A lot has been said about the forces pushing for return-to-the-office mandates. For Teleperformance, it came down to a simple fact: the client said so.
Teleperformance launched a remote operation in Trinidad & Tobago in April of 2022. Less than two years later, the company announced the opening of a delivery center in the capital city of Port of Spain, a change that will require not only the management of a physical site, but also a readjustment in Teleperformance’s approach to recruiting in the twin isles.
“Test runs” are a relatively common practice in Teleperformance’s post-COVID location strategy in the Caribbean. As explained by Andrés Bernal, CEO of Teleperformance’s Middle-Americas Region (which encompasses Colombia, Perú, Nicaragua, Guyana and T&T), the company likes to “test the waters virtually” to determine if a site is a good fit.
In T&T’s case, however, the process was accelerated by the wishes of a single client.
“The main reason to decide to open a physical office [in T&T] had to do with our clients,” Bernal explained in an interview. “They were requesting a physical presence for their operations. After some testing, we recommended T&T. That’s the reason which pushed us to open the site.”
The aforementioned client remains unidentified, but it was reported to be a US-based fintech company. Bernal confirmed that the client operates in the financial sector.
The financial industry is one of the more sensitive verticals for service providers. The handling of financial information and personal data makes strong data security a must-have for any BPO intending to be even considered as a partner.
While remote operations allow companies to be more flexible and nimble in their sourcing strategies, data security remains a prime concern among clients of the BPO industry, many of whom are closely monitored by regulators back home. In those cases, a physical site, where an eye can be kept on agents and their equipment, becomes the preferred option.
“Depending on the industry, you get that additional pressure to open a site. Particularly in the BFSI [banking, financial services and insurance] space, they prefer physical sites,” Bernal said. “Generally speaking, in the banking industry you get more pressure for security and measurements you need to implement. In this case, it was something that the client requested.”
Managing the transition
Perhaps the biggest problem faced by organizations trying to go back to the office is convincing a remote workforce –many of whom might have been recruited under the pretense of a remote setup, with no mention of on-site operations– to actually accept the switch.
A handful of businesses have gone for a more forceful approach, but the majority seem to be experimenting with a hybrid strategy. That’s Teleperformance’s game plan for T&T.
The company hopes to keep its remote workforce at home. The plan is to staff the physical site with new recruits to dodge the troubles of changed expectations. It’s easier to avoid tensions over a return to the office if the employees work there from the get-go.
“The key for doing so is transitioning in an organized way, leveraging your tools, keeping part of your workforce in a remote setup, but also striking an agreement with your employees and your clients for that transition,” Bernal told NSAM.
Teleperformance’s T&T operation was 95% remote during its first years. It currently stands at 55% virtual and 45% on site. The aim is to keep it 50/50, Bernal said.
Headcount at Teleperformance T&T stands today at around 300 employees. The company aims to double that number by the end of 2024.
A new BFSI hub
T&T has a lot going for it in the eyes of BPO providers: a population of native English speakers, good infrastructure in its capital, time zone alignment, little concerns over extreme weather and direct support from government authorities.
All of those perks have put an idea into Mr. Bernal’s mind: what if Teleperformance turns T&T into a Caribbean hub for the financial sector?
“For me, T&T is a very good location to develop our BFSI business. I would like to develop a hub around this industry,” Bernal commented. “What I have found in T&T is that we can have a very good match with this vertical, to attract new clients.”
Caribbean nations have been garnering attention from North American and European customers, who view the region’s top locations as potential sites for delivery. This has led regional governments to market their respective nations’ capabilities beyond customer service and tech support, aiming for more specialized verticals, like finance. T&T’s investment promotion agency has for a while been pushing the country’s credentials for the financial sector.
Mr. Bernal assured that, with a client locked-in, they already have “many other prospects which we expect to close here in T&T” for that vertical. The opening of Teleperformance’s T&T office could be the first step in the consolidation of the twin island as a BFSI hub.