The Jamaica of 2018 looks a whole lot different from the Jamaica of five years ago, and it’s not just the massive amount of roadwork one sees cruising around in Kingston.
The difference is so significant in fact that investors and influencers attending the Nearshore Americas CX Jamaica Forum in Dallas this week were quick to remark that viewing the country purely as a tourism-based nation would be a serious injustice.
“I was really unaware of all that is going on in Jamaica,” said a client-side customer attending the forum. “We’re definitely going to be taking a closer look.”
Jamaica is defined more now, than ever, by economic diversification. Sound fiscal management, increasingly low unemployment and a thriving education system are drivers behind one of the country’s most remarkable periods of economic expansion.
“Jamaicans are a competitive people,” said Claude Duncan, vice president at the country’s leading investment agency JAMPRO and one of the forum’s guest speakers. “When you challenge a Jamaican, they will seek not only to perfect the activity, they will strive to become world-class.”
The main event for Jamaica, of course, is the remarkable growth in business process outsourcing, with over 30,000 individuals employed by more than 25 outsourcing players and global in-house centers.
Duncan also used the forum as an opportunity to expose investors to an important addition to this environment – the arrival of a new KPMG shared services center in Kingston, set up to provide finance and accounting (F&A) as well as human resource (HR) services to its US clients.
The center will initially employ 175 people, with plans to expand the headcount to around 250 by July 2019. “We’re very proud of the fact that after a worldwide search, Jamaica was chosen as the location for KPMG’s delivery center,” said Duncan.
One of the strongest commitments to Jamaica has come from Alorica, the third-largest contact center company in the world.
Jose Urizar, Division Vice President Operations at Alorica for Latin America & the Caribbean, explained that the quality of the workforce, economic conditions, cultural alignment and proximity are helping put the country ‘on the map’ for decision-makers who hadn’t looked close enough earlier.
Alorica is expected to grow to 2,000 full time staffers by the end of this year, and that number is set to double in the next few years.
Urizar pointed out that Jampro is a committed partner, assisting Alorica regularly on all kinds of issues. Another important factor in the country’s success is the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), which has a range of functions but most notably provides a consistent voice of advocacy among the ‘powers to be’.
Jeff Pappas, Executive Vice President of Site Selection and Brokerage at ESRP, a commercial real estate company, attended the event and named the collaboration of private and public industry as an essential ingredient.
“The fact that Jamaica created a BPO consortium (BPIAJ) is a big step in diligently harnessing the agent population. What this consortium does is keep a handle on the increase in wages and not allow new entrants to the market to cannibalize the current providers. “
The country has made workforce development and training a cornerstone issue, and the long-term commitment from the government – including the Prime Minster himself – will continue to pay dividends as the country strives to move further up the value chain.
The CX Jamaica forum is the second part of a two-part program that began with an investors trade mission to Jamaica, late last year.
“We need to have these deeper conversations with investors, where they can really get a sense of what’s happening on the ground”, said Shane Angus, director of BPO promotions at JAMPRO.
The forum was held, to the liking of all, at the Hotel Zaza in the uptown district of Dallas.
(Editor’s note: Nearshore Americas has plans to do more road-show events with Jampro, so stay tuned!).