Francis O’Mahony, head of employee share plans and share registration at BT Group, says efficient communication is key to ensure employees make the most ofbenefits available to them
When Francis O’Mahony is not indulging in his love of vintage cars and fine wine, he is focused on his wide-ranging remit as head of employee share plans and share registration at BT Group.
O’Mahony was named ‘Employee benefits specialist of the year’ at the 2012 Employee Benefits Awards in May in recognition of his pioneering work in workplace savings and his dedication to the financial education of BT’s workforce.
The telecoms company’s workplace savings offering includes several share schemes, including a sharesave scheme with three- and five-year saving terms, partnership shares and a share incentive plan (Sip). The group offers staff free shares in 60 countries, executive share schemes, and a share purchase plan for its US staff.
Workplace savings is the latest in a long line of major projects in which O’Mahony has been involved during his lengthy career. Before joining BT seven years ago, he spent six years as share plans unit manager at HM Revenue and Customs, at a time when legislation was introduced for the Sip and the UK enterprise management incentives (EMI).
“I consider that to be the biggest achievement of my career,” he says. “The introduction of the EMI was the biggest UK migration of an employee share plan.”
O’Mahony also spent two years as a share plans consultant at Mercer.
His prime responsibility at BT is to drive forward the organisation’s share plan strategy, including the communication and delivery of employee share plans across the globe. This involves O’Mahony looking after about one million shareholders.
He promotes the share schemes using a variety of media, including personalised emails, webcasts, podcasts and online discussions, which he considers vital in view of the rapidly changing nature of the reward industry.
“We are all being asked to do more and more while having [fewer] resources available,” he says. “If people are not kept informed properly, they risk losing out on benefits. My role has become more challenging in trying to communicate more effectively.”
Clear communication is particularly important as employee benefits become increasingly flexible and complex, says O’Mahony..
As a self-confessed ‘doer and deliverer’, he is clearly on the ball when it comes to understanding employees’ needs. He explains: “To tackle the risks that a lack of communication can bring about, we continuously ask for feedback and try to use new media more extensively. It is essential to have a good intranet system in order to receive feedback quickly and be able to respond immediately.”
O’Mahony puts in long hours to achieve his objectives, typically working from 6am to 8pm at least five days a week. “I would like to get out of the office a bit more, but it’s not particularly easy,” he says.
O’Mahony prides himself on his commitment to great service delivery. “My main ambition and career goal is to deliver a great service to the people I work with by trying to make sure they understand what they have and what they could have,” he says.
He says he has been able to do this by remaining true to his personal values, which are: “Don’t be afraid to speak out, be true to yourself and always consider the consequences of your acts.”
What is your favourite benefit?
Both pensions and share plans. Pensions can be so valuable and people really need to understand them to take full advantage of them.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m a doer and a deliverer. In my job, I just want to provide a great service to the people I work with and make sure they fully understand the benefits offers that they can have access to.
What are your hobbies?
Old cars, cycling, wine and visiting the south of France.
Do you have any tips to pass on to others?
Don’t be afraid to speak out. Throughout my career, I have come across many unpleasant situations that could have been avoided if someone had spoken out before.
January 2004-present head of employee share plans and share registration, BT Group
November 2001-December 2003 senior consultant, employee share plans, Mercer HR
January 2001-October 2001 assistant to head of shareholder services, BT Group
January 1995-December 2000 employee share schemes unit (ESSU) manager, HM Revenue and Customs
November 1984-December 1994 tax inspector, Inland Revenue (now HMRC)
July 1983-October 1984 medical physics technician, National Heart Hospital
O’Mahony will be speaking at Employee Benefits Live on 25 September at National Hall, Olympia†
Read more about careers in reward and benefits