Creating one internal culture at Thomson Reuters

By Karuna Kumar

It was a marriage in 2008 that made it a multinational firm employing over 55,000 employees across 100 locations and reporting revenues of $13.1 billion for 2010. It identifies itself as the world’s leading source of intelligent information for business and professionals and we know it as the world’s most trusted news organisation – Thomson Reuters.

As it reaches its third anniversary this month, Thomson Reuters has much to reflect on. The aim of building a great experience for the customer unites the company together and reinforces the nature of what the merger between Thomson and Reuters aimed to deliver.

The merger

Anne Marie Bell, Global Head of Internal Comms – Markets, the financial division of Thomson Reuters, recalls:

“The cultural integration between Reuters and Thomson began three years ago. Reuters already was a very global company, while Thomson was largely a Canadian American footprint. It had some operations outside of this but not to the extent that Reuters had.”

In a big merger, the first year is the most critical, where two companies integrate into one as employees adapt to being part of one company with a common culture and aim.

In Thomson Reuters’ case, their first year was one that was focused on ‘One Company in One Year’. At this level, the first step was integration and called for some major organisational re-structuring.

Bell explains:

“When we began the integration we had five things that we set out to do in the first three years: get to one company in one year; deliver an outstanding customer experience; innovate, innovate, innovate; deliver the numbers (revenue, growth, cost savings) and build the best place to work.

One Company in One Year’ was all about doing the heavy lifting needed to get us to simply function as one single business. The challenge was enormous and the timescale ambitious. We had to put in place new organisational structures, appoint people to new roles and new teams were being created around the world.”

Integration is key

As a result of the merger, property moves ensued all around the world as Thomson Reuters co-located teams and functions that would be working closely together. It also called for a merger of product sets and determining which products to continue from both companies and which products to sunset.

Bell says: “All our systems and policies had to be integrated too – finance, HR, customer data and technical infrastructure. Everyday tools like email, accessing calendars and merging/cleaning up hundreds of thousands of lines of content from the intranets all posed very real communications challenges. People needed to have access to information sourced from both companies.”

As one would expect of a major merger, the customers felt the immediate effect. They now had to deal with a bigger and a different company, with a broader range of products and services and, in some cases, deal with new people on their accounts. To this effect, Bell explains that their most important task at that point was to not let the services fall and keep up to the demands and expectations of customers.

“The first year was an incredible challenge because there was so much at stake – and so much that could have gone wrong – but sheer determination and resilience won the day, and we got through it.”

Constant Innovation

While Thomson Reuters was keeping the wheels turning for its clients, it was innovating too.

Both companies had several new products in the pipeline and work on those had to continue apace, but with the strengths of the combined new company built in. Last year, the markets division launched three major new products for the financial markets with Thomson Reuters – Eikon, the new financial desktop and mobile platform, being the biggest product launch that either Thomson or Reuters have delivered till date.

SWITCH – redefining the customer experience

Speaking of the new initiatives, Bell points out, “None of this matters if our clients are not seeing and feeling the benefits of the merger. We had committed to delivering an outstanding customer experience but that in itself would mean major change to our frontline operations and elsewhere across the firm. So we introduced a program called SWITCH which redefined the customer experience.”

This meant switching to a much more tailored and ‘best fit’ approach to sales and service, depending on the customer’s business mix, area of specialism and workflow. It was about matching the skills of the salesforce with the specialist demands of the customer.

In reality it caused a huge shift for the frontline. Over 3,700 people switched to new roles in new customer segments after months of intense training to get the specialist knowledge and expertise to serve those segments. It called for the set up of a new Direct virtual sales channel to stay in touch with customers more regularly.

Bell elaborates, “We also created a new virtual training function for customers called the Thomson Reuters Knowledge Network. It means that we can offer live and on-demand training to many more customers than before, teaching them how to get the best out of our products and tapping into the expertise of our employees around the world. We’ve made the switch and now the new of working is being embedded across the frontline.”

Changes post-merger

Three years post the merger, how has the marriage affected the internal culture?

“It really feels like we have lived through a decade of change in just a few years and the entire financial industry has changed fundamentally in that time. The disciplined approach of Thomson has merged with the risk-taking culture of Reuters, creating a business that is more curious, more customer savvy and with innovation in its DNA,” Bell explains.

She adds, “I also believe that employees are incredibly proud to work here. We put a huge amount of effort into building the brand and the best place to work – from career development and training, talent management, diversity and affinity groups, reward and recognition and great communications”. Making a difference through internal communications Internal communications is an important strategic asset at Thomson Reuters and is firmly positioned at the outset as an enabler of change within the business. “The internal communications challenge of a huge merger is unlike any I’ve faced in my career. The level of change, and the sheer volume of what had to be communicated to whom and when seemed overwhelming at times,“ says Bell.

She further explains: “We had two main communications challenges – the first was keeping communications simple, clear and consistent for a global audience where over 60% do not have English as their first language. The second was to help our employees cut through the noise to get to what was important for them and their team. With so much change there was a tendency for everyone to want to over communicate.”

The job at hand for Bell was to persuade people that not everyone in the company needed to know everything and to keep commnications as targeted and relevant as possible.

Measuring the success

As the business gears up for its next phase post-integration, staff engagement levels are high. The annual employee engagement survey and pulse surveys show that the scores as a combined business are better than each company had as separate entities.

“It is both reassuring and gratifying, especially when I look back almost three years later and see how the business has completely transformed, and what it took to get there,” says Bell.

Even better is the fact that Thomson Reuters has maintained their number two ranking in the Financial Data Services category in Fortune magazine’s recent World’s Most Admired Companieslist. They’ve also been named to the Ethisphere Institute’s World’s Most Ethical Companies list for the third year in a row and are tops when it comes to Excellence in HR Management in large organizations.

The road ahead

Moving further into 2011, Bell plans to focus on keeping staff engaged and knows that there is still much work to be done, even three years after the merger.

High on her agenda is to provide more communications support and tools to managers across the business, keep the organization focused on its growth ambitions, and involve employees in helping to simplify the business.

“Simplification is the name of the game for the Markets division of this year. As one of our executives said recently: “simplification is hard to explain but you know it when you see it.”

And are they starting to see it?

Bell says they are, “but that’s a whole other story.”

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