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People Heroes: Filipe Martins, People Partner at Funding Circle

We are thrilled to announce our People Hero this month, Filipe Martins - People Partner at Funding Circle. For anyone that works in a People focussed role the last year has been a real test - having to manage so many unexpected situations. We invited Filipe to share some of his highlights and challenges from the last 12 months and thoughts on the future of HR.

Hi Filipe! Could you tell us about your role at Funding Circle?

Sure! At Funding Circle, I'm currently the People Partner for Technology globally, and Sales & Service in the UK. Right now, I look after around 300 staff and my role is to work with leadership on everything to do with people in their departments - translating their business priorities into people strategies and approaches. Essentially, I am an adviser to the different leadership teams, as well as a member of those teams to support them with their people strategies, plans and initiatives making sure that they align with the overall business approach to people.

My role is internal facing, as I partner with teams in the business but also outward looking because I bring ideas and awareness to the teams of things that they might not be exposed to (for example, from other teams at Funding Circle, or external best practices and research).

Generally speaking, half of my day is usually in meetings, either 1-to-1, leadership or project team meetings, and then the other half is following up on specific actions and projects. By nature, my job is dealing with a wonderful mix of stakeholders.

Amazing - a really diverse role. So what interested you to start a career in HR?

Good question! For me, I probably came into HR because I liked the idea of working with people. But in HR, you have to wear many hats and you have to enjoy working with people, but not just when things are going well. You have to work in all sorts of situations and although that was something that was difficult for me when I first started in HR - because it wasn't what I had first thought - it's actually the variety of experiences and facets that kept me in HR. Knowing that you get to see everything from the inside, participate in business decisions, have a real impact behind the scenes - sometimes without people even knowing it - I really take satisfaction in that.

One of the things I love about HR is that it’s always evolving and growing. I lecture in HR at Birkbeck (University of London), which I really enjoy because I get to meet students from different backgrounds, who add so much to my perspective. I’m able to bring my practical experience and challenge myself with an academic hat. This experience has really helped me in my day job, and I think has also allowed me to deliver a blend of practice and academia in my teaching. In my view, HR as it was 10 years ago is not as it is now. We're the team that glues everything together and connects the different strands of People initiatives in a company. This is one of the key things that keeps me in HR!

What do you foresee as a major shift or change in HR over the coming years?

At a macro level, it's maybe looking at things like Brexit, Covid and the impact that automation and technology will have on jobs (as well as the HR function).

For me in the next few years, it's probably the move towards humanising HR - there's a part for automation for sure, but there's also room for the added value that humanisation brings which has sometimes been lost throughout the years as HR has become more streamlined. Getting the mix right for the organisation is important.

The future is probably going to continue to involve a focus on HR being a business partner - a journey we've been on as a function, and will continue.

What professional achievement are you most proud of this year? 

I think this year has obviously been a year of a lot of change for everybody. We've managed to conduct a lot of business changes and continue to facilitate lending to businesses that have needed it throughout Covid. This has only been possible thanks to the teams being agile and flexible. I'm really proud of having worked closely with the teams, to navigate through the changes and executing them as best as possible - for the right reasons. What I'm most proud of is probably that we've made it through the year as a company and continue to provide an incredible product to the small businesses that borrow from us.

What is the biggest challenge you faced at work over the last 12 months?

In my opinion, the biggest challenge is providing a sense of stability to people in a time when it’s not been there. Keeping employees engaged and maintaining stability is really important. Creating a sense of stability - whether it's through meetings or through communications - has been the hardest because the whole world has changed. For many, work is what anchors a lot of the day, so maintaining a sense of normalcy amongst so much uncertainty - that has been a real challenge.

What sort of initiatives have you introduced to manage the disruption caused by Covid?

We've carried out regular pulse survey checks, through our survey tool, to understand how people were feeling about returning to the office and remote working. We wanted to keep that dialogue ongoing and maintain constant communication from leadership - whether it be through All Hands, monthly, weekly team meetings and cadence downwards and upwards in the organisation. 

It’s also been a year of focus for our employee resource groups. We either formed or cemented groups like Circle Of Pride, Let’s Talk About Race and Women@FC, and they really help to create a sense of community. In these times, that's been really important. 

We’ve been using technology to help us arrange coffee roulettes, enabling people to catch up with members of the team you might not normally crossover with, but you might have seen by the coffee machine at the office. We’ve also used similar bots to help us keep consistency and streamline onboarding.

Lastly, we’ve focussed on helping our managers through this time too, initiating upskilling and self development through our flagship manager training programme. The team launched the programme successfully this year and it’s quickly becoming a key programme for our manager population. The course covers a number of topics from manager basics to employee relations and diversity and inclusion. We are looking forward to embedding this further into 2021!

Could you tell us a little bit more about your diversity and inclusion projects?

Sure. At Funding Circle we don't just talk about diversity when something happens in the outside world. However, external events like the Black Lives Matter movement propelled a few of us getting together to create a new, thriving employee resource group called Let’s Talk About Race. Our aim was to enable people to have more of a voice, to talk about issues in relation to race and ethnicity in the workplace in an open and non-judgmental way, and provide a platform to constructively challenge and to learn from each other.

We’ve also really focused on maintaining and further pushing our gender diversity. As of October 2020 overall female representation at Funding Circle is 40%, and our Global Leadership Team (GLT) is 38%. However, at senior management level we reported 24%. We have put specific plans in place in each business area to help us achieve 40% female senior management representation by the end of 2025. Our aim here to put steps in place to ensure that we keep focusing on achieving gender balance, so as not to let goals slip.

What are you looking forward to most in 2021? 

At Funding Circle, everything we do is centred around building a place where small businesses come to get the funding they need to win. For our people, this translates to an internal vision around “Building the Incredible”. Our vision, mission and approach play an important part in how we attract the right people that want to build incredible tech products and excite our customers, for example. So, that’s something that is going to be the theme for the next year.

For me, I’m looking forward to working with my leadership teams to help them take their organisations to the next stage of their journey. I’m excited to potentially look at our benefits offering more holistically, and help our people become more engaged in what’s on offer.  Covid will certainly continue to be a key focus, as is how we respond to it. Lastly, I’m also excited to teach at Birkbeck at the start of 2021.


A big thank you to Filipe for taking the time to speak with us! We loved hearing Filipe’s perspective on HR and we’re excited for what the future holds for the Funding Circle team. 

Check out Funding Circle’s careers page for more information.

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