The UK triggered Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union on March 29, 2017. Brexit is thereby well and truly underway and, within the next two-years, the UK and the EU will go their separate ways.
The split might not be as painless and amicable as initially hoped. Stakes are high as the future of the EU single market and its four freedoms (free movement of goods, capital, services and labour) are on the line.
Brexit notwithstanding, remaining in the single market is a pivotal objective for the UK’s economy as a whole and London’s “square mile” denizens in particular. The City of London is popularly regarded as the beating heart of the European financial market due to the number of multinational financial institutions that are headquartered there.
In view of the serious threat of the UK being denied access to the single market after Brexit, we should take a careful look at the current trends and likelihood of UK-based financial institutions remaining in the EU single market.
To secure access to the EU single market, a number of the City’s financial institutions is considering moving to other Member States.
Frankfurt, tipped to be the new City, is a front-runner in the race to acquire fat cat businesses which are considering their options. Poland (notably Warsaw, Wroclaw, Cracow) is in pole position when it comes to attracting back office relocations.
For some time we have been witnessing multinational financial institutions gradually outsourcing select business operations and locating their back offices or shared services centres in the Central Eastern Europe. In the last decade, Poland has actually become the CEE’s unrivalled magnet in attracting the vast majority of SSC/BPO market investments.
Why relocate to Poland
Poland is a true leader in the European SSC/BPO sector. A number of multinational financial institutions have already outsourced aspects of their operations by moving to Poland, notably HSBC, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, UBS, RBS and most recently JP Morgan Chase & Co.
Deep and rich job market
It is estimated that currently the SSC/BPO sector in Poland employs more than 200,000 individuals and by 2020 it should reach 300,000. Impressive as these figures may seem, there is much room (and appetite) for more. Each year tens of thousands of graduates (financiers, economists, IT specialists, etc.) enter the job market. They are well-educated, speak foreign languages and are willing to relocate if necessary. These factors make Poland a formidable if not unique challenger for the City’s financial institutions seeking advantageous relocation opportunities.
Employment and labour regulations
SSC/BPO success is built on two pillars: people and technology. As teams of employees or contractors engaged by SSCs grow rapidly and big staff turnover rates are becoming the norm, employment and labour issues have come to the fore. Employers face daunting challenges in striking a balance between compliance with work time regulations and keeping overtime and risk management costs sustainable, and retaining quality staff in a period of rapidly growing SSC sector staff turnover rates. The stability and predictability of Polish employment laws, and the relatively low labour costs enable foreign investors to devise competitive and durable HR strategies.
An additional advantage is that Polish regulations allow for some flexibility in work organisation, notably in relation to working hours and forms of employment. Properly thought-out work schedules could allow uninterrupted round-the-clock, seven days a week rosters which may play a key role in SSC/BPO organisations.
Reasonable costs and good location
Further advantages of Poland as a prime relocation destination would include:
- a wide range of direct air connections with world business centres (London, Berlin, Paris, Moscow, New York and many others);
- the availability of good quality real estate/office space at competitive prices (as compared to equivalent locations in western Europe);
- the generally good level of English spoken by Polish graduates;
- the possibility of recruiting new talents from neighbouring countries such as Ukraine or Belarus;
- increasing numbers of professionals from other EU countries and from further afield, have been attracted by the challenges and opportunities Poland’s rapidly developing economy has to offer.
Outsourcing back office functions is not only a question of relocating the place where services are to be performed. The SSC/BPO sector is facing various challenges, not least in the fields of HR, taxation and compliance. There is no comprehensive package to help your business face every challenge that may confront you. Each case must be resolved individually, by reference to its own specific aims and needs.