It may not be Ross Perot’s “giant sucking sound” you’re hearing, but according to business advisory firm the Hackett Group, as many as 750,000 finance, treasury, IT and other business services jobs could be offshored between now and 2016, continuing a trend that has already seen close to 1.5 million such jobs moved offshore by companies in the U.S. and Europe.
Hackett, which surveyed some 4,700 U.S. and European companies with more than $1 billion in revenue, claims companies that implement what it refers to as a global business services operating model, which includes shifting jobs to low-wage areas like India or Eastern Europe where appropriate, can achieve cost savings of about 29%.
“For a typical Global 1000 company with $28.8 billion in revenue, these reductions amount to $314 million in annual savings,” according to the Hackett Group report.
“We’re not generally talking about offshoring core competencies,” says Michel Janssen, a principal at Hackett who was one of the chief researchers on the study.
Janssen, pictured above, says much of the offshoring currently taking place involves setting up or moving units of the company to lower-wage locations overseas, rather than hiring outside vendors. He cites a corporate treasury example: “If you have reporting and reconciling functions, and you can get good people in India to do them for $10,000 to $15,000 a year, instead of $10,000 to $15,000 a month in the U.S., you not only save money, but you can get a lot more reports done.”
He notes that over the next four years, treasury departments at larger U.S. companies are on track to offshore another 15% to 24% of their staff.
These offshoring moves are limited when it comes to core competencies like deciding how to invest the company’s cash, jobs that require proximity to the company or senior managers, or jobs that require “context,” Janssen says.
Even with those restrictions, he says, the skill level of jobs being offshored has been rising. “A few years ago, it was hard to find good people abroad, but now at the bottom and middle part of the food chain, there’s just about nothing that you can do at home that you can’t do in India or Eastern Europe,” Janssen says.
Hackett estimates that of the 5.1 million business services jobs remaining in the US and Europe, some 1.8 million could still potentially and profitably be offshored. But the Hackett study predicts the pace of offshoring will start to taper off by 2014, and that by 2016, the total number of business services jobs that are even potentially offshorable will be down to one million
Craig Martin, executive director of the corporate treasurers’ council of the Association for Financial Professionals, confirms that corporate treasuries are doing a lot of offshoring.
“There was a period when companies were outsourcing core functions,” Martin says. “It was kind of a craze.
The trend has been reversed to some extent, as companies brought core functions back in-house, Martin says. “But the trend of outsourcing and offshoring more transactional functions has been accelerating.”
“You don’t see something like cash management or hedging activities being offshored,” he explains. “But you do see more transactional activities like the whole purchase-to-pay cycle being moved abroad.”
To read about Indian outsourcing firms opening centers in the U.S., see Tide Turns in Outsourcing.