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Garcet, SG EBS: Romania should be better promoted abroad - From OT print issue

After spending 18 months in Romania, Philippe Garcet, CEO of local Société Générale European Business Services (SG EBS) visited "extraordinary landscapes and extremely friendly people," he tells OT.

2016-05-13 15:48:27 - by Bogdan Tudorache

"It is a beautiful country with wonderful potential. From my perspective Romania should be better promoted abroad," Garcet adds, pledging a 40 per cent growth of the local company in the near-term.

Société Générale European Business Services (SG EBS) was founded in 2011 to be the near shore shared service centre for Societe Generale Group (SGG); it delivers services in various fields of activity for worldwide entities of the Group (finance/ accounting, procurement, human resources and IT). The company is currently serving over 20 countries, mostly across Europe, for all major business lines of SGG.

"Establishing a shared service centre in Romania was an obvious choice for SGG: available pool of talent, multilingual skill permitting service deliveries in client language, cultural and geographical proximity, costs among the lowest in the region and the EU membership, which eases some of the regulatory and data protection hurdles," Garcet says.

On top of that, the SocGen's footprint in the country and brand recognition was already high, owed it to the local acquisition in Banca Romana pentru Dezvoltare (BRD).

EBS established first the Finance Shared Service Center, launched in 2011, now counting more than 300 staff delivering services for more than 300 client entities and covering fully-fledged finance services including regulatory reporting, statutory accounts or project management for global initiatives.

The second line of services was The Human Resources Shared Service Center, launched in 2012, now counting close to 200 staff delivering HR services for SG entities from EMEA countries (mainly France, Romania, Switzerland and Luxembourg) and some specific HR services globally.

Late 2014, the IT Service Center was established. It encountered a fast growing ramp up and has today over 100 employees, and has ambitions to grow beyond 300.

"We have increased our capacity and we have extended our office space in West Gate in order to integrate new activities and teams, as we plan to increase the list of services offered and on-board new activities. Since our creation, our company recorded double digit growth, reaching more than 600 FTEs by end of 2015. We foresee the same trend in the coming year and ambition to cross 1000 FTEs in a foreseeable future," Garcet explains.

"Our goal is to be the centre of excellence for Societe Generale European operations."
The company serves mostly Western and Eastern European countries, France being main client. It has services delivered in eight spoken languages. In SG EBS, 70 per cent of the staff speaks English, 60 per cent speaks fluent French, 23 per cent Spanish, 18 per cent German and also Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Polish and Russian are used.

The staff specializes in the following areas: Finance/accounting services (accounting, regulatory reporting, group reporting, statutory reporting and permanent supervision control); Procurement (PtP, accounts payable, accounts receivable); Human resources (management of the Group training catalogue, workforce administration, operations linked to recruitment, contact centre) and IT services (software development and application support).

While Poland is the market leader of Europe's SSC industry, the Romanian stage follows suit. Location (EU membership), experienced employees, foreign language speakers, labour cost are the key aspects that makes Poland and Romania attractive for opening and developing shared services centres.

"In Poland, outsourcing industry is one of the leading sources for jobs and I am convinced Romania will follow the same trend. According to ABSL currently, over 60,000 Romanian are employed in companies belonging to business services sector, which represents 1.9 per cent of Romania's working population, and their number is estimated to increase to 120,000 - 150,000 in the next five years to support the expansion of the business services."

And competition between the two countries increases.

"As long as salary remains contained, Romania has all the ingredients to carry on this successful path.
Poland's outsourcing industry evolution is closely monitored by our team to follow their best practices and avoid risks they encountered," he says.

And SG EBS may also look at secondary and tertiary cities.

" We are confident that there is still large place to expand, at the same time we need to contribute to resources continuous development by strengthen the academic – business partnership and invest in partnerships with universities and in programs for resources specialization. We should not forget about the potential of smaller cities in Romania, cities with University centres and important development potential."

Due to market dynamics, the attrition rate in the industry is relatively high.

"As managers we spend a significant part of our time on human resources development subjects to mitigate those effects. Nevertheless, attrition is also an opportunity to optimise pyramid management and on board young graduate from top universities, as we do."

In SG EBS, attrition rate remains below market benchmark of 15 per cent.
That's "likely because we are in a growing mode, offering career development and path to our talented staff."

As such any new project is sourced primarily with existing resources to grow them and expose them to new challenges.

"Moreover, our management teams spend sizable time designing and implementing our EVP (Employee Value Proposition) program to create the best condition to retain and attract staff and make SG EBS a great place to work," he adds.

Nowadays employees are motivated mostly by recognition and development opportunities:
Feeling their impact is visible on the business results/strategy, understanding their role within common global objectives or being supported in their development by committed leaders is what they expect and makes the difference. Development plans, trainings and participation to seminars are some of the elements that could make the difference.

"It is in fact the promise made to our employees when we launched our EVP, a symmetry of attention summarised by our motto: ‘We grow together'. Through our EVP (Employee Value Proposition) we encourage our teams to be constructive, curious, innovative and show solidarity, all these are essential for our organizational culture which is embedded in our Group's values: team spirit, responsibility, commitment and innovation."

Being preoccupied by employees' wellbeing and work-life balance, EBS has introduced work from home and specific benefits such as on the chair massage, a book rental program, discounts to sport clubs among others.

Within SG EBS, the average age is 29 years.

"Being a new industry in Romania, it is possible that the young population is more open to try and trust new jobs, new companies, new challenges, but with the maturity of the industry this trend will likely change. Moreover, we value continuous improvement and innovation in our company for which digital natives are at the forefront."

Garcet's KPIs for 2016

Philippe Garcet explains that the current operational KPI (key performance indicators) targets include: accuracy, timelines and efficiency, agreed with the clients and specific for all our business lines. But of similar importance are the non-operational KPIs: Business and people development; attracting and retaining talented people; managerial development; financial indicators, such as cost/FTE; increasing efficiency and building a solid risk culture.

"On each of them we have dedicated KPIs that we monitor on permanent basis and we make sure that we register visible progress in each area. Our main asset is definitely our employees so we balance the business effort with our people development in order to achieve our goal to become the centre of excellence of SG European operations, being the transformation agent for the Group and a top employer."

As dynamism is the key word that best characterizes the market in Romania, the industry growth has advantages but also challenges.

"All the players in the market are fighting for talents and we have to find the best programs for retention and attraction so that we build a very strong brand within SSCs market in Romania and even abroad. Beyond compensation for which we need to be and remain competitive we pay constant attention of hearing staff pulse and design the optimal conditions for them to enjoy their SG EBS journey and blossom with us."

At group level, there is a focus on digitalization, automation, use of robots and implementing advanced technologies.
"Within SG EBS we are as well spearheading some initiative to automate/streamline tasks by leveraging on capabilities offered by robots. This will increase efficiency, avoid risks, and allow staff to concentrate on added value functions. Obviously this will not mean personnel reduction, but investing in new activities, on boarding additional clients, climbing on the service value chain."
This action will create important opportunities for internal mobility and development.

"Early May we plan as well to organise with our global Innovation team a learning expedition in Romania to better understand local innovation and start up eco system and assess how to connect and leverage on them. We consider digital revolution will significantly transform our activities and business model and want to be at the forefront of it."

And after visiting Romania, Garcet believes it should be better promoted abroad.

"Being in Romania for almost 18 months I had the opportunity to visit several places (Bucovina, Transylvania, Danube Delta, ski resorts, Cluj, Sibiu...) and have seen extraordinary landscapes and extremely friendly people up to this moment. It is a beautiful country with wonderful potential," he says.
"From my perspective Romania should be better promoted abroad to become a place tourists are eager to discover. Yet on the downsize I will mention the lack of top class infrastructure, especially roads/motorways or trains to connect major cities. On this area improvement are really needed and European funds could finance part of the urgently needed works, Garcet concludes."

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