Moving on up: Banking on talent in Poland

In a well-attended session at June’s Global Expansion Summit, in London, Fiona Murchie, managing editor of Relocate Global, interviewed Scott Newman, senior vice-president of State Street Bank, about how the US-based financial services provider had identified Poland as a new market and set up operations there from scratch.

Fiona Murchie and Scott Newman of State Street Bank at the London Global Expansion Summit
State Street’s story in Poland began in 2007 with the establishment of its Kraków base. This year, 2017, State Street is celebrating the tenth anniversary of its Poland office.Originally employing 70 people, the international banking and financial services company now employs 4,000 staff in Poland across two further offices in Kraków – Kazimierz and Bonarka – and, more recently, an office in the Baltic port of Gdańsk.Developing and adding value through peoplePoland prevailed over the bank’s shortlist of 25 cities in central and eastern Europe (CEE) to spearhead State Street’s expansion into the region.This decision was primarily due to the country’s demographic. “Poland has a very young demographic profile, and the education level is very high,” explained Scott Newman.“For us, the challenge was how to deal with that ambition,” he added. “How can we advance and grow this talent by delivering the services we offer around the world?”The solution was to match the bank’s range of financial services and products – including fund accounting, derivatives, securities pricing, hedge fund administration, performance and analytics – to clients’ needs and the aspirations of its target workforce demographic.Building skills development into the business strategyState Street in Poland has grown with its customers and workforce by building up capabilities, skills and services using a stage-by-stage process.“We found a phased approach, rather than a big bang, was the way to go when we set up new operations in Poland,” said Mr Newman.“First, we had to develop a level of trust in our workforce and in the marketplace. We ramped up our service offering slowly by monitoring our performance and satisfaction ratings. When we had the buy-in to do more, we moved the business forward.”While Poland’s workforce is highly educated and State Street is growing hand in hand with its people, the bank doesn’t always have timely access to the specific skillsets needed to deliver new services.“At the height of our growth, we relied on 50–60 expatriates,” said Scott Newman. “Now, because of the skills transfer, we rely only on around ten, with the rest of our roles being performed by local talent.”

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Managing talent in a growing businessDuring the first stages of its expansion, State Street focused on creating the momentum for skills and service development. Now, thanks to its success, it focuses on skills retention.The company’s growth and progress up the value chain are creating jobs that will make it attractive as an employer.“Poland and central Europe have seen an explosion in the growth of the financial service sector,” explained Scott Newman. “Just in Kraków, the number of people employed has increased from 7,000 to 60,000 in less than a decade.“All the large multinationals are there. So for us, engaging with people who are ambitious for their careers is really important.“We are putting lots of energy into differentiating ourselves and providing the right conditions for people to stay and build their careers with us. This includes the type of skilled and technical roles we can offer – for example, in corporate functions and risk analysis.“Offering these higher-value roles means people are more likely to stay with us, and it is vital for us to remain competitive in the local labour market.“As we’ve grown, so has the company’s demand for management roles. This has also helped us develop clear career paths, which is another strong incentive.”Creating global teamsMaintaining the focus on people, Scott Newman offered delegates top tips for expanding into new territories and moving up the service and talent value chains.“Make sure you get your core management functions in place first – HR, finance, payroll,” he advised.“Then, consider where you source your subject matter experts from – home, headquarters or another country – and train them. Maybe send them abroad to the company’s other offices for them to see how things are done, and to help them integrate into company culture and feel part of a worldwide team.”The outlookLooking ahead to the next ten years, Scott Newman concluded the conversation by commenting on the likely impact of both Poland’s new political leadership, which is understood to be more inward looking than previous ones, and the UK’s decision to leave the EU.“We recognise we are a US bank operating in Poland and the risks that come with that,” he said. “However, while there is change in political regimes in both countries, Poland is not seen as a high-risk location.”On Brexit, Mr Newman noted how, within weeks, many central EU countries’ governments were knocking on the doors of UK-based banks. They were concerned about the continuation of passporting rights for financial services providers. State Street believes it is well positioned for what Brexit may bring as the bank has both a strong continental and UK presence.Whatever happens, for State Street Bank in Poland and its growing band of highly skilled employees, it looks to be business as usual.
Fiona Murchie, Relocate Global’s managing editor, was moderator and chairperson of the Global Sourcing, Logistics and Mobility sessions at the Global Expansion (GXP) Summit in London.

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