E-possums share wisdom with Pearl's management

They say you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but young IT-savvy employees at the savings and insurance company Pearl are...

They say you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but young IT-savvy employees at the savings and insurance company Pearl are training senior managers in the latest developments in new technology.

David Brown

Packs of 20-something "e-possums", named after Dame Edna Everage's term of endearment, have been set loose on general managers in the Australian-owned company to show that there is more to IT than repairing desktops and ensuring the e-mail works.

Explaining the mysteries of the new technology and setting managers thinking about new ways of doing business has proved to be such a huge success over the last six months that the scheme is now being extended to middle management.

In return the e-possums receive a high-level window on corporate life, although mentors and managers come from different departments to ensure there are no suggestions of favouritism in promotions.

Mark Dixson, a 21-year-old who works in the pensions department, is a mentor to IT director Peter Mullins and the pair meet twice a month.

"Although [Mullins'] knowledge of the Net is very good, he just has not got the time available to keep up to speed with the latest developments within the e-world," said Dixson.

The scheme was developed after comments by Harvard professor Richard Wilton, at a conference held at Pearl's parent company, during which he said young mentors were the best way to get senior managers up to speed on e-business.

Dixson explained, "People who work in IT departments tend to be very technically minded but we are able to talk in a way that people who do not know a lot about the technical side of computers can understand."

At present there are 17 e-possums at Pearl and a further 12 at the Bristol headquarters of sister company London Life.

The mentor scheme will soon be rolled out across the parent AMP group in New Zealand and Australia and to AMP UK Shared Services and NPI.

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