The 8th Annual Business Centers Conference, run by AmCham Slovakia, took place in late September.
Although the current situation in the society and economy is far from ideal, an overwhelming feeling of optimism prevails.
The sector has demonstrated its exceptional adaptability and resilience during the Covid pandemic and continues to grow in terms of head count as well as higher value-added services. The subtitle of the conference “Resilience in Sustainable Growth” was thus more than adequate.
The event was opened by Gabriel Galgóci, BSCF chair, AT&T Slovakia Country General Manager and AmCham Slovakia President, who moderated the event. He introduced the latest findings from the annual BSC sector survey, highlighting the most interesting data from 2022.
One of the surprising facts from the presentation was that for the second time in the past eight years, the gender workforce balance in shared service centers has shifted in favor of women (50,5%). Despite the
difficult situation last year and the fact that many foreigners working in SSCs in Slovakia left for home, the sector still observed an overall 4,3% headcount increase compared to last year.
This sector, compared to other parts of the economy, seems to be more resilient to external factors, which is very positive.
Another positive trend from past years continues - new SSCs are being established in the regions, strongly supporting regional development of the country. Also, for the first time the salary expenses of the sector surpassed one billion euros. As for the challenges facing the sector in the next few years, 54% of members plan to automate more than 10% of their processes in the near future. However, the changes need not be too dramatic, as 41% have no target set in this regard. In the post-Covid reality almost all of the centers are working on fine tuning their own version of a hybrid work model.
The following government talk welcomed one of BSCF’s long-term supporters Ján Oravec, State Secretary, Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic. He stressed the huge importance of the sector for the economy, which was only confirmed in these difficult times. Although Mr. Oravec left his post at the ministry
by the end of September, he sounded sure that his successor will continue in his quest to decrease the administrative burden for companies.
Robert Šimončič, Director General of SARIO, and also one of AmCham Slovakia’s past presidents, was next
on stage to talk to its current president Gabriel Galgóci. Mr. Šimončič shared his vast experience and insider knowledge from his work at SARIO and explained Slovakia’s strengths and weaknesses in its efforts to attract foreign direct investments. He completely agreed with Mr. Oravec regarding the importance of the shared services sector for the economy, stressing not just its financial aspect but also its contribution to business culture, CSR, or education.He described how Slovakia managed to persuade Volvo Cars to choose Košice as the place for its first new European manufacturing site in almost 60 years, although our country hasn’t initially been on the Swedish car maker’s shortlist. According to the feedback SARIO received, the enthusiasm and willingness of the people representing Slovakia in the negotiations were ultimately one of the decisive factors.
Besides this strength, Slovakia is attractive for the high productivity of its workforce and its exceptional adaptability to new technologies. Once the power plant in Nováky is shut down, Slovakia as a country will be almost completely carbon neutral as the only country in Europe, an asset which is becoming more and more important in the eyes of foreign investors.
Development of the country is even more important. He used the shared services sector as an example - it is growing not only in terms of quantity but also quality and continues to add new services with higher added value to its portfolio.
The program continued with a discussion panel on municipal shared services, as some municipalities are trying to integrate the best practices from commercial shared service centers in order to improve the efficiency and quality of services they offer. Zuzana Germanová, the Mayor of Richvald, explained that this approach enables workers to focus on one sole thing and achieve expertise in that specific area, instead of ineffectively trying to do everything.
Ctibor Košťál, City Authority Manager, City of Bratislava, presented the ambition to launch a municipal shared service center for Bratislava in the next few years. Even in the capital, the perceived advantage is the same - to enable the city facilities to focus on their primary goals (not on related tasks such as IT, administration or law services).
Barbora Záhradníková, Bratislava Site Leader & Senior HR Manager, Adient, represented the business industry and confirmed the willingness to share their own experience, best practices and even mistakes with the municipalities, in order to help them set up their own shared services centers. The exchange of experience between the public and the private sector is of critical importance if these efforts are to succeed.
After a short break, Gabriel Galgóci presented this year’s BSCF awards – a token of appreciation to people who have been instrumental in helping fulfill BSCF’s mission. This year’s recipients included Jana Shepperd, who coordinated the very first BSCF conference; Olívia Hurbanová, for her intense involvement in the Train the Trainer program; Ivan Tomko, leader of BSCF’s HR Working Group; and Ivan Hambalek, for his efforts to strengthen cooperation between BSCF and the Foreign police.
For Slovakia, it is currently more important to develop the growth of the companies which are already here than to look for new investments.
The following keynote presentation entitled “Košice – the Best Hidden Gem of Central Europe“ offered an insight into Daniel Giebel’s, Global Delivery Executive Shell, T-Systems, career journey, which ultimately led him
to the city of Košice. The three things he highlighted as most important for managers moving with their families are housing, education and support networks. He described how the move from London which initially seemed almost as a punishment, slowly turned into a great adventure and experience for him and his family.
The next panel discussion developed this topic even further. Foreign CEOs of BSCs operating in Slovakia talked about their personal and professional experience in our country. They all agreed that brand Slovakia needs to be much more visible and its presentation to the outside world must improve.
They also pointed out that it’s key to create an environment which young talents don’t want to leave that easily; to make them feel that the quality of life and career opportunities in Slovakia can meet their expectations.
The final keynote speech of the conference focused on the topic of ESG in the BSC context. Erika Vitálošová, Senior Manager, Capital Markets and Accounting Advisory Services, PwC Slovakia, talked about the growing importance of connections.
Overall, the conference once again offered fresh insights into the development and challenges facing the BSC sector in Slovakia, with a special focus on the not so obvious positive effects of the sector’s activities for example in promoting Slovakia as a country, or in helping municipalities make their services more efficient.