Creggan born Billy Hutchinson has just been named Home Loans Management (HML) Site Director for Derry.
It is a week of celebrations in the Hutchinson’s Hatmore home as Billy celebrates his 25th wedding anniversary with wife Catherine (“Chambers”, he adds after a long reflective ponder).
The former Coshquin FC footballer was one of the first 19 members of staff through the Derry doors of HML in May 2004.
Luckily or not, 13 of those 19 employees remain at the company, one of whom, Billy, has risen to the top of the pile.
“HML enjoys great staff retention rates. I think that shows we are a good place to work and that we take care of our staff,” said Mr. Hutchinson.
HML are a subsiduary of Skipton Building Society, the Derry site is one of three including Glasgow and head office in Skipton.
“It is a remarkable success story from a business point of view,” said Billy. “Critics would have wondered why HML, a financial services industry, Europe’s largest third party outsource centre was setting up here. It was a questionable decision but it has been a remarkable successful one. The company now manage £44billion in assets for some 20 clients.”
Despite the economic downturn, HML have successfully increased the number employed at the local centre from 19 to 340 in a mere eight years. In fact 41 new positions have been created since January this year alone.
Senior appointments are often made in house, Mr. Hutchinson states: “95% of promotions are internal. We are a multi-skilled, multi-purpose contact centre and the capabilities of our staff reflect that.
“I think the best thing about being appointed site director now is that it allows me to shape the strategic vision for the business. I am, no we are, really optimistic about winning new business. HML, like every business did downsize due to the changes in the global economy, but those changes improved us. We made significant strides in our automation services recently and those developments in IT allow us to really put ourselves out there. They have left us perfectly poised to capitalise on new business opportunities.”
The strength of HML claims Mr. Hutchinson; “Is in the passion and enthusiasm of our staff, in their dedication, happiness and education. I believe a happy staff is a productive staff.”
To that end the HML site in the Ulster Science and Technology Park even has a ‘Quiet Room’ fitted. Mr. Hutchinson explains: “As in credit management sometimes stressful phone calls occur, staff felt that there was a need for somewhere to go and reflect at times. Staff decorated the room themselves with paintings and soft furniture.
“We are also very happy to allow our employees a few hours to participate in programmes like reading in the community. We have great ties with local schools and charities and fantastic family friendly working policies.”
Those ties and projects earned HML, Derry, the Corporate Social Responsibility Award for Call Centre of the year in 2010.
The managerial position is the latest in Billy’s varied career. The fifty year old was educated at St. Joseph’s Boys’ School he left in 1978 with three CSEs.
“I then trained as a mechanical engineer before landing a job in the denim factory,” he explains.
Having worked for Lee Apparel for some 19 years, Billy did “what everyone in this part of the world seems to do, I went back to school when man big”.
As a mature student, Billy undertook a foundation degree studying part time he then graduated with a degree in Social Policy before acheiving his Post Graduate Diploma in Computers.
Four years as a team leader at call centre Stream followed his studies before the move to HML.
“In the manufacturing business I had a good income but the more qualifications I had the less I earned,” he explains, “but career opportunities quickly materialised at HML.”
The challenge of becoming ‘HML Site Director’ is one of the largest in Billy’s career.
“Careers aren’t about job titles though. It is a big challenge but it is one worth having,” he said.
“We’re not the biggest business but we are the best and we will grow. We have an excellent business model here and I want to see that developed on both sides of the border, to the benefit of both HML and the local economy.
“The success of HML and in particular the Derry office was built on the effort of lots of people. You look around and see everyone is doing a good job, that gives you more than a chance.
“My mantra in life is don’t expect anything. I believe if you put the effort in the rewards will come.”
To underline the theme in his approach, a poster with the words ‘Be Proud’ looms over Billy’s office.
Juggling the demands of his career with those of family life, Billy has three children Billy, 23, Katie, 20 and Amy, 17 and his love for cycling, it is perhaps lucky the HML director sleeps a mere four hours a night.
“I’m a nightmare on holidays,” jokes the affable Creggan man.
“I get plenty done and keep fit. I would cycle mainly on Saturday and Sundays with ‘The League of Gentlemen’ branch of the Foyle Cycling Club.
“We’re not as fast as the rest of the members, we’re certainly not going to win anything.”
Winning however comes naturally to Billy, having represented Derry City during their ‘intermediate days,’ he was also part of a Coshquin side that sweeped the local leagues winning nine trophies.
“I missed the civic reception as the wife made me go on honeymoon with her,” he laughed.
While he might not win many prizes now, ‘The Gentlemen’ certainly deserve respect.
They and Billy have completed charity cycles in Cuba, China, Vietnam, six Mizen to Malin Head trips, Caledonia and The Grand Canyon, all in aid of the Foyle Hospice.
How does one bike through the Grand Canyon?
“We went to the top and travelled downwards, remarkably, we even encountered snow there. It was an awesome trip.
“The snow set against the red of the desert was a fantastic sight, stunning. To watch the sun come up in the morning and light up the canyons was something I will never forget. That was the same for Vietnam.”
As part of the HML Corporate Social Responsibility programme, Mr. Hutchinson, was also part of a group which completed a charity cycle to all the HML offices, raising some £27,670 for four charities.
“It is all about achieving things, at least trying to achieve things that give you that sense of pride. That is what I want to do as HML site director for Derry.”