Harry Head joined Pepper fresh from University, early in 2019. He works with the Principal Investments team, across two key areas. As an analyst, supporting the teams’ investment operations and, in a rather different role, supporting the acquisition and development of talent.
15 years before he joined Pepper, senior management had set up what was then a UK based programme to acquire young talent. The initiative was a big success and launched some pretty impressive careers, like Fraser Gemmel (now CEO of Pepper European Servicing) and Juan C. Gonzalez (now Group CFO). Part of Harry’s mandate when he joined Pepper was to re-start the intern programme with a modern, global twist.
“I was asked to “build a Global Talent Development Program.” While that was a bit of a sink or swim moment, I quickly realised that it was the most rewarding start to a career I could have asked for – where else do graduates have the opportunity to take ownership of an idea and take it from concept all the way through to execution?”
“Not many graduates have experience executing a project. University is great for learning about the successes and failures of others, but it falls short in giving you the opportunity to experience things for yourself. It doesn’t really teach you about entrepreneurialism and how to create outcomes through execution.”
It was a process that came with a steep learning curve. At first, Harry spent a lot of time understanding the graduate recruitment market, designing a strategic recruitment process, and planning a programme that future interns would value and enjoy, however, once it came time to turn his plan into action, he felt the challenge.
“I definitely felt a little out of my depth. I wasn’t exactly sure which direction to take things. The ability to work closely with such world-class operators gives an investment professional insight into how business leaders think and act. This is unique and provides important context for investment decisions.”
Two years, thousands of applications, and 100+ interviews later, Harry has helped roll out the programme across four countries, and they have now hosted close to two dozen interns, some of whom have already returned to Pepper to take up part-time or full-time roles.
“It lit an entrepreneurial flame within me, where there had previously been none. My whole experience of developing the Talent Program aligns with Pepper’s ‘Can Do’ ethos and also the fact that we do things a little differently to most. We definitely could not have got the programme up and running without the help of senior management – specifically Juan C. Gonzalez, who mentored me through the process.”
Two years into a flourishing career at Pepper, Harry reflects on what he values most. And what he would tell someone who’s about to join Pepper.
“It sounds like a cliché but the culture. Another element that is applicable to Pepper is the mandate to work on projects that are ‘outside the box’ or outside of your typical day-to-day work.
By way of example, these include projects at the macro level that address ‘what a non-bank mortgage opportunity would look like in a certain market ’ or ‘how can we leverage blockchain technology or lend against crypto assets’. Or it could be something more micro such as ‘conceptualising a mortgage product that bundles solar-panel financing into a borrower’s mortgage to reduce their carbon footprint and interest paid overtime’. All these are examples of Pepper’s drive to explore new opportunities to grow the franchise.”
Pepper has reached a scale of significance across a number of our markets which means our opportunity set has expanded and therefore our growth horizon has been pushed out. I would say that we have a culture of responsibility, entrepreneurialism, and inclusion where those who are comfortable taking ownership of a task will do very well. Even as a junior professional the culture at Pepper is one where you feel that your opinion is valued and listened to. This comes from the recognition that some of the best ideas come from those with the least experience.
“Pepper is philanthropic with its time and energy, and is dedicated to the professional development of its younger employees, something I am very grateful for.”