In June 2015, The Financial Times wrote that Gdansk is one of the best cities in the world for outsourcing and the BPO industry. January 2017 confirms that appraisal.

According to industry specialists, the most important factor for companies modernising their business model and creating a first or subsequent operations centre is to keep up a high level of products and services. This is the key to maintaining competitiveness on a market that is rapidly becoming globalised.  An advantage of Poland on the map of the best locations for this industry is that even the most difficult operations can be smoothly consolidated here without sacrificing business effectiveness. This is possible because of Poland’s cultural affinity with other European markets, the availability of qualified staff, and Poles’ familiarity with many foreign languages. Currently, it is the Tricity (with Gdansk leading) that is considered to be the most rapidly growing location in the country for such processes.

According to a report prepared by ABSL (the Association of Business Services Leaders), in 2016, 936 shared services centres were active in Poland and employed 212,000 Poles. While Krakow dominates on the map, with more than 50,000 employed, fast growth is being seen in Lodz, Warsaw, Wroclaw – and especially in the Tricity which, thanks to a combination of local and global trends, is now in fourth place among the most attractive locations in Poland.

Thinking for the global giants

According to a report prepared by Invest in Pomerania, at present there are 118 companies in the region providing BSS services, of which the majority (69) provide IT services.

“The BSS industry in the Tricity continues to grow very fast,” explains Marcin Grzegory, Vice Director of Invest in Pomerania. “The trust of such giants like Intel and Thomson Reuters is proof positive that Pomerania has enormous potential, even for the biggest players, while the business environment is friendly for investments of all sizes. This picture is completed by the wealth of human resources still available and which continues to grow because of the area’s popularity, due to the high quality of life near the sea.”

Investments representing various trends can be differentiated. The dominant providers of IT services include SII, Luxoft, Epam and Ciklum, but also such interesting companies as Lufthansa Systems and Jeppesen (Boeing), which provide software for avionics. A growing number of global Research & Development centres are also locating in the Tricity. There, technologies are being developed for such companies as Nordea Bank, while in Gdansk Amazon is creating and perfecting such inventions as speech synthesizers.

“Having well trained staff available really makes Pomerania stand out on the Outsourcing map,” comments Bartosz Hojnacki, an IT consultant with the company Spring Professional. “Today, universities like Gdansk University of Technology, University of Gdansk and the Polish-Japanese Academy of Information Technology make it possible for people to retrain or obtain technical skills in either full-time or post-graduate studies. They are responding to the growing need for IT people, with programming courses directing towards developing practical skills.”

Seven businesses have their R&D centres in the Tricity today, and only one of them is Polish.

The report also shows that 28 companies have decided to open shared services centres in Gdansk, Sopot or Gdynia. Among these, the biggest brands are global leaders such as Bayer, Staples, Thyssen Krupp, and Sony Pictures Entertainment. Those centres will arise under the recently popular GBS (Global Business Services) model, that is, they will serve several groups of processes. The most popular among these are, of course, Finance and Accounting, HR, Customer Services, and various streams of IT. Yet new functions are also on the rise, such as: procurement, real property management and legal process outsourcing (LPO).

Its seaside location makes the Tricity ideal as well for projects related to maritime industries, transport and logistics, including SSCs for the container carriers MOL, Unifeeder, United Arab Shipping Company and APL, and for the leading maritime certification and classification association, Norway’s DNVGL.

A completely different group is that of companies that conduct their core business activities here. The most interesting and most advanced financial processes include those handled by State Street Bank (investment banking, hedge funds), Thomson Reuters, and PwC, which provides KYC (Know Your Customer – financial crime prevention) services in the Tricity.

Poles are also aware of the potential of this market – among 15 BPO sector companies, 6 are Polish. Other companies with a presence in the Tricity include such global powerhouses as Wipro, Transcom and WNS Global Services. It is also worth mentioning those centres that offer recruitment outsourcing services (RPO), very popular of late:  Alexander Mann Solutions and Manpower Group Solutions.

The whole world in Gdansk

In terms of size, projects from the USA dominate, although there is a very strong presence of businesses from the Nordic countries. While these are smaller than the giants from across the ocean, they lead in terms of the number of projects they are running. Again, the reason is the availability of highly qualified personnel. The University of Gdansk is one of four universities in Poland having a programme in Scandinavian Studies, where languages such as Swedish and Norwegian are taught.

“This is particularly important in the BPO/SCC sector, given the need to run international projects. We’re often looking for candidates who know at least two foreign languages. Our universities and colleges respond to that need,” says Agnieszka Michasik, a financial consultant at Spring Professional. “Our clients from Scandinavia appreciate one of the few educational programmes in Poland catering to the languages of our investors.”

The trust and continuing tradition of business contacts between the Tricity and the Nordic countries is evident in new investments by leading Nordic brands such as Arla Foods, Kemira, Schibsted Tech, Metsa Group, and Nordea.

Compete using the work environment

Another competitive advantage of the Tricity is its geographical location, appreciated both within Poland by potential outsourcing centre employees, and abroad by clients.

“Residents of the Tricity can use the Fast City Train, the Pomeranian Metropolitan Train, and the network of buses and trams.  Gdansk Airport lets our BPO/SCC clients train employees at company headquarters, while managers can effectively manage processes around the world,” explains Marzena Miler-Kosewska, a manager at Spring Professional. She also emphasises the increasing importance of the natural environment and working comfort that are drawing more and more workers and specialists to the Tricity. “We often see employees jogging during their breaks, or relaxing on the grass in one of the many green areas available. And it’s worth mentioning the network of cycle paths that joins the whole Tricity together, combining outdoor activity with being close to nature,” she says. “Even at the stage of putting out recruitment announcements, our partners often stress a “desk with a sea view” as an added value of the job.”

This can be especially important in view of the growing problem posed in Warsaw and Krakow by smog. “It’s true, we are seeing an increasing number of applications from candidates from Lesser Poland,” comments Magdalena Stępnik, a sales and marketing consultant at Spring Professional.

The Tricity also benefits from having good access to modern office space, built in line with the latest standards, including those concerning the amount of greenery in the work environment.

Good prospects for the future

It is already sure that the BSS sector will continue to grow. Companies are in a growth phase, and often exceed the recruitment numbers they initially plan for.

“From our point of view, the key thing is to take a rational approach to the needs of the market, and to address those needs assertively, ideally by being ahead of the game,” adds Marcin Grzegory, Vice Director of Invest in Pomerania. “At present, the joint efforts of the members of the Invest in Pomerania initiative and of our business partners are focused on promoting the BSS sector as an excellent career choice, both for young people looking for a chance to develop themselves, and for those looking to cross over to a different career path. For the latter, together with our academic and BSS business partners, we organise numerous trainings allowing people to requalify and adapt to the needs of the labour market in this sector.”

“I can say without hesitation that our success is attracting further investors. Businesses in this sector are moving up to a new level of advancement in the processes they handle. Openness is growing to delegating more and more areas of a single company to outsourcing services in Poland,” says Marzena Miler-Kosewska, a manager at Spring Professional. “At this stage, we are able to guarantee service for even the most difficult processes, while keeping costs very competitive,” she summarises.