Earlier this month, HP appointed a new UK and Ireland vice president and managing director, replacing long-term UK chief Steve Gill, who has moved to work for HP in the Far East.
Nick Wilson has taken over responsibility for the vendor's four business division operations in the UK and Ireland. Before joining HP he was president and chief executive of CSC’s UK, Nordics, global accounts, Middle East and Africa business, and also held executive positions at Unisys and IBM.
Wilson gave Computing his first interview in the new role to discuss his plans for HP's UK operations.
Given the current sales slump in Europe, is this a good time to take over as UK managing director?
I can’t think of a better time to take over because of the integration between EDS and HP and the potential that creates to leverage the market. We have a strong foothold in government contracts – even with an election coming up they are still spending – and there are still companies that need to reduce costs through IT services and outsourcing.
Do you see the economy getting worse before it gets better?
I don’t think the economic situation in the UK has got any worse in the last few quarters and by the end of the year I am confident we will see signs of a recovery in certain industries. Some sectors, such as financial services believe it or not, have already started to invest in spending money [on new technology] to save money [in the long term].
Do you envisage HP making any more redundancies in the UK?
We have a certain amount of overlap from putting the two companies [EDS and HP] together, but I would hope the worst is behind us. You can never say never because you always have to keep the cost base in line with revenue and that depends on business performance.
How will you reassure nervous HP staff that their jobs are safe?
That’s one of the things I’ve been considering over the first two weeks. I understand the last year has been tough for them - lots of other companies have experienced tough times as well – but we have seen the worst of that now and I will be getting out to see people at 22 sites between now and October to go through HP’s plans for the next 12-18 months. I will be taking out a positive message to HP employees about how we can leverage the synergy between HP and EDS to exploit opportunities. The market is stabilising, there is potential for growth.
Soft demand and lower average selling prices are eroding HP profit margins; have you identified other operational cost cuts which can be implemented?
Ask me that in the next quarter when I have had a few more months to look. A lot of the things that needed to be done are already in place – things around sensible travel expenses and flexible working practices, for example. I’ll also be looking at how to use our existing capacity to expand without adding exponential costs to it.
What do you see as HP’s biggest strength in the UK?
It has to be the combination of the largest services and technology brands in the UK – adding two plus two to make five. The market has not yet seen HP leverage that advantage to anywhere near its potential but it will see a big shift now.
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