Interview with Spencer Roach, international compensation and benefits manager at Nuance Communications

Spencer Roach, international compensation and benefits manager at Nuance Communications, says his love of adventure helps him succeed in a global reward role

Balancing work and life as an adventure-seeker, Spencer Roach, international compensation and benefits manager at Nuance Communications, has racked up many exploratory experiences over the past 15 years.

As a keen outdoorsman, he spends his spare time climbing, mountain biking and caving. “All over the country there are amazing underground caves that have been formed over millions of years, and if you have the right gear and the right map, you can climb in and explore underground,” he says. “It is quite an interesting thing to do, but kind of scary. That is part of the challenge – putting yourself outside your comfort zone.”

Professionally, Roach has scaled the peaks of the benefits world, spending almost a decade in consultancy roles at Mercer and Aon Consulting (now Aon Hewitt) before moving to his first in-house HR role at global technology manufacturer Honeywell International in 2005.

“I always had an approach that, in the early stages of a career, it is good to get different experiences,” he says. “I had worked in a couple of different fields, and I thought it would be nice to try the other side to see how it felt.”

Roach also got a taste for international benefits during his time at Honeywell. When he moved to high-tech software firm Nuance Communications in 2011, he further pursued this international interest. “It really fascinates me because there is so much variety, different cultures, approaches and views on benefits,” he says. “It is also quite surprising how, if you have a good foundation in one country, you can quickly adapt and apply it to other countries.”

Global framework for benefits

The first project Roach undertook in his new role was implementing a global framework for benefits, which presented challenges for the 26 countries affected in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and Asia Pacific.

“It sounds quite simple, but it was a big challenge because there are conflicting priorities,” he says. “Trying to achieve something that is standard and that can be applied anywhere is very hard. It was almost creating a philosophical framework of what we believed were the important issues.”

As he settles into his role, Roach believes the current state of the economy will have the biggest impact on reward. “Introducing austerity and trying to be very careful with finances can have quite an impact on what can be done around reward,” he says. “Right now, there is much more emphasis on controlling costs and risk, and trying to provide fundamentals without escalating cost.”

Despite the challenges of a global role, Roach is sure he was right to move from consultancy work to an in-house position. But he does not have fixed ideas about which path his career in benefits and reward will take from now on.

“Once upon a time, I would have said I wanted to be compensation and benefits director for a large multinational,” he says. “But now I am not so clear because the role and the world change so quickly, and organisations are so different. My approach at the moment is more about wanting to be engaged, to have new experiences and new projects to work on, and building a broad-based portfolio.”



How would you describe yourself?

Energetic and passionate. I have an inquisitive mind. I was one of those children that used to take things apart to see how they worked. I am still a little bit like that professionally. I like to see the complete picture.

Who is your role model?

Arnold Schwarzenegger. He started off when he was 16 years old lifting weights somewhere in Austria, and became governor of California for eight years. He is a great example of showing what you can do if you put your mind to it.

What are your hobbies?

Anything that is active and outdoors. Most weekends in the summer I will be out climbing or riding my bike. In the winter, I try to do caving.

What are your favourite benefits?

I am a bit of a pensions geek, so that is the obvious one. We have a group personal pension scheme. We do not have an employee assistance programme, but it is certainly something I would like to introduce. 


Curriculum Vitae: Spencer Roach

June 2011-present international compensation and benefits manager, Nuance Communications
2008-2011 compensation and benefits manager, EMEA, Honeywell
2005-2007 pensions delivery manager, Honeywell
1999-2004 pensions and benefits consultant, Aon Consulting
1996-1999 risk and benefits administrator, Mercer


Read also Hot 100 Benefits Managers, where Roach was listed.

Read more about careers