Team building creates a great working environment at XL Catlin
Building a shared service centre from scratch poses a raft of different challenges – not least how you get over 200 new recruits functioning as a harmonious series of teams as early as possible. That was the challenge presented to Zestfor when client XL Catlin first opened their European shared service centre in Poland…
Global Insurance company XL Catlin provides insurance and reinsurance to businesses and high net worth individuals all over the world – covering everything from damage caused by hurricanes or terrorism to the theft of fine art and satellite failures.
While the company is headquartered in Ireland, it has 7,000 employees around the globe in 60 offices. The company expanded significantly in May 2015 through the acquisition of the Catlin Group.
Servicing the needs of their huge international client base presents significant logistical challenges, and represents a significant cost. In 2015, Adrian Copland was given the task of both improving the service provided to clients and reducing their cost base by opening up a shared service centre (SSC) – initially with some 200 staff, with plans to double that in the near future.
“The decision was made to base the SCC in Poland,” says Adrian. “Quite simply that was because it offers huge advantages in terms of skills as well as costs”.
“We’ve been able to recruit a remarkably talented group of people – many of them with Masters, and all fluent in at least two foreign languages… some speak many more languages than that”.
“The education system here means that you can readily acquire a four-year Masters through the State, and so the country has some very talented young people”.
“The Poland centre provides customer liaison throughout Europe and across all our products and services; and because it is open from 8am to 10pm, we can also look after clients on the US East Coast as well as parts of Asia”.
Adrian had previously gone through team building training with Zestfor in his earlier role as an IT programme manager with the XL Group.
“To be honest, that was probably a tougher group of people to bring together: arguably a bit more cynical and set in their ways”.
“While we were looking to embed the company culture and ethos, the key thing I was looking to get out of the project was to help bond the teams, and that meant individuals accepting different personalities and recognising what each person could bring to the team effort,” says Adrian.
“Because we wanted to build teams from scratch, we could start from the beginning – there was an immaturity in the way some relationships were built where individuals could either like or dislike each other, and building their personal awareness was a big part of what Julia worked on.
We also wanted to create connections between individuals in different teams. The coaching course seemed an ideal way to start that process.
Importantly, everyone who took part really was up for it. They all wanted to ‘up their game’ and while there was some initial apprehension about being placed in ‘a box’, they could see why this exercise could develop their personal experience and add to their professional and life skills set.”
Julia and her team came to Poland for a series of 10 two-day sessions with groups of between 12 and 15. The first day of each group session was spent with individuals from different teams mixed together; the second day saw them broken up into their operating teams.
The other benefit: staff retention through job satisfaction
Building better functioning teams was one big part of why we went through this exercise,” says Adrian, “but there was one other major prize that we have our eye on.
“Poland has become such a good place to set up a SCC that many of the biggest corporates in the world now have centres here – BNY Mellon, Credit Suisse, HP… its an employee’s market at the moment.
So we have to compete to get the best people. And that’s not just a competitive salary and promotion prospects. It’s about generating a really great working environment that people want to work in.
These are ‘Generation Y’ individuals who know what they want and are often quite impatient about achieving it”.
While Adrian currently manages over 220 people, most of whom have now been on a Zestfor programme, the company is constantly recruiting. “Our plans are to grow to about 400 in the near future,” he says.
“While the Zestfor training has helped build a working environment that makes it easier for anyone coming into the company to get straight into the culture and working ethos, I would like to run more courses to give everyone the benefit of the training – and perhaps look at other ways Zestfor can enhance their skills set.”