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The Warsaw Voice » Business » June 27, 2013
Business & Economy
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Business Services: A New Polish Specialty
June 27, 2013   
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Modern business services are becoming a Polish specialty. More than 400 service centers with foreign capital are already in operation across Poland, with a combined work force of 110,000.

“In 1989, the largest sector of the Polish economy was mining, with about 450,000 people employed. Today employment in the mining sector is lower than in the business services sector,” said former Polish Prime Minister Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, at a meeting of the Association of Business Service Leaders in Poland (ABSL), in early June in ŁódĽ. “This testifies to the magnitude of the changes that have taken place in Poland over the past 24 years.”

The meeting was an opportunity to present a report by the ABSL on Poland’s business services sector in 2013. The report says that Poland is a leading global destination for investment projects in the modern business services sector—a position resulting from the diversity of the processes handled in Poland and from the country’s evolution towards increasingly sophisticated services.

The dynamic development of the business services sector in Poland is illustrated by the number of newly established centers across the country. In 2004, Poland was home to 96 service centers operated by foreign companies; today there are more than 400 such centers. Employment in the sector in Poland has increased at an average rate of about 20 percent annually and has been the most stable among all Central and Eastern European countries.

According to Marek Grodziński, Vice President of the ABSL and Director of the Capgemini BPO Center in Katowice, employment in business service centers run by foreign companies in Poland is expected to reach 115,000-120,000 by the end of 2013. “The dynamic growth of the sector has been due to both new players and centers already operating in Poland, which are satisfied with the conditions of doing business in our country,” said Grodziński.

Last year saw a record in terms of the number of new projects, with a total of 56 centers established. This year, 14 new centers have opened so far and many of those already in existence announced they were taking on more staff. More than 60 percent of the centers which were established in 2012 are projects by foreign companies that are newcomers to Poland’s business services market and did not operate any centers here before. The most recognizable international brands companies that have invested in Poland over the past year or so include Samsung, Bayer, Qatar Airways, Brown Brothers Harriman, Goldman Sachs, Euroclear and Metsä Group.

Poland’s position on the global market for business services is further confirmed by international league tables. The southern Polish city of Cracow was ranked among the top 10 outsourcing cities on the latest Tholons Top Outsourcing Cities list of the world’s most attractive cities for investment in the outsourcing sector in 2013. So far Cracow is the only Central and Eastern European city to have been ranked so high in this league table. The top 100 list also includes other Polish cities: Warsaw in 36th place and Wrocław in 75th place. The success of the Polish cities is further proof that Poland is increasingly competitive with regard to global leaders in the sector such as India and China.

Jacek Levernes, President of the ABSL and board member at HP Europe, said, “The report confirms that the quality of services provided by Polish specialists is appreciated by customers all over the world. The area of our greatest expertise is Western Europe. Nine of the 10 surveyed centers handle tasks for this part of the continent. We also increasingly provide services to customers in the Americas. Customers from North America account for 42 percent of orders placed with our centers. Interestingly, many centers also handle tasks for external and internal customers based in Asia, Australia and Oceania. We can safely say that we have become a global hub for high-quality business services.”

According to the ABSL, there are two key factors behind the success of Poland’s business services sector: innovation and diversity. This means that the main strength of Poland’s business services centers is that they provide increasingly complex services that are a source of innovation for their customers’ organizations, while also handling an extremely wide range of processes.

The comprehensive nature of Poland’s business services center operations is reflected by the functioning of highly specialized units that handle complex processes. On the other hand, many centers provide services in at least two business processes, for example finance-and-accounting and IT services.

According to Levernes, the development of the financial sector and of business services for this sector in Poland offers a major opportunity to bring about dynamic growth in employment. “In my opinion, in the next several years, 100,000 new jobs could be created, especially if we manage to change a few key procedures and laws thanks to which we will become competitive in relation to Western Europe,” Levernes said.

ABSL officials point out that there are several factors that inhibit the development of the sector in Poland. Krystian Bestry, Vice President of the ABSL, says that changes in law are needed to allow normal work on Sundays and public holidays. This would make it easier to work with customers abroad, he says. Another problem is that companies in the business services sector cannot check whether applicants for jobs have a criminal record. In the financial and information technology sectors, this is standard practice and sometimes even a must in many European countries.

Ten of the world’s 25 largest banks have already opened service centers in Poland. These are Deutsche Bank, HSBC, BNP Paribas, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Citigroup, ING, Santander, UBS, UniCredit and Credit Suisse.

“Poland is increasingly handling advanced processes for the financial sector based on specialist knowledge such as auditing, creation of cutting-edge pricing and trading models as well as risk management and consulting in the field of business optimization and transformation,” says Bestry.

Another intensely developing area in Poland’s business services sector are IT services for international clients. Among the projects handled in Poland is the development of software for large foreign corporations. For example, Polish specialists have created a derivatives order management system for one of the 10 largest investment banks in the world.

Other standout examples of advanced IT operations for global customers include a monitoring system designed to combat money laundering, the development of software for risk management products on financial markets and M2M (machine-to-machine) solutions.

Modern business services sector insiders agree that skilled staff is a key factor for the development of Poland’s business services sector. Due to the international nature of business service center operations, the availability of skilled professionals fluent in foreign languages is vital. Poland’s business services centers provide services in over 30 languages for several dozen countries worldwide. Ninety-eight percent of the centers use English in their work, and 79 percent use German. Tasks are also handled in less popular languages such as Hungarian, Turkish, Danish and Moldovan.

The country’s highest-ranking services center in terms of the number of languages uses 32 languages. Interestingly, it turns out that the Polish centers are increasingly attracting workers from other European countries now experiencing economic difficulties.
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