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The Warsaw Voice » Business » November 28, 2013
Business & Economy
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Poland Big on Business Services
November 28, 2013   
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Poland enjoys pole position in terms of modern business services in Central and Eastern Europe. More than 400 business service centers with foreign capital are already in operation across the country, with a combined work force of 110,000.

The country is increasingly seen as an attractive destination for companies in the modern business services sector. Such services have become something of a Polish specialty and the country’s modern business services sector continued to grow unabated last year.

In recent years, 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 the Association of Business Service Leaders in Poland (ABSL), an organization that brings together companies from the Shared Service Centers, Business Process Outsourcing, Information Technology Outsourcing and Research and Development sectors.

Poland is home to more than 400 business services centers with foreign capital that employ more than 110,000 people and constitute around 40 percent of total employment in the modern business services sector in Central and Eastern Europe. That number is expected by ABSL to reach between 115,000 and 120,000 by the end of 2013.

Marek Grodziński, Vice President of ABSL and Director of the Capgemini BPO Center in Katowice, said, “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.”

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. According to a report by ABSL on Poland’s modern business services sector in 2013, last year saw a record in terms of the number of new projects, with a total of 56 centers established. 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 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 accounts for 3.4 percent of all global outsourcing/offshoring jobs, ranking first in CEE, second in Europe as a whole and sixth worldwide, according to fDi Markets, a cross-border investment monitor from the Financial Times. Poland is also third, after China and India, on the Hackett Group’s ranking of destinations for global service centers. Moreover, in a recent report by the Everest Group, Poland was the only CEE country to be described as a mature market, together with Brazil, China and India.

According to the BPOland Potential and Prospects report drawn up by consulting firm CBRE, together with recruiting experts Hays and the Polish Information and Foreign Investment Agency (PAIiIZ), Poland is the destination of choice for companies operating in the business services outsourcing sector in Central and Eastern Europe. Over the past year, Poland has outpaced India in terms of the rate of job creation and project expansions in the BPO sector, the report says.

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 city in Central and Eastern Europe 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 ABSL and board member at HP Europe, said, “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 centers surveyed [by ABSL for its report on Poland’s modern business services sector in 2013] 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 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. Meanwhile, many centers provide services in at least two business processes, for example finance-and-accounting and IT services. Importantly, 71 percent of the centers surveyed said they are planning to introduce more advanced operations without reducing the existing scope of their services. The main areas in which centers handle the most advanced processes include services for customers in the financial sector 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.

The range of services for financial markets is already extensive. Almost two-thirds of the centers in Poland provide services to businesses from the sector. 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.

Another intensely developing area in Poland’s business services sector are IT services for international clients. Przemysław Berendt, vice president of ABSL and vice president for global marketing at the Luxoft company, said, “Poland has become a key European destination for IT services. 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 carried out in Poland 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.

Job candidates are expected to have not only language skills but also soft skills such as excellent communication abilities and openness to other cultures. Ideally, they should also have experience gained in an international environment, for example during a student exchange program abroad. Interestingly, it turns out that the Polish centers are increasingly attracting workers from other European countries now experiencing economic difficulties.
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