55 (150) 2022


Delivering global operations from Warsaw

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Anna Urbańska, CEO of Standard Chartered’s Global Business Services Poland, talks to the BPCC’s Michael Dembinski about the bank’s decision to locate in Poland, the specifics of the hub’s work and why it is so important for the bank globally.

First question – why Poland? What attracted Standard Chartered, a bank with global reach, to set up its Global Business Services hub in Warsaw? It seems strange at first sight that a bank with 90% of its profits coming from Asia, Africa and the Middle East should choose Poland...

Setting up the global business services centre in Poland made perfect sense from our operational perspective. Though Standard Chartered doesn’t conduct banking activities here, we needed a stronger presence in the region on the business-services side due to the growing client base in Europe and Americas. Warsaw emerged as a viable option due to several factors.

Poland can boast a large talent pool – globally recognised experts in finance operations, compliance, project management, and niche areas, such as information- and cybersecurity. They are well-educated and have gained experience in the biggest organisations in Poland and abroad.

Moreover, in the academic year 2020/21, there were almost 300,000 university graduates, and 22.5% of students chose disciplines related to business, administration and law. The linguistic competences are also important – English is our company’s main language and Poland, ranking 16th on the list of 112 countries in the EF English Proficiency Index, is one of the top scorers in Central Europe.

An important element was the time zone, ideally aligned for supporting businesses in Asia, Europe and Americas, in the ‘follow the sun’ model. Warsaw has a well-developed infrastructure, an international airport located a few kilometres from the city centre and a big office market, with over 6.15 million m2 of office space.

What services does the Warsaw operation provide Standard Chartered around the world?

Our teams here manage complex, large scale, cross-border activities including technology and finance services, cyber security, audit, banking operations along with project management, digital marketing, resourcing services.

Main areas within our competence hub are for instance Conduct, Financial Crime and Compliance (CFCC) with 400 employees, who fight against financial crime. Cybersecurity area is the second biggest field and focuses on malware protection, threat detection or penetration testing. Our colleagues in the treasury team are responsible for liquidity simulations needed for effective management. Our finance-operations experts design, build and deliver decision intelligence solutions to better understand performance of our bank in the market. It’s also worth mentioning the financial-market contracts and lending-documentation units, which support negotiations of documents or review finance documents for banking transactions. The Chief Data Office teams in Poland ensure that the bank handles data efficiently, securely respectfully and in compliance with regulatory requirements. The global project management team of experts ensures end-to-end support and help implement top-notch IT solutions and growing resourcing team supports recruitment activities for Standard Chartered Bank in Europe and Americas. And there are many more other jobs delivered daily out of Poland.

Like Hargreaves Lansdowne, another FTSE100 company that opened a hub in Warsaw, Standard Chartered does no direct business in Poland, and therefore there are limited opportunities to create an awareness of the brand. Do you find that an issue when it comes to employer branding, in terms of recruitment and retention of talent?

Having 160 years of history, Standard Chartered is fortunate to be a well-known brand within the financial industry. Many professionals, who are our main audience, are already aware of our activities, either due to previous experiences in the banking sector, or through travels and migration. We’re reaching further potential candidates through sponsorships and presence at events dedicated to professionals. Since cybersecurity is an important pillar of our Warsaw activities, we were happy to sponsor the Perspektywy Women in Tech Summit, Oh My H@ck! and CONFidence conferences – a great option for our experts to share their expertise and increase our presence in the industry. Our colleagues are also active as experts in projects promoting cybersecurity, such as the Weekend Catch-Up by Zaufana Trzecia Strona, gathering important news from this discipline. Those are just to name a few.

We regularly engage in charitable events and volunteering actions, such as Poland Business Run, a relay sponsored by our company for the fourth consecutive year, supporting people with motor disabilities. Another initiative is the BEST (Business Employability Skills Training) by the Futuremakers programme, aimed initially at helping 10,000 displaced Ukrainians in Poland or Enactus, supporting Polish youth hit by the economic impacts of the pandemic.

My colleagues are the best ambassadors of our culture. We strive to provide them with great working conditions, at the state-of-the-art office in Wola district, and a supportive working culture with many options for growth and development. I can see our hard work already paying off: After being present on the Polish market for just four years, we received the Great Place to Work certification and ranked fifth on the list of Best Workplaces in Poland. Very recently, Everest Group distinguished GBS Poland as one of the best employers in the business services sector, according to a brand perception report, topping companies more established locally. Such recognitions are very helpful in promoting our employer’s brand, and our colleagues, proud of their workplace, are likely to share that with their own networks – attracting talents.

What should Poland be doing – the government, local authorities, the private sector - to ensure that the country retains its edge in IT? Do you think the education system is up to the task of producing the number of STEM graduates, and in particular computer scientists and mathematicians, to keep up with the demands of employers?

I believe systemic changes are needed to combat the shortage of talents in IT. First, young people need access to education – not only at the university, but also to postgraduate courses or training, allowing a change in their career. In Poland, it is widely believed that one must follow the path taken at 18, when applying to college, but that’s not the case. For instance, in cybersecurity, we see successful colleagues with various backgrounds, who decided to change their specialisation. Many hard skills can be acquired on the job, and what really counts are open-mindedness and motivation to learn.

All employees, but especially IT specialists, highly value flexibility. Companies that want to attract the best and brightest must take that into account. At Standard Chartered, it’s completely normal to be working remotely, dividing your time between home office and the Warsaw hub. This approach allows us also to source talents from other locations, for roles that require less in-person visits to the office.

We’re keen to employ foreigners who often see Warsaw as an exciting place to develop professionally. From the authorities’ side, I’d be happy to see a more streamlined process regarding visa and work authorisation approvals.

Financial crime and cybersecurity are priorities for all financial institutions; the struggle to keep ahead of criminals and hackers is constant, and again, one that depends on talent. This is a huge area of responsibility - how do you see this area developing in future, and what is the role of the Warsaw office in this area?

Since around 2008, Warsaw has developed a big base of anti-money laundering (AML) specialists, and in the last ten years the talent pool in cybersecurity has also grown significantly. Through the years, the regulatory requirements have significantly expanded, as a reaction to the constantly evolving global situation and growing awareness of financial crime. According to that, banks update their policies as well. Our CFCC team in Warsaw is 400 colleagues-strong and its main job is monitoring banking transactions for Standard Chartered to identify any attempts of money laundering and terrorist financing that may convey through the bank. In addition to that, there is also a variety of second line advisory roles located in Poland. To support learning from experts in this area, Standard Chartered GBS Poland recently hosted the second edition of FinCrime & Surveillance Summit – an online event open for external audiences. We’ve invited many specialists, including our own, but also experts from the Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists (ACFCS) and the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This was the perfect opportunity for sharing best practices and keeping up to date with newest developments in the area.

Artificial intelligence is having a major impact on financial services in terms of driving down costs and improving quality. What do you see as the biggest challenges - and the biggest benefits - that AI will bring to banking in the near future? How big a priority is the development of AI for your operations in Warsaw?

AI is definitely helpful in detecting and stopping financial frauds. Algorithms can catch suspicious patterns of behaviour and quickly alert our analysts. But it’s pivotal that there remains a human component to this because the criminals are human. Financial Crime Compliance is a pivotal area and regulators need to be much more convinced towards AI usage in AML – it’s crucial to connect the dots and analyse the facts according to the cultural context. A lot of emphasis is also placed on documenting the processes and proving compliance, and in this aspect, we can use the magnitude of collected data to train AI become better.

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