Having looked at the automotive sector two issues ago, this time we report on that other great Hungarian success story of recent years, shared services centers.
Indeed, it has been such a success that it looks like the name itself is being given an upgrade. As our interview with the president of the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency makes clear on Page 10, that agency now talks about Business Services Centers, or BSC, rather than SSC. That puts it in line with the real estate world, which has apparently long considered shared services and business process outsourcing as subsets of the business services sector.
I am aware there is a real danger of being submerged in alphabet soup here (a cup pf BPO, anyone?) but the change in nomenclature also reflects a rapidly maturing market. When the first shared service operations began to open up in Hungary, they were little more than glorified call centers or back office operations. Back then, they came because the wage levels in Hungary meant it was much cheaper to house such operations here. That is no longer the case, but then the centers themselves have long since moved on from such mundane tasks.
Provided you have the requisite language skills, there are genuinely interesting careers on offer in the BSCs of Budapest and, increasingly, provincial cities such as Debrecen, Szeged and Pécs. ExxonMobil’s global cybersecurity team, for example, is based in its Budapest office. These are exactly the sort of high-end jobs – value added, as the government always refers to them – that might persuade bright young graduates not to leave the country in search of a better paid career, and even tempt those that have already gone abroad to come back.
As with virtually every industry, digitalization is increasingly coming to the forefront here. The smart reception being developed in Hungary by SAP Labs (soon to be augmented by a robot, it seems) is only the most obvious example. But none of the center heads we spoke to seemed unduly concerned by what automation might mean for their headcounts. Rather, they welcomed the possibility it would take away routine tasks and enable their Gen Y and Z employees to concentrate on more fulfilling roles.
Zoltán Szabó, general manager of BT Global Services’ EMEA Regional Operations Center (to keep the alphabet soup story going, BT refers to it as the ROC) gave me an interesting metaphor for it when we met.
“It is like the invention of the washing machine,” he said. “When the washing machine came along, the washing did not disappear, but it became much easier to deal with, allowing people to do other more interesting things and improving their quality of life.”
I am more than happy to raise a cup of BPO, or even something more cheering, to an improved quality of life.