A-Z of Employers: FITCH plc

Age: 26.

History: Rodney Fitch was the founder of the company, having previously worked for Terence Conran. Fitch plc in its present form was born 10 years ago with the combination of two design consultancies, the European-based Fitch & Company - which became the first independent design consultancy to be listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1984 - and the US company Richardson Smith. In 1989, the company established a 50/50 joint venture company, Polymer Solutions Inc, with the world leader in engineering thermoplastics, GE Plastics. This year, Fitch plc went on to acquire a French firm, Peclers Paris SA, an agency which produces consumer trends forecasts.

Address: An international company, Fitch has bases in Paris, Boston, San Francisco, Detroit, Columbus, Osaka and Singapore, as well as 130 staff based in New Oxford Street, London.

Ambience: Unusually, employees can listen to music as they work: the company promotes an energetic, frenetic and creative atmosphere, and wants its staff to be sociable, encouraging them to get out of the office for a game of softball or a pub session.

Vital statistics: The company turned over pounds 22 million last year in revenue, of which pounds 2.1 million was profit - a 17.5 per cent increase on the year before. It now employs around 350 associates in eight bases around the globe, with 200 clients throughout 24 countries, including Iomega, Sainsbury, Oasis, AT&T, Compaq, Viacom and BAA among the top names.

Lifestyle: There are a multitude of opportunities for travel because of the company's shared projects and international client base. According to a spokeswoman: "Senior people tend to travel more although, if you're given responsibility, you may find yourself in Duty Free sooner than you thought."

Easy to get into? Team spirit and efficiency, a sense of humour, practical business sense, creativity, curiosity and an ability to think laterally are all prized by Fitch. Would-be designers need a design degree of some sort: interiors, graphics or furniture, for example. Strategists, researchers and planners come from a variety of backgrounds, and even the secretaries are writers in their spare time. Competition is, naturally, stiff, but the company recruits according to its workload. It also sponsors student awards.

Glittering alumni: Exhibiting an almost jaw-dropping lack of modesty - perhaps justifiably - the company declares that it has "too many to mention" and claims that at least half the top names in the design industry have worked within its portals at some point.

Pay: Those who can negotiate the best - and have the experience to match - get paid the most. Starting pay is in line with the industry standard, currently around pounds 14,000 for a junior designer in London. Staff are awarded bi-annual bonus incentives and there is an annual review. Partners, meanwhile, get bonuses of up to 12 per cent of their salaries if they can achieve sector targets, and the most recent incentive for staff is Easy Jet 'reward weekends'.

Training: There's no formal graduate scheme. Instead, Fitch has a 'university' set-up, with workshops including "Dealing With Clients" and "Imagining The Future", plus away-days and brainstorming sessions. The company also has a weekly meeting called Cre-ate for teams to present their work, and there's additional external training in computer programming, languages, public relations and presentation skills.

Facilities: Very much bring-your-own. There's no staff canteen, just a kitchen equipped with microwave and coffee machine. However, Fitch is shortly to move to new London premises which will come with a restaurant area.

Who's the boss? Group chairman and CEO is Martin Beck, a product designer by training. Jean-Francois Bentz is European CEO.

Rachelle Thackray

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