Identifying the naturally high standards of service provided by a Welsh workforce, the American healthcare IT consultancy is eyeing growth opportunities in Britain, which could bolster its UK headquarters in Port Talbot, South Wales.
Loyalty is a key principle for Greg Jones, president and co-founder of HCI Group, the healthcare IT consultancy. Jones is a proud Welshman, raised in Port Talbot. He formed HCI in 2009 with his American brother-in-law Richard Caplin, chief executive.
“I’m Welsh, born and raised,” Jones says. “After university, I lived and worked here for a while before I left to set up the business in the US.”
HCI was formed in Jacksonville, Florida, where Jones and the business are based. But it didn’t take long for him to start hankering after the warm, friendly atmosphere of home – as well as the prospect of winning some work from the National Health Service.
In 2010, he opened HCI’s UK headquarters in Baglan, Port Talbot. The medical IT consultancy had gained a foothold in the US market and wanted to transfer its skills for cutting costs while improving efficiency for the NHS.
“In our industry, we are focused on service – that’s a key principle,” he says. “Our Welsh team do that very naturally, we thrive at that. A lot of our team here in Wales have worked in the US and worked well there. That’s a real hallmark of doing business here in Wales – our staff are very loyal.”
In just seven years, HCI has grown into a business with annual revenues of $100m. The group has 450 employees in more than 10 countries around the world and often utilises several hundred more contractors for short-term projects. Its rapid growth includes last year’s acquisition of British firm, High Resolution Consulting and Resourcing. HCI now has about 65 staff in Britain, including 10 at its UK base in Port Talbot. “I think it’s telling that in a company of 450 people our longest serving staff are here in Wales. We’ve been very blessed,” he admits. “Our UK headquarters is in Wales and we are looking at additional investments here so that we continue to grow the operation in Wales. As the business grows, our base in Wales will grow.” Jones predicts a blend of organic growth and some more acquisitions in the future. “We’ve got a great platform here now,” he points out. “Staff in Port Talbot work on delivery; recruitment; finance; sales and marketing”, Jones says.
The bulk of HCI’s business in the UK is in implementation of electronic patient records – a sensitive area that requires specialist skills. HCI’s consulting service is also popular, which involves advising hospitals on how to update and improve their digital maturity and procure the right IT systems. “The key to better patient care within budget is technology, and getting hospitals to implement it and use it,” Jones says.
He says it is important to emphasise to doctors and hospital administrators precisely why hospitals embark on any new IT projects. “Education is a very important part of the process. When a hospital switches on a piece of technology, we are on site, alongside them, until they are able to use it efficiently.” Given the importance of the NHS to British healthcare, it was important for HCI to secure good links and access to key decision makers. “Naturally, it was very important to have that access,” says Jones. “We’ve had good meetings with Welsh Government decision makers who help with that.”
He praised the Welsh Government’s willingness to engage in discussions with HCI about its business and future growth plans.“We’ve had meetings at a high level with Welsh Government,” he says. “Even though our business in the UK has been predominantly in England, whenever we’ve reached out to the Welsh Government they have always been responsive.”
Jones was also enthused by the potential opportunities to recruit graduates in future from nearby Swansea University. “I think Wales is a great place to live and work. It’s exciting to see development, like the growth of Swansea University,” he says. He notes that Swansea University has a course on Healthcare Informatics, which is the study of data in healthcare – one of the areas in which HCI specialises.
Jones grew up in the area, so he is a firm advocate of the other benefits to living and working in Wales. “I think that work–life balance is important. There are a lot of activities to do here and it’s a good, caring community,” he says. Jones loves returning home to South Wales from Florida on regular trips with his family. “I frequently come back,” he says. “I love going to Margam Park [in Port Talbot] because I grew up there, playing cricket. It has such a beautiful background and it’s never too crowded. I have six young children and, whenever we all come back I take them there, and they love it too.”