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BP strengthens SSC muscle in Hungary

Good university education and well-qualified staff who speak many foreign languages have prompted BP to open a second SSC in the country, this time in the southern city of Szeged.

Szeged Mayor László Botka, Fidesz MP László B. Nagy, foreign minister Péter Szijjártó and BP’s Richard Hookway celebrate after the announcement made in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. (MTI/Noémi Bruzák)

Marking its 25th year present in Hungary, and seven years after opening its first shared service center in Budapest, British multinational oil and gas company BP is opening an SSC in Szeged. Among many favorable factors, highly qualified Hungarians speaking many languages and the strong university education in the country were key in BP’s decision to expand in the country, Richard M. Hookway, COO Global Business Services & IT at BP, tells the Budapest Business Journal. 

Once the HUF 8 billion investment (with a HUF 1.9 bln grant from the Hungarian government), is completed in Szeged, the British company is expecting to offer 500 new positions. Those will be in addition to the 1,200 existing jobs in BP’s Budapest SSC.

“All businesses are under increasing pressure. If I take my own business, the price of oil has come down, which means we need to be as efficient as we possibly can be,” Hookway says. “How we think about shared service centers is that first you have the economy upscale. Secondly, if you have the right people with the right skills they have the ability to transform the processes, to make them much more effective for continuous improvement. The third area that we are getting into more and more is generating insight, because the center is getting lots of data which tells you more about the business than perhaps you ever thought; more about customers, more about suppliers. You are getting insights you were not able to get earlier. And also, innovation and technological developments are essential.”

The SSC market is an important job generator for Hungary. As Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, noted during the announcement of BP’s investment, SSCs are the second most important field in the Hungarian economy, following the automotive industry. And the skills and qualifications the domestic labor market has to offer seem to be the magnet for such investments.

Terrific universities

“If you think about the skills that Hungary has to offer, universities are introducing people with great analytical skills and training, and actually technology is a big help as well. And terrific universities are located in the country, whether in Budapest or in Szeged. These are the main reasons we have chosen Hungary as a place for our shared service center,” Hookway explains.

With the unemployment rate dropping and an increasing number of professionals leaving the country to work abroad, labor shortages seem to be hitting almost every field in the local economy. Despite that, Hookway is positive about finding a qualified workforce, and also about keeping them. “Recruiting is one thing, but keeping the people is another. You need to get both of those right. For us, that is why we spend a lot of time both on the quality of work and also on personal satisfaction. If you get personal satisfaction you are on the one hand attracted to that, on the other hand you are more likely to stay,” he says.

“The other thing is what we call our employee value proposition, which is not only what work you do, but also how it gets done. You know the emphasis is on teamwork; we offer flexible working arrangements, which is particularly important for the Y generation and Millennials. We have a great work environment, we aim to have fun: work hard play hard is our mantra. We recognize the responsibility for communities and spend a lot of time and effort on career development, personal learning and training, not just skills that are subject to the job. It is a total package.”.