This is the first in a series of “What a Corporate Transformation is Not.”

We look forward to sharing our knowledge and experience with you.

Many institutions have undertaken expense reduction programs under the branding of “transformation”. While these efforts are useful to fund a true corporate transformation, these strategies are not transformational.

Offshore Location Strategy

A low-cost offshore location strategy is a proven method to reduce expenses. However, it requires an upfront investment in staff, training, real estate and other infrastructure as well as one time severance cost. We generally utilize a benchmark of an 18–24 month payback period.

We group location strategies into two buckets: a “clean” drop and a “dirty” drop. A dirty drop moves a process as it currently exists and is effectively a salary arbitrage. A clean drop is moving a process AFTER it has been re-engineered. With a clean drop, an organization gets two levels of cost benefits; a more efficient process with reduced risk and salary arbitrage.

While a relocation strategy gives an organization immediate benefits through reduced cost, there are a number of risks including:

  • Relative inflation rates — Public companies are required by the Securities and Exchange Commission to publish three years of financial data which is then used by investors and analysts. When a company moves functions from a country with a lower inflation rate to a country with a higher inflation rate (for example the US inflation rate is currently 2.54% and the inflation rate in India is currently 4.44% and highly volatile) expenses grow at a higher rate than they would have if kept in the home country effectively negating the positive comparative benefit past the three-year mark. Costs are also subject to fluctuating currency rates.
  • Attrition Rates — are hidden costs in a low-cost location strategy. Attrition rates in financial services in the United States were 14.46% in 2017 (although we would argue attrition rates are lower in Corporate Banking functions) while attrition rates in 2016–2017 in India were 17.4% according to a Mercer study. High attrition rates translate to a loss in productivity due to lost production as well as recruiting and training costs.
  • Managing Remote Staff — Many mid-level managers are ill prepared to manage remote staff and must adapt to a new management style. Similar to out-sourcing, one must learn to manage “outcomes” versus managing “people” and allow local management to manage people.
  • Fractured Processes — Often times, an organization moves part of a process. Commonly the initial move is a part of the process requiring a lower skill level. If this is done tactically without a strategic roadmap, functions of a process may be scattered throughout the world resulting in a tremendous loss of institutional knowledge and a loss of an end to end view of the process.

In summary, a low-cost location strategy can be an excellent tactic to free up investment dollars to fund a true corporate transformation. The strategy requires a high degree of research, planning and project management with crisp execution to assure benefits are maximized while risk is mitigated. A low cost location strategy should not be a stand alone cost reduction initiative but one that is aligned and part of a firm’s overall strategic direction and aligned with the target operating model.

Stay tuned for the next post in the series, “No Automation Without Obliteration”.