Exclusive: Everest Group’s Salil Dani Discusses Colombia’s Back-Office & Processing Services Potential
Global consultancy & analyst firm Everest Group recently released their 2014 Market Vista and 2014 Year In Review, in which they discuss global shared services and outsourcing trends. Latin America is growing as a destination for these services, and Colombia seems to be climbing the value-chain to compete with mature destinations such as Costa Rica and Mexico. In addition, presenters Peter Bendor-Samuel, Everest Group’s founder and CEO; H. Karthic, the global sourcing partner, and Vice President of Global Sourcing Salil Dani discussed market predictions for 2015. Relevant to Finance Colombia readers, the research firm also released their Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance (BFSI) Global Services Trends in Q4 2014 report.
Finance Colombia was able to speak with Salil Dani, who participated in both research pieces, to gain his insights about Colombia’s place in the financial shared services and outsourcing landscape.
Finance Colombia: Colombia seems to be growing as a destination for outsourcers. Not just with contact center operators such as Teleperformance and Cognizant, but with IT outsourcers such as Unisys, Praxis and Digitex staking claims in the country as well. The country has a much larger labor pool than nearshore competitor locations such as Costa Rica and Uruguay, but is still a developing country. How does Colombia compare to its regional neighbors in terms of offering the infrastructure and talent pool that outsourcing firms, (especially F&A outsourcers) require?
Salil Dani: Colombia has a much larger entry-level graduate pool than many of the Central and South American countries for supporting multiple back-office functions, including F&A (Finance & Accounting). For instance, the country has two to three times the commerce and finance graduates compared to Costa Rica and Guatemala and a much larger number than Peru. The constraint for tier-2 cities in Colombia has been largely around the quality and employability of skills, especially for work that also requires strong English-language reading and writing. The typical (English fluent) employability in Colombia is much lower than Costa Rica and Guatemala that limits the available talent pool for service delivery to North America.
Finance Colombia: That leads into my next question. Central America is getting a lot of attention as an up & comer for English Language voice outsourcing services. Does Colombia have enough English Language talent to compete in this area?
Salil Dani: Colombia’s constraints with English language employability limits the scale of operations in English voice delivery. For instance, the typical scale of English contact center operations for leading players in Colombia is 300-400 FTEs (full-time equivalents), whereas the corresponding figure in San Jose (Costa Rica) is 500-600 FTEs
Finance Colombia: When it comes to financial services shared services, just how much catching up does Colombia have to do with larger competitor locations such as Mexico?
Salil Dani: There are some instances of financial services shared service / GIC (Global In-house operations Center) centers in Colombia, such as Citigroup and Santander. However, the scale and breadth of service delivery is much lower compared to other mature locations such as Mexico. The key difference between Colombia and a mature location such as Mexico is the leverage of tier-2 cities by leading banks in the latter for supporting their operations
Finance Colombia: While Bogotá is the capital, Medellin is well established as a financial center in the country, with several banks headquartered there, and Unisys’ largest IT support outsourcing operations center (per a recent interview I did with them). Do you see certain regional advantages and disadvantages within the country?
Salil Dani: The key centers of shared service and service provider operations in Colombia continue to remain Bogota and Medellin. While Medellin is the financial center of the country, some of the large financial services shared service operations, Citigroup, for example, are in Bogota. Cali is also emerging as a growing destination for voice and back-office BPO work within the country.