Human Resource Management in the Financial Services Sector

03 January 2017
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Taxlinked: In your opinion, how do companies benefit from outsourcing their human resource management (HRM)?

Gianfranco Capozzi (GC): In Malta, I have seen many companies—particularly SMEs, but even some larger enterprises—struggle with maintaining an adequate standard of HRM practices. Now and again, it happens that the human resource department is overlooked, left to its own devices, without a clear strategy or a proper plan in place. Then, when ‘troubles’ like high turnover, low performance or difficulties in recruiting staff come across, suddenly the HR department acquires importance. Definitely, following the principle that 'prevention is better than cure,' I would say that that all these critical issues had the opportunity of being monitored and fixed from the very beginning, if not have been totally anticipated.
By outsourcing all or part of their HR needs to organizations that make “HRM” their core business, companies will benefit from various advantages, each of which should be aligned with the company’s mission, structure and strategy. For instance, companies can focus on their core competencies and objectives, gaining the support of experts and specialists for everything else that comes out of their sphere. Saving money and having a secure control of costs involved is another key benefit often underestimated: sure, you can hire a brilliant HR professional with superior experience or, at the same price, engage the services of a dedicated company, which can’t go on vacation leave, can’t get sick or risk being poached by other companies, granting you the guarantee that you will pay for what you get.
Of fundamental importance is keeping up to date with the best HR practices and, if you aim at improving accuracy, compliance, engagement, recruitment or retention, I really believe that outsourcing part or all of the department is the way forward.

TL: What do you look for in candidates when recruiting for the accounting, finance and auditing sectors?

GC: We designed a semi-structured methodology, where apart from assessing qualifications and work experience with specific skills, duties and responsibilities, we aim to understand the candidate on a more personal level. While a certain qualification or level of experience can be in one way or another achieved, the character of a person is something that cannot be easily changed. Therefore, we aim to investigate beyond the interests, motivations and career ambitions of our candidates.
For example, we give importance to what is not mentioned during the interview; in many cases, it happens that the untold story is more important than what has been said.
Moreover, passion and aptitude are two other key factors that should be effectively perceived, understood and taken into consideration for the job matching process within various organizations.
One may think that this does not apply when it comes to high-profile accountants or experienced financial managers, but it would be a wrong assumption given today’s growing importance of the concept of ‘cultural-fit’ in the workplace.
Therefore, be ready to give some notions about your social life and how you interact with other people, not only in terms of teamwork, but even to prove that your personality is not an obstacle to your career.

TL: In your opinion, why should professionals look for work abroad or outside their cultural or geographic comfort zone?

GC: Being an Italian citizen living and working in a foreign country myself, I have learnt how an international experience can open your mind by allowing you to gain extraordinary knowledge and cultural baggage otherwise impossible to obtain just from books. You may discover that even while holding the same “job title,” a professional in a different country might work in a totally different manner.
Having said so, you can recognise that there are two distinct sides to the coin:  what you can learn and acquire, and what you can teach and give. From both sides, you and a foreign counterpart can benefit from this international exchange. Additionally, if you have reached a high standard of professionalism and you feel stuck in your current role, the more you should consider an international career move.
Consider meeting new people and discovering new cultures; even if your scope is to acquire new skills to implement in your own business once back home, in the end, all the transnational experience that you will acquire will be for your own benefit and it will make you an intellectually wealthier person overall.

TL: There are plenty of benefits to having a staff consisting of both foreign employees and local experts. How do you help companies find a balance between the two?

GC: All organisations require the right people to be successful.
But how do you identify the “right people”? It is simply not a matter of matching people with requirements and skills that appear on the job descriptions. It’s much more than that. Effective Human Resource Management and Organizational Analysis are effective tools used to identify the real necessities of a company, and once you have identified the right variables for each factor, it is easier to conduct a proper executive search for the recruitment of the right candidates. A common mistake that I often see in recruitment is to draft the job description having a specific person in mind, maybe the old employee who has just left or retired.
We have to bear in mind that every person is different and consequently it will be impossible to perfectly match the role if our basis was designed on a single person’s specifications.
What we should look for are the outcomes provided by those roles and to evaluate every person for his/her capabilities to give the results we expect, rather than to “emulate” the tasks of a predecessor.
To conclude, my advice is not to think about the choice of hiring a foreign or a local candidate; what you should adhere to are the targets that you are aiming for, and who is ultimately the best person for you who can help you achieve those results.

TL: Any other thoughts you’d like to share with our community?

GC: To all those seeking an international assignment, I would highly recommend that you seek the advice of local recruiters based in your country of destination, because every country has its own best practices, even when it comes to just presenting a CV or cover letter. To all those who are looking for a new job in general, be it abroad or at home, the general rule-of-thumb is to always maintain a positive attitude, as this is the key and determinant strength for any job search!