The Charlotte Business Journal reported last week on some doom-and-gloom news for Walmart accountants based in the Queen City: Retail giant Walmart Inc. will lay off hundreds in Charlotte starting later this year as it outsources its finance and accounting operations. The retailer filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification with the N.C. Department of Commerce this […]
A few Accounting News Roundups ago, Colin linked to a story about Grant Thornton's new tax hub in Bangalore. In that article, GT CEO Stephen Chipman enthusiastically declared his own tax return is prepared by Indians in Bangalore, which is fine for him. What Colin didn't highlight was this quote, in which Chipman declares hiring […]
Contributor note: As can happen when assembling posts for a tabloid publication late at night after too many beers and not enough sleep, we bumbled some simple facts on this one. We appreciate an astute reader reaching out to correct us and will spend the remainder of the day in the punishment corner thinking about what we’ve done.
It wasn’t that long ago so all of you should still have PwC’s recent Tampa “scandal” fresh in your minds but in case you need a refresher: 390 PwC employees in Tampa were impacted by a restructuring which left some out of a job and others i h other companies.
PwC fired a little under 500 IT people in Tampa (moving those jobs to an outsourcing firm in India) and that pissed everyone off so to be nice, PwC decided to hire 200 new people and build a new $78 million office smack dab in the middle of Tampa (after hiring 487 employees in Florida for FY 2011). Isn’t that sweet? Well yes, it was, but that wasn’t the problem the press had an issue with. It was the fact that PwC was going to get $2 million (give or take a few pennies) in subsidies for doing it.
That didn’t go over very well (understandably) and as of yesterday, PwC had their Tampa lawyer – one Kenneth Tinkler – shoot a quick “oops, our bad” note to the mayor and city council stating they would no longer seek the $1.1 million “in incentive payments already approved by the City and County.”
Not the kind of firm to be accused of bitching out on a big deal like this, PwC will move forward with the plan to build in Tampa’s Westshore and hopes to have its entire Tampa workforce settled in there by 2013.
“I was very surprised to hear that they were turning down the incentives,” said Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern, who apparently exercised professional skepticism during the subsidy approval process. “But I am very glad that they have reiterated their intention to stay here.”
See, what happened was apparently the Tampa/Hillsborough County Economic Development Corporation got the facts wrong
PwC fudged the facts a bit when it applied for the money on PwC’s behalf (as is standard), saying it needed the incentives to keep 1,633 jobs in Tampa. At the time, Tampa City Council members and Hillsborough County commissioners didn’t actually know the unnamed financial services firm applying for the incentives was PwC. According to the St. Petersburg Times, a written application made on the firm’s behalf said it had competing offers from South Carolina, India, Singapore and Argentina. But PwC denies that it ever planned on moving any jobs out of the area. “We never considered moving those 2,000 jobs out of Tampa,” the firm’s Florida market managing partner Mario de Armas told the St. Petersburg Times.
Update: Mario later corrected his earlier statement by telling the St. Petersburg Times “PwC has openly communicated to the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. that when it originally evaluated potential sites for the firm’s new Enterprise Solutions Center, the firm was considering either a short-term lease renewal in the existing building in Tampa or constructing a building in Tampa with a long-term lease commitment. Although we did not contemplate an immediate move of 2,000 jobs out of Tampa, a short-term lease arrangement inherently leaves open the long-term question as to where our Enterprise Solutions Center would be located. Instead, our decision to invest in a new building demonstrates a sustained, long-term commitment to the Tampa area. PwC was forthright and consistent in its communications with Florida’s state and local economic development officials throughout this process, and so now we are very much looking forward to our partnership with the greater Tampa community and to maintaining and potentially increasing our work force in Tampa.”
The entire letter from their lawyer is included here for your reading pleasure:
Ahhh, outsourcing. Nothing like American jobs going overseas to whip up fury among the masses. The latest example, via yesterday’s Times, is accounting jobs going to Sri Lanka.
As this tiny island nation staggers back from a bloody, decades-long civil war, one of its brightest business prospects was born from a surprising side effect of that conflict. Many Sri Lankans, for various reasons, studied accounting in such numbers during the war that this nation of about 20 million people now has an estimated 10,000 certified accountants.
An additional 30,000 students are currently enrolled in accounting programs, according to the Sri Lankan Institute of Chartered Accountants. While that ratio is lower than in developed economies like the United States, it is much greater than in Sri Lanka’s neighboring outsourcing giant, India.
But if you think these jobs are just 10-key jockeys and plugging digits into tax returns, you would be wrong, wrong, wrong:
Offices in Sri Lanka are doing financial work for some of the world’s biggest companies, including the international bank HSBC and the insurer Aviva. And it is not simply payroll and bookkeeping. The outsourced work includes derivatives pricing and risk management for money managers and hedge funds, stock research for investment banks and underwriting for insurance companies.
Many developing countries have “one particular competency that they do better than anyone else,” said Duminda Ariyasinghe, an executive director at Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment. “Financial accounting is that door opener for us.”
So all that you put in to knowing derivative accounting inside and out? Yeah, someone in Sri Lanka has a similar level of understanding and naturally, the labor there comes cheap. Extremely cheap:
In the United States, the median annual wage for accountants and auditors in May 2008 was $59,430, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Sri Lankan workers in the accounting profession receive an average annual pay package of $5,900, according to a 2010 survey by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.
Wages in Sri Lanka for financial outsourcing are about one-third less than in neighboring India, and hiring educated employees is easier in Sri Lanka, according to executives who do business in both countries.
Yes, that’s a savings of 90%. No, there’s not much you can do about it. Except discuss below.
Apparently this is part of WAG’s ‘Rewiring for Growth’ initiative. And by ‘rewiring’ they mean cutting $1 billion in expenses by next year (no pressure).
As many as 150 accounting jobs could be eliminated at Walgreen Co.’s Deerfield headquarters within the next 10 months as the drugstore giant outsources the work.
The job losses result from Walgreen Co.’s agreement with process-outsourcing firm Genpact, based in India, to take over certain accounting work.
Genpact has agreed to acquire Walgreen’s accounting office in Danville, Ill., where 500 former Walgreen employees have become employees of Genpact.
Another 300 Walgreen jobs, including the 150 in Deerfield, will be affected by the move. The remaining 150 jobs are scattered among Walgreen accounting offices nationwide, a Walgreen spokeswoman said Monday.
An unspecified number of Walgreen accounting department employees who remain employed will be shifted to other jobs or see their positions changed drastically, the Walgreen spokeswoman said.
Problem is “positions changed drastically” could be anything from the mailroom to working the counter at your respective local store on Christmas Day.
Walgreen outsourcing deal to cut as many as 150 accounting jobs [Chicago Sun-Times]
As a follow-up to last week’s blog on Molson Coors’ experience with outsourcing, the CFO of the Latin American division of Dutch comglomerate Philips provided a different perspective Thursday morning at the Hackett Group’s best practices conference in Atlanta.
While Molson Coors’ CFO Stewart Glendinning expressed disappointment over high turnover rates at the outsourcing company the beer company signed up with, Philips’ Latin American CFO Ronald Eikelenboom said he planned on high turnover when he inked a deal with Indian outsourcer Infosys in late 2008 to expand the two companies’ relationship to Brazil, where Philips’ Latin American operations are based.
Eikelenboom told the audience (and me in a follow up video interview that will be posted shortly) that high turnover was central to Infosys’ business model, as the outsourcer keeps salary costs low by rotating from older to younger workers. But that turnover was priced into the terms of the deal, which at $250 million (for, I believe, the global contract, not just the Latin American part) is considered one of the largest of all such transactions. Too, the terms set a minimum level of performance, so it’s up to Infosys to manage the downside of high turnover.
Infosys had few qualms about Philips’ demands, said Eikelenboom, because the company was eager to expand into Brazil and the Philips deal gave it an entrée. So the CFO had enough leverage with the outsourcer to reassure himself about the potential risks.
“We’re building something together with Infosys,” he told the gathering. “We share the same aspirations.”
For that reason, Eikelenboom also expressed less concern than Glendinning did about outsourcing complex financial processes. And he said that was important for Philips as labor cost advantages in emerging markets dwindle over time as wages rise, and innovation and process improvement thus become more critical to the value that outsourcing creates.
“We’re moving up the ladder in BPO,” he said, referring to business process outsourcing.
With outsourcing, as with everything, I suppose, it’s different strokes for different folks.
[caption id="attachment_10529" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Paperless!"][/caption]
How about one more convo with the KPMG leadership this week? As one commenter mused earlier, the lack of past CEO spreadsheet-side chats were too few and far between so we figure we’re doing a you a favor by this passing ��������������������round, John Veihmeyer and Henry Keizer kick around lowballing fees, outsourcing and the firm’s new paperless audit technology:
Inquisitor 1: Can you talk a little bit more specifically about what we’re doing right now to compete with firms that are reducing their fees so drastically that you have to wonder how they are even covering costs?
Keizer: To me, the first and foremost guiding principle is – make sure you’re giving the most absolute best client service. I think to the extent that you do have great service, we’ve got to be able to have very transparent and open discussions with our clients as to what are our economics? Where are we? What is the competitive information? What is market pricing, as opposed to the offer that came in unsolicited? And find a way to meet the objectives of what we need, and what our client needs.
Maybe we will, in fact, have to drop a price in, let’s say, our audit offering. But then are able to say, but why can’t we maintain the same or higher KPMG spend? Let’s look at who’s doing your tax compliance work. Let’s look at who’s doing your SAS70? Those types of discussions do allow us to compete successfully without having a case where it’s just about price.
Not sure who transcribed this thing but it’ll work for a Friday. First off, Inquisitor numero uno is obviously under the impression that KPMG would never lowball its fees. Even though other people have suggested exactly that.
Keizer Soze then reminds his little friend that it’s really not about the money, it’s about providing the best client service imaginable (sacrificing life, limb and/or dignity) which will result in more work for the firm. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle, really.
Inquisitor 2: Is there more plans to outsource positions in the U.S. to India?
Veihmeyer: I think as you look across the entire scope of our activities, and I think the most important one is – how do we serve our global clients – making sure that we are competitive in the marketplace and can think about how we execute a lot of our engagements differently to be successful. I think we will continue to look for opportunities to source talent, source resources, source skills, anywhere in the world it makes sense. I don’t see it as exchanging a position here for something offshore.
I think we see this as a very key strategy to make sure we are as competitive as we can possibly be in the marketplace—which I think will have one primary impact to the U.S. firm and that is create more opportunities for our people here. And why is that the case? Because we will win more work, we will be competitive in situations that we otherwise wouldn’t be competitive in, if we didn’t have that capability. And that’s what creates opportunities for our people.
In a word: Yes. As for why – Dammit, we’re a $20 billion firm (but not really, we’re actually a network of independent firms operating under a global cooperative. Ask Tim Flynn; he’ll tell you) and our competitors play hard ball. We’ve got to create other jobs overseas to keep up with those guys. Will that affect you? No chance, Blanche! If it does, it just means your life will be infinitely better because KPMG has business it didn’t have before.
Inquisitor 3: eAudIT – how is it going? What challenges have we faced? And how are clients, employees, and recruits receiving the deployment?
Keizer: e-AudIT is on track for deployment. We released the software in April, the 2010 version. Training schedules will be rolling out over the next several months.
It is the tool that accomplishes three major things. One, it allows us to do things more efficiently. It moves us from a work paper format to a work flow.
And lastly, there’s always been a great appetite of our professionals, how do I tap into the knowledge that KPMG has? e-AudIT is the platform now, to actually make that knowledge available to our professionals.
I think e-AudIT puts us in front of our competitors in terms of a platform that’s truly the best that’s out there. I believe when we look back, it will be the single most important ingredient to us providing the type of service, meeting our regulatory and professional requirements, and having our people feel good at how we have enabled them to really be high performance professionals.
[Jesus, easy with the rapid fire, Inquisitor tres; Hank isn’t a speed listener]. Paperless auditing has moved into KPMG lock, stock and barrel. We’re only 10 years into the 21st Century and we’re ready to start fixing bugs in this thing for the next ten years.
It’s far superior to anything the other firms have because you’ve been training on it over in Monty and we haven’t heard a single complaint. Someday you’ll be able to tell your grandstaff that this was the absolutely most exciting time to be at KPMG because that was when things got serious.
I’m down at the Hackett Group’s best practices conference in Atlanta and just finished a video interview with Stewart Glendinning, CFO of Molson Coors, on the topic of outsourcing.
While the video won’t be up for awhile, I can report that Glendinning wowed the crowd of 250 or so finance executives in attendance this morning with a frank keynote address on the subject.
He essentially warned the audience that outsourcing is hardly the no brainer that everyone – from Wall Street analysts to third-party service providers – makes it out to be.
While the CFO stood by Molson Coors’ decision to outsource most if not all of its information technology, finance and HR functions in 2008, he conceded that the arrangement has yet to live up to billing.
The decision followed the merger of Molson and Coors in 2005, which was expected to produce roughly $180 million in cost savings. And while outsourcing has helped produce some of that, Glendinning – who was appointed CFO of the combined companies two years ago – acknowledged the arrangement with its vendor hasn’t been all smooth sailing. (He identified the outsourcer by name, but I’m leaving that out just to avoid starting an argument between the two.)
As a result of higher than expected turnover, largely in the vendor’s Indian and Costa Rican operations, for example, some of the labor savings that the outsourcer promised have failed to materialize. Glendinning said annual turnover in those two locations has run as high as 100 percent.
As a result, the CFO said the company was “a little shy” of the savings initially projected for the deal, due to project scope and implementation costs. He said that he would have to revisit some of these issue once the contract comes up for renegotiation in 2013. “You have to keep taking cost out,” he said.
In addition, Glendinning said that during the ramp up phase the arrangement produced higher-than-expected error rates in certain financial processes, and those produced an unwelcome payables backlog that threatened the company’s supply chain. And while he said some of the fault was that of Molson Coors, Glendinning noted that the outsourcer failed to bring it to the company’s attention, largely because of what Glendinning described as “reticence” on the part of its Indian employees to challenge their client.
While Glendinning said Molson Coors’ move to outsource was “the right decision nonetheless,” he cautioned the audience that there are a host of issues that finance executives must consider before going forward with such deals.
In particular, he noted that unlike IT or HR, more complicated, “sensitive” financial processes such as pricing and customer management probably should not be turned over to a third party.
“It’s not black and white,” he said about the decision to outsource. “There is a lot of gray in between.”
Editor’s note: Welcome to the debut post from Daniel Braddock, your friendly Human Resources Professional. He could very well be considered a hypothetical love child of Suze Orman and Toby Flenderson. Following his varsity jacket wearing college days, he entered the consumer markets as an auditor for a Big 4 firm in New York City. He spent three brisk years as an auditor before taking the reins of stirring the HR kool-aid. He currently resides in Manhattan. Daily routines include coffee breakfasts and scotch dinners. You can follow him on Twitter @DWBraddock.
Please let me take a moment to introduce myself.
My name is Daniel W. Braddock, and I was a resourceful human. I was not chargeable. I was not overworked. I stroll in at 9:00am, take a long lunch, and skip out before 6:00pm. You consider me a waste; overhead expense; non-vital to the process. You have me to thank for Summer Friday’s, the crackdown on mentor-ship lunches, and for that blasted Bear Hunt. My degree can be in liberal arts, accounting, or psychology. I was from the world of H.R., or Human
Resources Rubbish, as you refer to me.
You generally loathe my kind.
My name is Daniel W. Braddock, and I was on your side once. Stressed, over-utilized and under-charged. I know work/life balance initiatives are as good as the fluffy magazine rankings they earn. I saw first-hand how leadership continously drops the ball on estimates, budgets, and correspondences. I was invited to lush recruiting events, asked to slap on the charm and pretend the ship wasn’t sinking. I’ve been in the trenches, didn’t like what I saw, and left.
My name is Daniel W. Braddock, and I am adaptive. I spent years in the audit practice of a Big Four firm before transitioning my career to the the H.R. side of the house. I have traveled through the looking glass and back. Contributing to GC will shed new light on many topics, including:
• Outsourcing, both foreign and domestic
• Hiring forecasts
• The world of recruiting
• Hiring cycles and leadership’s faults
• Work/life balance initiatives and the real “initiative” behind them
• Firm rankings in the media
• The next step – life after the Big 4
I’m looking forward to our future discussions, beginning with a new topic on Thursday. As always, please send suggestions and ideas for topics to email@example.com.
Daniel W. Braddock
That’s what we’re hearing! A source has informed us that TF is in the Garden State today “announcing a significant amount of outsourcing within the IT practice of the firm.”
Our source also indicated that TF — currently running second in the Accountant of the Decade vote — is:
…making general statements about the firm as a whole in regards to outsourcing. We were told that if we were getting outsourced there would be “advanced warning” or that they would try to move people around without letting them go, etc.
“Advanced warning” like a flare gun? Church bells? A lighthouse? The people need something more specific, TF.
It sounds both internal IT and advisory IT professionals are getting the pleasure of the pep talk so if you were there (or going this afternoon, rumor is there’s two meetings), send us your thoughts and discuss.
Since it’s been nearly a year since the Presidential election, the political football of outsourcing of jobs has all but been put away. It does remain a popular topic amongst accounting firms however as more and more works is sent offshore.
Now that the programs have been in place for awhile, the pressure to utilize the staff on the other side of the world seems to be increasing. This may free you up for more fantasy football or Perez Hilton but something tells us that’s not exactly what TPTB have in mind.
Plus there’s the whole time change thing. Maybe that’s NBD but staying up until 10 pm for a 30 minute meeting to coincide with your global counterparts doesn’t really strike as a party.
We’ve reached out to the Big 4 on this and we’ll update you with any responses we receive in a separate post.
For now we want your input and experiences. Is outsourcing working for your team? Does it even affect your team? Are the firms really concerned about new associates “doing more challenging tasks” or is this purely a cost saver? What do you make of the process on the other side of the blue marble? Are they being utilized effectively or are you dealing with impossible logistics? Okay that’s enough questions. Discuss.