A-Z of Employers: Johnson Matthey

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The Independent Culture
Age: 181 "and still going strong".

History: The grandly-named Percival Norton Johnson, an assayer and gold refiner, established his business in London's Hatton Garden in 1817, but it was not until 34 years later that he formed a partnership with George Matthey. In 1891, the business became a limited company; nearly a century on, it turned into a plc. Johnson Matthey's reputation is established in technology for precious metals and materials; it pioneered industrial application of platinum group metals, used in fields as diverse as air pollution control and anti-cancer treatments. Other uses are in manufacture of fine chemicals and the generation of clean energy in fuel cells.

Address: Head office is in London, just off Trafalgar Square, but the company is multinational and operates in 38 countries. It also has 17 sites in the UK, and a sponsored programme in the United States.

Ambience: While the company is global, individuals are easily "noticed", says a spokesman. There is a decentralised structure, with four operating divisions (precious metals, catalytic systems, electronic materials and ceramic materials), with a company-wide policy of open communication and team spirit. Innovation and the Japanese "kaizen" theory (continuous improvement) are also part of the corporate culture. Employees, claims a spokesman, "tend to stay with the company for many years". The Corporate Research Foundation reports that the company is characterised by fast decision- making and local responsibility, together with a reputation for integrity: "The Johnson Matthey of today is much less bureaucratic, and a lot slicker and faster."

Vital statistics: The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE-250. It employs 12,600 people globally, with more than half in the US. Last year's operating profit was pounds 139.2m, with a before-tax profit of pounds 130.2m.

Lifestyle: Graduates are drawn quickly into customer-service teams "and given the opportunity to shine". There is plenty of opportunity for bright sparks to travel and move to different positions within the business.

Easy to get into? Sparky, action-oriented people will thrive at this company: clones should not apply. Just 15 graduates will be recruited in the next year (more are recruited in the US), and those with languages have an advantage, although any type of degree will do if you are after a sales or marketing position. Those with science and engineering degrees - chemistry, metallurgy and chemical and automotive engineering, in particular - are considered for research, development and production.

Glittering alumni: None to speak of, although three board members have clocked up nearly 100 years of service between them.

Pay: Salaries are reputedly competitive, and progression is performance- linked.

Training: An intensive business training programme consists of a series of two-day modules for graduate recruits, while there is also on-the- job training. Fast-track middle managers can join a management development programme, and senior managers may end up on a course at INSEAD or Harvard.

Facilities: Most offices have canteens; sports and social clubs - including five-a-side football teams - are based at different sites.

Who's the boss? Chris Clark is chief executive, having joined in 1962 and progressed through running all the company's sectors.