In a conversation with Prisila, Correspondent, Asia Business Outlook Magazine, Andrew Peeler and Anand Ramakrishnan shares their views on Expanding Workforce to Support UK, US Business and Global Operations.
Andrew Peeler is working as a Chief Financial Officer at Equiniti. Andrew is an experienced CFO with a track record of national and international delivery in blue chip companies including Unilever, Cadbury Schweppes, Premier Foods, Bupa, and most recently as Group CFO at Mitie Plc. Andrew is the director and chair of the Finance Committee of Fair Finance, a leading microfinance social enterprise. He is a qualified Chartered Global Management Accountant.
Anand Ramakrishnan is working as a Managing Director at Equiniti India. With more than 2 decades' experience, Anand has strategized and built multiple businesses, turning them to profitable entities. His focus has been to incubate and develop businesses in new technology areas like Cloud and Semantics. He has set up complex infrastructure systems and secured million dollar deals in Total Outsourcing. He has developed specialization in Business Leadership, Business Strategy, Cloud Computing and Program Management.
Q. What do you think about the growth perspective in this FinTech market in India in another 15 years?
Ans: (Andrew): India has highly motivated and highly educated people in fintech. For instance, almost 100 per cent of the people that work on our help desk here are graduates whereas probably less than 10 per cent are graduates in the UK in the same job profile. The quality of education and of graduates is high in India. The attitude and desire to innovate add to the potential. I think the opportunity in India, particularly for EQ, is very, very significant. The fact that Apple is prepared to invest here, and the fact that the Indian government is investing in microchips—all of this is essentially reflective of the talent pool that you have in computer science and technology in general.
Q. What is your plan for the Indian market for 2023-24?
Ans: (Andrew): The primary objective we have is to grow the EQ India workforce and we're looking at growing it from a people point of view by the order of almost 20 per cent. And that's to particularly support our US business which is an enormous market. We want colleagues over there to focus on their current relationships, and we're going to be picking up a lot of the activities over here to support the US businesses.
Our model is that we use India as a delivery centre. We are one of the largest GICs in the shareholder management sector. We've seen what other companies have done and we do keep track of what happens in the share registry business in India. However, right now, we have no plans of running a revenue model in India. It's mainly to facilitate UK and US and consolidate. We have roughly around 25 per cent of our global workforce here in India and we aim to continue to grow our team here.
Anand Ramakrishnan, Managing Director, Equiniti India
Anand: Among all of centres across US, UK, Poland and India, the single largest centre would be India. We are 25 per cent of the global people’s strength here. And, as Andrew said, we have been expanding it by 20 per centyear on year and we will continue this growth trajectory. The idea is to do more and more value-added work from India for UK and US. In addition, we are also looking at some of the tech moving to India as well, from the US.
Q. What are the new tools you have brought in since and after COVID?
Ans: (Andrew): When COVID hit we were able to work remotely from the word go. Thus, first of all, we had a very good technology platform to enable that to happen. Secondly, we, like a lot of other people, used teamsextensively in terms of actually working and we also encouraged people to use workflow tools more so that they could do shared work with each other in a virtual sense. From a Customer Contact Center point of view, we're moving to encourage our clients and our customers to do more self-service. We're implementing chat capability, and robot chatbot capability as well. Also, an important feature of our business is that a lot of our customers don't hold necessarily that many shares. A lot of them are not, interestingly, registered with us on the Internet. So, we are in a big drive to actually bring them on to the internet as well.
Anand: We are also focused on standardization. For example, in the past, we would have built solutions specifically for each Client. Now in the cloud era, that doesn't happen anymore.We have standard solutions, which we offer our Clients with a few minor modifications, which are easier and faster to roll out and manage. This makes it more amenable to remote working.
Andrew: One other feature of the pandemic was the fact that with people working at home and the recession, the risk of fraud has increased. The good news is we already have a dedicated cybersecurity team. One of the things we have done is we've acceleratedinvestment in our security controls and protocols. We've identified that moving to the cloud is an important way of improving our security.
Q. Why did you choose India as your centre instead of the other countries in Asia?
Ans: Andrew: The talent pool is massive but what was more important is the culture. It's really about the culture and the behaviour. I think it's also the desire to innovate and the desire to improve. Our ability to collaborate across the US and UK is really good. And, what I witnessed was great teamwork. One of the most important factors is the way that we're able to work together as one team. This business in India would not have grown to 25% of the workforce if that were not the case. India is the world's largest democracy and, if you look more broadly now, the world is saying that this is a place to invest. I mentioned Apple and I think there are lots of other big investments happening here. I have also been very, very impressed by Chennai and Bengaluru.
What I'm also very impressed by is the strategic thinking of the Indian government. For instance, you will have a fully operational Metro capability over the next few years, which is crucial. And I know that the Indian government is investing heavily in communications to make this country a true tech-enabled business and a modern place.
Q. How can companies achieve operational efficiencies and improve productivity in financial services?
Ans: Anand: The trick is to look at process efficiency, standardize processes, build SOPs and cut down wastage constantly. It's important to have the right skill in the right place and ensure that processes are well-defined. For example, we recently went through Lean and Six Sigma programs, where the objective was to look at process efficiencies we can derive and identify small, strategic projects that we can take up to improve efficiency. India, of course, provides labour arbitragebut that's a secondary point. Process efficiencies can percolate across the world—be it UK or the US or India— which can help us builds an efficient and productive organization.
(Andrew): What Anand has put in place is a dedicated service excellence team. We've got a dedicated team of experts that drive out Lean Six Sigma Kaizen techniques, so that's helpful. The other thing which the team has pioneered is the concept of ‘Centres of Excellence’. The idea here is the fact that you've got teams that are expertsin working on a particular platform, and therefore and you focus expertise there and that drives innovation and improvement not just in India, but also across the group. And, I suppose the other helpful thing, of course, is just simplification. It is at the top of our minds to make our lives simpler.
Q. What makes Information Security an integral part of a business? And does it help to mitigate risk and further lead activities?
Ans: (Andrew): The first thing is, it's really important to have a clear view of what your endpoint is and have a strategy to get there. The good news is, we've had that in place for two or three years now and some examples of that are moving to the cloud. The other thing is to make it integral. There are two strands here: one of which is all the technical stuff you can do with the diagnostics, spotting, whether there's fraud in the system, early warnings, etc. But the second, and equally important thing is human behaviour because you're only as good as your weakest point. And therefore, we spend a lot of time communicating and educating people about how to operate in disciplines around how you use your laptop, how you use your mobile phone, and how you answer the phone. So, we invest a lot in that. We've got some great online training; we've got an automated system that will check whether people have done their training every year. As a final point, I believe that as you drive discipline around better security with people, it drives productivity and discipline. I think there's a massive, beneficial, by-product in terms of the behaviours that it drives. And of course, it does avoid big losses as well, which is quite useful.