warsaw, we're just half of our IT, but on a daily basis we work as one company. The Warsaw office is the first branch of Hargreaves Lansdown outside of the UK – outside of Bristol even, so everyone's really involved.
ŁG: The story behind this is interesting. Each year, Hays meets some 70 companies from around the world which are looking at Poland. Some are here for cost reasons. When we first met Hargreaves Lansdown's CIO Dave Davis and HR director Heather Cooper in TriCity, they made it clear to us that they were looking to set up a technology arm for the firm to support their activity, rather than trying to cut costs. When a company like Hargreaves Lansdown, a leader in its field, tells us that it wants to do something like this in Poland, it's the kind of assignment that comes up just twice a year. This investment is about people. If you just focus on costs and office space, but you don't have the proper talent pool, you will not open.
During this time from September to the end of the year, we have to establish the centre, and prepare a strategy – we need key people starting with the general manager, then about 50 people who will be the core of the organisation. This recruitment process is not extraordinary for us – but the people we're looking for have to be brave, to join what is in effect a start-up. We have to sell the story that Hargreaves Lansdown wants to build here. We chose Michał back in April – it's been an amazing time, we've got a lot of things to do to establish Hargreaves Lansdown as HL Tech in Poland. At the end of the year we'll have reached a critical mass which will make the rest of the task easier. Hays knows where to look.
MG: To be frank, this is very much a start-up culture. If you aren't comfortable with that, it's not the job for you. In five years, this company will be exactly the company that our recruits will have created; they will have influenced it, selected the tools and technologies and decided about everything. They will have an impact on what they do. The candidates are buying into this vision, now we have to make sure they won’t be disappointed.
MD: Who are the members of your team? Are they only young people?
MG: We're looking for experience and personality. At least a few years of work in software development is necessary at this stage. Age is less relevant, I know a 28 year old IT analyst who is the best specialist I’ve ever met and I know a test engineer the same age as my father who can easily shame me with his bright ideas. The key thing is personality – they have to buy the dream and follow it. This is 80% of success. If someone doesn’t know the tools, the notations, we can teach them that. We can’t teach attitude, or the right level of involvement.
MD: How much are you having to pay people to work for you in Warsaw?
ŁG: Salaries have to be reasonable – good enough to make people happy, but the business case must be met. We're trying to find an answer for how it will work out, we're trying to prepare for it.
MD: How does Hargreaves Lansdown see the prospect of Brexit?
MG: I am relaxed about it, global society is becoming more international. Hargreaves Lansdown made this decision after the referendum, and the UK economy has remained very robust in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. There are many more important risks than Brexit in today’s world.
MD: Are you finding Poles looking to return to Poland from the UK? Is there a trend here?
ŁG: Not as fast as it could be, there's not a big number of people coming back. Yes, we do have a database of candidates who are currently living and working in the UK. But once they've been there for 10 or 15 years, you can't tell how they will respond to the chance of returning to Poland.
HL Tech is a very different story, it's a unique chance to create something from the very beginning. Being able to choose tools and technologies is an important motivator – and differentiator – for candidates, who typically get five-ten interesting offers a month. One candidate was invited to 11 different job interviews, which resulted in him getting 11 job offers. These are pioneering people – motivated by the sum of their past experiences and their ambitions. If you've already been in a start-up and it failed, you might not feel brave enough to take on the responsibilities that HL Tech is offering. This is not to say you're a bad candidate, but at this moment in time, we need people with an entrepreneurial spirit. You have to be a person who likes to make an impact and create something from scratch, using the best methodologies and taking responsibility. That is what has made Hargreaves Lansdown so successful.
Spare room start-up to FTSE 100 company
Our journey to become one of the UK's most successful companies
Peter Hargreaves and Stephen Lansdown found Hargreaves Lansdown in a spare bedroom
We launch our Vantage platform
Hargreaves Lansdown floats on the London Stock Exchange
We move to purpose-built offices in the centre of Bristol
We're the number 1 investment platform in the UK. We have opened a tech hub in Warsaw. We look after £79 billion of investments for over 950,000 clients