Most CFOs will agree that it would be ideal if the talents in their finance team could be freed up to support the leadership with acquisitions, shareholder engagement and other value adding activities. Outsourcing company WNS Global Services offers them exactly that opportunity, says Johann Kunz, Managing Director at WNS in South Africa. “Outsourcing of financial functions is slowly taking off in South Africa and will become a standard part of a CFO’s toolkit,” says Kunz.
The South African branch of WNS started 10 years ago in Cape Town as Fusion Outsourcing, mainly focussing on contact centres and adding the full spectrum Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) offerings along the way. Two years ago the India-headquartered multinational WNS bought the company when it was looking for a footprint in South Africa and - by extension - Africa. "The last two years have been great, because we have gained access to worldwide best practices and resources on a global scale," says Kunz.
One of the offerings of the future is Financial & Accounting (F&A) outsourcing, predicts Kunz. "That ranges from procurement to pay and order, to cash to treasury and supply chain finance," he explains. "I expect that initially mainly non-decision-based services will be outsourced. But in the future this can be followed by a migration to higher value add services. Elsewhere in the world this has already taken off. And now we have access to all of the skills in our worldwide company that we can offer to local markets in South Africa and other countries on the continent. Worldwide, we have 26,000 human resources and 6,500 people that are F&A specialists available."
When WNS bought Fusion it took over 1,500 staff members, but the firm has expanded rapidly and now employs almost 2,500 South Africans. "We grew about 20 to 30 percent last year," says Kunz. "We now have over 1,000 people at Century City, more than 800 in Belville and about 500 in Johannesburg. In the Cape offices we mostly do work for international clients and Johannesburg is mainly focussed on South Africa. We have just recently started to sell our financial outsourcing and that is going really well. We have landed our first big client and we are looking at opportunities in South Africa as well as the rest of Africa."
According to Kunz F&A outsourcing is especially interesting for companies not just to reduce cost and add skills but for numerous other reasons. We find that people are extremely surprised by the benefits, such as streamlining your processes, creating one consolidated environment, providing reporting insights and adding flexibility. We can scale up or down the number of people anytime, for example around tricky times like Christmas. This solution is not for everyone. Outsourcing needs to fit in with a company's strategy direction."
WNS also offers specific industry solutions, for example for travel and leisure, healthcare or financial services." The benefit of this approach is that the client do not only get access to skills from a specific BPO services such as F&A, research and analytics, Human resource outsourcing etc but the client also get access to industry specific skills as an example a F&A skill that specialise in the insurance industry and with an insurance industry back ground.," says Kunz. The MD says that diversity makes his job very interesting. "I get exposure to all sorts of different industries, which makes for a very varied working week."
Outsourcing is an excellent way to deal with the current skills shortage that CFOs are battling with, says Kunz. "A lot of the F&A services are done off shore, mostly in India, Poland or Romania. Normally between 10 and 25 percent is face-to-face work that is done by our local staff in South Africa. How much is done locally also depends on the client." The argument that a company like WNS takes jobs away from South Africa doesn't fly, adds Kunz. "If you look at the local South Africa BPO industry, it started to grow drastically from a low base for the offshore market in recent years and the competition is tough. That has been good for our economy, because we're providing a lot of new jobs for South Africans that are doing work for companies in other countries; however offshoring from South Africa for specific services is a requirement to remain competitive. But outsourcing companies are definitely benefiting South Africa's economy and not harming it."
If you also would like to share your ideas with the CFO community, you want to be part of the leading CFO South Africa Community or you want to know more about hosting a CFO South Africa event, you are most welcome to get in touch with CFO SA. Please contact Jurriën Morsch at [email protected]
Stay connected, up to date and in the loop on what is happening in the world of finance by becoming an online member to receive ournewsletter and following us on Twitter. Also to keep track of newly published interviews with CFOs and CEOs.