London-based, Tommy Hutchinson, founder of i-genius, co-director of Global Centre for Healthy Workplaces, and a European Commission Expert on social innovation and sustainability. Originally, from outside Magherafelt, he has been an IIBN member for 14 years!
All Business is Global
Tip O’Neil, the famous Irish American Speaker of the House of Representatives once said “all politics is local” but for i-genius founder, Tommy Hutchinson, business in today’s world is very much international.
A former banker, serving ten years in the City of London in roles ranging from an aerospace analyst for NatWest to the bank’s political adviser where he oversaw the UK’s first banking representation to the institutions of the European Union in Brussels, Tommy has accumulated experience working in over 40 countries ranging from Guatemala and the US in the West to China and the Philippines in the East.
Today, Tommy operates three brands, namely i-genius which is one of the world’s most prominent vehicles for promoting social entrepreneurship and sustainable innovation, the Global Centre for Healthy Workplaces which has been particularly active in the current covid climate and Base Europe, which helps small and medium sized firms find the right location to expand their operations.
What caused your transformation from corporate life to being an entrepreneur?
I stayed longer in banking than I had intended but it was becoming increasingly clear that NatWest was going to be in a battle for its survival and it was something that I wanted to be involved in. In truth, defending a six-month takeover campaign was deathly dull from a corporate political perspective as it was essentially shareholder and lawyer driven experience so when defeat was on the cards, I went to Barcelona to contemplate my future and perhaps arrogantly to ask myself ‘which corporation should I go to work for now?’ I vividly remember one bright morning standing on top of Parc Guell overlooking the city and sparking Mediterranean and saying to myself, “I don’t want to do this anymore”. If I continue working in a corporation, I know exactly the person I will be in twenty or thirty years, even down to what I will be wearing. It was at that moment that I realised that I wanted to become a social entrepreneur and after a few start-ups with some successes and failures, I founded i-genius.
What triggered the idea for i-genius?
I was travelling in Indonesia and met an outstanding young sculpture. I found myself suggestion people whom he could work with and soon realised that there was no vehicle at that time for such talented people to connect with others from different disciplines and certainly not internationally. That sparked the idea to create i-genius and after much help from friends and organisations like Channel 4, we hosted our first ‘world summit for social entrepreneurs’ in Thailand which was a truly fantastic event. You can check it out on YouTube.
Can you give us some examples of what i-genius does?
We promote the development of social entrepreneurship and the wider social economy. In research, we partnered with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Italian National Statistics Institute (ISTAT) on a European Commission Horizon 2020 project examining innovations in the use of data. We ran the SME trade programme for the Commonwealth leading missions to India, Singapore, Malaysia, and Canada. I am particularly proud of the work we did in Pakistan where we organised a study tour and follow up conference to highlight the enormous potential the country has for developing a socially based economy.
What takes up most of your time now?
With the pandemic, our second brand, the Global Centre of Healthy Workplaces has really come to the fore. We are planning our 9th annual employer’s summit. Unfortunately, it has to be virtual but previous summits have taken place in Shanghai, Florianopolis, Washington DC, Singapore, Bergamo, Melbourne and so forth. I’m pleased that we have managed to create opportunities for the World Health Organisation, World Bank and others to engage directly with employers such as IBM, HSBC, GSK, Optum, Unilever and Chevron but also with thousands of SMEs across the globe.
You are passionate about how business education is taught, why is that?
Working with universities and business schools is a big part of what we do. I am a visiting lecturer to a number of institutions and am currently designing modules to help business leaders better understand the geo-political and sustainability agenda. Learning from history and effective scenario planning is also important. Many of the problems in world today would be better handled if political and business leaders had a better grasp of historical background and the need to plan for the unexpected.
Talk to us about Europe, you are no fan of Brexit are you?
I detest Brexit! It doesn’t have a single redeeming feature. It weakens the UK, Ireland and Europe as a whole. But as someone with a fair grasp of how cycles play out, I am optimistic that the UK or whatever is left of ‘Britain’ will re-join and maybe sooner than most people think. As an entrepreneur, of course I seek opportunities so if any readers want to explore relocation options, i-genius’ Base Europe is here to help you.
Haha, always selling. Finally, as a vivid traveller, what is your place?
Tough one! I have enjoyed almost all the countries I’ve visited whether for work, pleasure, or both but if I had to choose…ahhh this is difficult….I’d say Cuba or Laos. And for cities, I love ancient history so maybe Rome but a year ago, I went to Istanbul and wow, it was amazing! At heart, I am still a farmer’s boy from Ireland, so beautiful countryside in places like France or Slovenia is very appealing.