The Future of HR and Compensation with Aaisha Knights-Ihediwa

December 13, 2023
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The Future of HR and Compensation with Aaisha Knights-Ihediwa

In our recent blog series, we’ve been chatting with global HR leaders to get their thoughts on what’s going on in the world of people management. Most recently, we met with Aaisha Knights-Ihediwa, Chief People Officer at LMAX Group. 

Aaisha took the time out of her busy day to talk to us about: 

  • How she (accidentally) got into HR in the first place
  • The challenges of transitioning from large enterprises to startups 
  • LMAX Group’s current priorities in compensation 
  • What the future holds for HR and compensation 

In this article, we’ll share some of the key insights that came out of our conversation.

People professionals don’t always set out to be people professionals 

When we asked Aaisha about her journey to becoming Chief People Officer at LMAX Group, we heard a familiar story: it (sort of) happened by accident. 

“You’ll find this with a lot of the older generation of HR leaders,” Aaisha said, “A lot of us stumbled into it.”

“I didn’t actually set out to become an HR professional. There were a few aspects that pulled me to the career. Most of all, I enjoyed it, and I thought, well — I’ll carry on with this.” 

Transitioning from large to smaller companies: the challenges 

Aaisha started her career in large organisations including Barclays and KPMG before landing at LMAX Group in 2021. A relatively young company, LMAX Group was founded in 2010 and has around 250 employees. 

And as you’d expect, this transition came with a bit of an adjustment period. 

“What the bigger companies teach you is really the gold standard of best practices. Like, ‘In an ideal world, how would people management look?’. That’s what you get at large organisations, because they have such a large global workforce that they need to invest a considerable amount of money to manage those people.” 

“That gives you great exposure. However, when you’re trying to advance in your career, there are more roadblocks, so it’s not so fluid. There’s more red tape. The bigger the organisation, the more you’re going to have layers and levels to deal with.” 

Another issue in working for large organisations, according to Aaisha, is that work tends to be a lot more siloed:

“One of the hallmarks of a large organisation is that you’re doing amazing work, but usually in one lane. Whereas in a smaller organisation, the teams won’t be as big. You have to be more hands on and get into the nitty gritty a lot more than you would as the CPO of a large bank, for example.”

No matter the industry, people are people 

While the size of the organisation might make a huge difference to a people professional’s role, the industry you work in doesn't necessarily, according to Aaisha. 

“People are people,” she said. “They have similar concerns: they want to be secure in their jobs, they want to have training and development opportunities, they want to be reassured and recognised, and they want to be compensated fairly.” 

Current priorities in compensation and benefits 

So, what’s top of mind for LMAX Group right now when it comes to compensation? Here are a few things Aaisha is focusing on at the moment: 

Tackling inflation and remaining competitive

As with many organisations, inflation and the rising cost of living is a big concern in 2023. 

“Inflation is a worry that’s at the forefront,” Aaisha said. “I’m looking at that with our finance director and our CEO. We need to make sure that our talent is rewarded and we can retain them.”

This is something that’s a particular concern to LMAX Group, because many of its offices are located in financial services hubs - some of the most expensive cities in the world, including London, New York, Singapore and Tokyo. 

“We want people to be able to comfortably live rather than to just survive,” Aaisha said — even when we’re talking about people at the beginning of their careers. 

“We’re always thinking, ‘What’s our minimum?’. Is it comfortable enough for those colleagues to be able to come into the office, and afford a place to live and have a life outside of work? You’ve got to be aware of the cost of living where you are.”  

Benchmarking for fair salaries 

LMAX Group also puts great emphasis on benchmarking to ensure the salaries they pay are fair. 

“We make sure we’ve got a place in the market where we want to be, and we tend to stay there,” Aaisha explained. 

“We’re not talking about being in the middle — we’re definitely above the median. We want to make sure that when our people are going out there, the roles they are seeing are either not much different to what we pay or we pay much higher than wherever they could find elsewhere.” 

To Aaisha, this is just about being a quality employer. 

“We’re not a business that wants to get away with paying people as little as possible. We want the best people, and we want to pay them as well as we are able.” 

Providing transparency around pay 

Like many of us, LMAX Group is also starting to put a greater emphasis on transparency when it comes to pay decisions. 

“It’s still work in progress for us,” Aaisha said. “But naturally people are aware that if they move into a certain role, there’s a promotion there. What we tend to do very well is benchmark on promotion, so once the promotion happens, we benchmark and we communicate that to the colleague.”

What does the future look like? 4 HR trends to look out in 2024

Here are some of the things Aaisha believes will be big in the world of HR and compensation over the next few years: 

1. Financial wellness training for employees

Something Aaisha would like to do at LMAX Group over the next few years is give employees access to financial wellness support. This would help them to better manage their money, understand their tax obligations — and, according to Aaisha, even improve their mental health.

“There are different types of wellness. We’ve had a lot of focus on mental health, but we know that money affects your mental health. If you’re worried about money, are you going to come into work and do the best job you can? I would argue that worrying about money can be a shadow on your back.” 

2. A (bigger) push towards transparency

Of course, we can’t talk about the future of compensation in 2023 without mentioning transparency — see our articles on the EU’s upcoming Pay Transparency Directive if you need a refresher. 

And Aaisha agrees that it’s likely to be an even bigger focus moving forward. 

“We’ve all been talking about the gender pay gap over the last seven or eight years, and we’re now hearing about the ethnicity pay gap. Some companies are publishing their salary bands, and some countries are requiring companies to publish salaries on job descriptions. There’s definitely a lot more openness and transparency around pay.” 

Of course, not all companies see this as a positive change — but according to Aaisha, paying people fairly doesn’t have to be complicated. 

“I’ve been around many tables in different rooms talking about compensation, and some are less transparent than others. My job as CPO, as the HR leader in the room, is to make sure we’re paying the same for the same job. That’s the approach we have.” 

3. An increased focus on DEI 

Aaisha also believes that HR and people teams will have an increased focus on diversity, equity and inclusion as they develop new policies over the next few years. 

“We’re not perfect. We’ve got work to do, like every business does. But that awareness of DEI is what we’re doing well. In terms of how HR can support that, it’s at the forefront of our mind in terms of the policies we put in place, or when we refresh our different policies. And we do get lots of different voices and diverse perspectives around the table, which is a byproduct of being a diverse workforce.”

4. Benefits related to ESG

Something else Aaisha brought up is that we might see more companies developing benefits that are related to ESG measures. What might this look like in practice? 

“People being able to, through their pay, donate to charitable organisations or do things that would mean they’re contributing to a greater cause in the world. Being able to do that through your employee benefits is something that’s not talked about much, but I think it’s probably coming.”

What else has LMAX Group been up to? 

LMAX Group is committed to giving back to the communities in which it operates. In London, the company is a corporate partner of the Kensington and Chelsea Foundation, a non-profit organisation aiming to improve outcomes for disadvantaged or vulnerable people in the local community. 

“They have young people joining, and we give them mentoring on interview skills, CV writing, and a coding camp,” Aaisha explained. “All of this is volunteer work that our colleagues do.”

LMAX Group has also previously employed young people coming through this programme, who may not have had the opportunity to get into financial services the conventional way. 

“We want to support economic outcomes from the grassroots. That’s something LMAX Group is really passionate about.” 

Get more HR insights 

Want to hear from more HR and people leaders? Check out our interview with Jason Waterman, CPO at ProSapient, or the one with Nebel Crowhurst, CPO at Reward Gateway — and keep an eye on this blog for more!

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