Award-Winner's Interview: Gautam Bose, GE Capital Business Process Management Services
Back in September, the 3rd Shared Services Asia Pacific Excellence Awards 2009 were presented "to recognise the results, achievements and performance of SSOs in the region". Continuing our series of interviews with recipients of 2009's Asian awards, SSON speaks with Gautam Bose, CEO of GE Capital Business Process Management Services - winners of the award for Best Mature Capture Services Delivery.
SSON: Gautam, thanks for joining us. Let’s start by getting an overview of your operation – tell us about GE Capital Business Process Management Services.
Gautam Bose: GE Capital Business Process Management Services Pvt. Ltd. (GECBPMSL) is a joint venture between GE Capital, a world leader in financial services, and State Bank of India (SBI), India’s largest bank. It was set up in 1997, to handle the credit card operations, collections, customer service for SBI Card. The sales and marketing operations for SBI Card are handled by another joint venture company, Payment Services Pvt. Ltd. (SBICPSL). SBI Card is the one of the largest credit card players in the Indian market, with three million cardholders. GECBPMSL has set up a world-class platform to handle the SBI Card business.
The vision of GECBPMSL is to make SBI Card the number-one player in India in customer experience, by providing best-in-class service to SBI Card. The entire organisation is focused on driving the 4Cs:
- Customer Loyalty
- Collection efficiencies
- Cost Competitiveness
- Compliance & Metrics
Headquartered in Gurgaon, GECBPMSL also has a large office in Chennai, and uses a world-class technology platform.
SSON: Your organization was recently declared Best Mature Capture Services Delivery at the Asian Shared Services & Outsourcing Excellence Awards. What was it, do you think, that the judges saw in your operation which really pushed you ahead of the crowd?
GB: Over the last 11 years, GECBPMSL has built a world-class platform to handle credit card and financial services operations. We are continuously looking at opportunities to add value to the business by leveraging technology, platforms and processes, and great people management and engagement.
We have demonstrated that delivering services and adding value leads to enhanced customer experience, increased productivity, and ultimately provides clear value through growth and profits for the business we are servicing. One example of enhancing customer experience [has been] moving from providing three payment options to our cardholders to providing 13 (through the internet, mobile, bank, credit card, debit card etc.) over the course of just 12 months, thus making life simpler for our customers. GECBPMSL has been effectively leveraging technology and channels to do that. Another example of adding value to the-business is productivity increase in a negative external environment, through the extensive use of tele-calling, dialler technology and automation.
SSON: What do you see as being the biggest assets your organization has, and how have you leveraged those assets to become an award-winning institution?
GB: The biggest assets for GECBPMSL are: the ability to leverage global best practices of GE, and leverage the global network and technology; people - we invest heavily in good recruitment, comprehensive training and development programs, engaging Rewards and Recognition programs, solid Performance Management Systems and employee engagement programs; focus on using the best technology, and the platforms that we have built to handle a large scale.
SSON: What’s been your own role in the development of the operation?
GB: My role has been of a leader, an integrator and a change agent for the organisation. I have focused on the following:
- driving the people agenda … focusing on people development and employee engagement. I strongly believe that increased employee satisfaction leads to increased customer satisfaction and therefore overall profitability of the business;
- leveraging metrics to measure and drive performance. Digital dashboards have been developed to measure input, process and output metrics for the organisation, bringing a lot of rigor at the company and function level;
- setting up a good operating rhythm through periodic reviews and interactions with employee groups;
- driving technology enhancements and upgrades to improve our platforms and processes;
- driving financial discipline. My past experience as the CFO of GE Money, India has come in handy to drive an approach of financial discipline and prudence, and a focus on driving profitable growth.
SSON: Let’s take a look at some of the obstacles your organization has had to overcome en route to the top. What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced and how did you get past or through them?
GB: When we set up this business in 1997, we were pioneers in this industry. There were few examples and best practices in the Indian industry at that time, which could guide us. Making mistakes and learning from them is integral to being a pioneer in any market. We are glad we had those initial challenges that helped make our processes far more robust and scalable as we are poised for growth in 2010.
SSON: How has the financial crisis affected your operations and to what extent are those affects going to persist into the future?
GB: The economic crisis in 2008-09 led to a significant slowdown in the credit card industry in India. As a result, we had to revisit our business plans as well. We were faced with challenges such as:
- revamping our infrastructure to meet the changing needs of the customer in a tough economy
- driving collection efficiencies in the changed environment
- looking at underwriting models and processes so that we are relevant to the customer as well as are running a profitable operation
- maximising the Return on Investment on technologies and platforms
- building robust Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans to ensure no disruption to the business
SSON: Obviously you don’t have a crystal ball – but what do you think will be the big challenges you face moving through the recovery and into the next few years? And to what extent do you see those challenges as being specific to the region in which you’re operating?
GB: As the economy recovers, we expect to see good growth in the credit card industry in the next couple of years. As we gear up for this growth, our biggest challenges will be investing in the right and profitable business lines, which will give us the best returns; and continuing to retain and build talent. I feel we are already well positioned to meet these challenges head-on.
SSON: Speaking generally, beyond your own organization, what do you think will be the lasting impact of the financial crisis on the shared services and outsourcing space? Do you think we’ve gone through a genuinely game-changing event (and, if so, why)? Or do you predict a return to a business landscape which isn’t too different from that we enjoyed c. 2007?
GB: The financial crisis has forced shared services and outsourcing providers to tighten their belts and focus on the basics again - getting costs and operating expenses under control, good people management in an uncertain environment, renewed focus on the customer, automating and improving processes, prudent risk and financial management.
I believe the industry will come out of the financial crisis stronger and better equipped to handle any such business cycles in the future.
SSON: To what degree have you been able to create a more environmentally sustainable business model in response to the growing threat posed by climate change? Is sustainability an important factor for GE?
GB: GE believes very strongly in driving change in the business model to tackle some of the major problems in the world around energy usage and efficiency, and healthcare. ecomagination is a business initiative by GE to help meet customers’ demand for cleaner and more energy-efficient products and to drive reliable growth for GE. ecomagination also reflects GE’s commitment to invest in a future that creates innovative solutions to environmental challenges and delivers valuable products and services to customers while generating profitable growth for the company.
healthymagination is a business initiative by GE to leverage our technologies and innovations to bring high quality care at lower cost to more people throughout the world. With healthymagination, GE is also committed to making our employees healthier.
GECBPMSL has been actively involved in ecomagination and healthymagination initiatives, through driving energy efficiencies, water reuse and health assessment and improvement measures for its employees.
SSON: A couple of more personal ones to finish. What’s the best advice you’ve ever given, or been given?
GB: There is some advice given by one of my managers that I find very relevant. He says that there are three ways that your performance and impact can be talked about: you can talk about and praise your own performance; other people can talk about your performance positively; and people can give your reference two years after you have left that role and say that he really impacted the business. I would like to be remembered in the third way, as someone who impacted the business positively and strongly enough to be remembered years after moving on from that role.
SSON: And how else would you like to be remembered?
GB: As someone who scaled up the platform for captive service delivery, and established GECBPMSL as the number-one provider of choice in the financial services space.