A-Z Of Employers: ICL

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The Independent Culture
Age: 30

History: The UK's two leading computer suppliers - English Electric Computers and ICT - were merged in 1968 to form ICL; it was acquired in 1984 by STC and subsequently became one of Europe's largest communications and information systems groups. Six years later, Fujitsu bought more than 90 per cent of its shares; the telecoms company Nortel has the remaining shares. Since 1995, ICL has been working to transform itself from a computer manufacturer into a systems and services supplier; it no longer makes computers or has factories, but provides systems for industries including retail, finance, travel and utilities. It plans to list on the London stock exchange in the year 2000, and has a 20 per cent stake in the Camelot Group.

Address: Headquarters are in the City, while operations are in Slough. ICL has more than 60 UK offices.

Ambience: Employees are encouraged to work hard through a scheme which awards prizes for excellence - this year's is an all-expenses-paid trip to Arizona. It has the usual corporate values - customer care, teamwork, respect, professionalism and integrity - but is one of the leaders in the new field of knowledge management, with an intranet called Cafe VIK - "valuing ICL knowledge" - and the preposterous-sounding post of "chief knowledge officer".

Vital statistics: ICL isn't just UK-based: it has operations in more than 70 countries, and employs 19,000 people world-wide. Total revenues last year were pounds 2.477bn, and pre-tax profits were pounds 30m.

Lifestyle: Loyalty is rewarded. Vacancies are advertised internally, and there are opportunities for travel. "Some people in HQ roles work office hours, but there are a lot of sites so people have to travel. Consultants use laptops and home computers to telework, as it works out more productive that way," a spokesman says.

Easy to get into? Only those with an "excellent academic record" are required by ICL; initiative, adaptability and commitment "to exceed our customers' requirements" also are sought. Competition is tough - 3,000 applicants last year for just 100 positions - but there are vacancies in technical consultancy, project manage-ment, software engineering, logistics, business development and financial management.

Glittering alumni: Sir Peter Bonfield, chief at BT; plus Andrew Denby, who ICL took straight from school and was named 1998 IT Apprentice of the Year after writing a proposal for an IT exhibit at the Millennium Dome.

Pay: Performance-related, with the mantra "hard work reaps higher rewards". There's no standard graduate entry salary; it depends on qualifications and experience. There's a "flexible benefits" package, which allows employees lower levels of benefits - dental plan, critical illness cover, life assurance, holidays and pension - with a higher salary, or vice versa.

Training: ICL has the grand-sounding Challenger Portfolio, which aims to "unlock learning capability": graduates are recruited into ICL with an induction period of several months and may be given placements in different areas of the firm, even at operations in Holland, France, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the US. A spokesman adds: "It's a pre- condition that you can speak the language".

Facilities: The restaurant is subsidised, catering for all layers of staff, and there are holes-in-the-wall for cash. There is a gym at one ICL centre; others offer discounts on local gym membership.

Who's the boss? Keith Todd became chief executive in 1995, after spells at GEC Marconi space and defence subsidiaries and at Cincinnati Electronics in the US.