Drop ‘Captive’ Mindset to Choose ‘Capability’: Fidelity Investments’ Seema Unni Advises Young GCCs
Interviews, Magazine

Drop ‘Captive’ Mindset to Choose ‘Capability’: Fidelity Investments’ Seema Unni Advises Young GCCs

, Senior Content Manager, Naukri
Bruhadeeswaran R, Senior Manager - Editorial & Content, Naukri
Fidelity Investments
Seema Unni, Head HR and a Regional Leader, Fidelity Investments India

Highlighting the paramount shift from a captive mindset to one of capability, Seema Unni, Head of Human Resources and a Regional Leader at Fidelity Investments India, underscores the vital importance of talent retention and training amidst an increasingly competitive talent acquisition landscape.

In the 2020s, digital transformation demands, driven by emerging technologies, became paramount. The pandemic-induced shift to remote work and the surge of AI and automation presented both opportunities and challenges, requiring skilled workforces. Seema Unni, Head of HR and Regional Leader at Fidelity Investments India emphasises the essential role of Global Capability Centres in leading talent acquisition and retention amidst these changes.

How has Fidelity’s GCC in India evolved in terms of business growth and talent development?

Fidelity’s journey in India, as we mark our 20th year, has been transformative. We’ve strategically integrated technology, operations, and analytics, enhancing our customer value proposition, especially for our US clients and our parent organisation. This seamless integration across these domains underscores our maturity and growth. Moreover, Fidelity India embodies the entirety of Fidelity, housing all its business units. This structure provides our associates with a holistic view of our business, enabling us not just to churn out technology or operational solutions, but to deliver comprehensive solutions with deep domain expertise. This approach sets us apart from other GCCs and industry competitors. From a talent perspective, our team of approximately 7,000 across Bangalore and Chennai showcases a diverse skill set. We possess everything from high-demand niche skills to broader programme management capabilities. Additionally, our unique prowess in analytics and domain expertise in areas like asset management, retail investing, and workplace solutions epitomises our comprehensive and multifaceted talent pool in India.

Given Fidelity’s 20 years in the GCC space, can you elucidate the major changes and evolutions you’ve observed, especially in recent years, as conversations around GCCs have amplified?

Certainly. Historically, GCCs operated at an arm’s length from their parent companies, primarily focusing on staff augmentation with generic skills. The essence was more about cost savings rather than innovative contributions. Fast forward to today, the landscape has changed dramatically. GCCs are no longer distant entities but are now seamlessly integrated extensions of parent organisations. They’ve evolved from merely providing cost arbitrage to delivering genuine value and talent arbitrage. This shift means that GCCs now actively engage in co-designing products and strategies in tandem with their parent entities.

There’s a marked shift in the industry, where the emphasis is not just on cost but on capability, innovation, and customer-centricity. We’ve been proactive, collaborating with industry partners to redefine our strategies for the future. The transformation is evident in how we perceive talent. India’s workforce has one of the highest learnability quotients globally. The democratisation of learning, via platforms like Coursera and Udemy, has only bolstered this. Our employees actively pursue skill development, aligning with the changing demands of work.

This evolution in the GCC space has amplified our global recognition. For instance, our recent accolade at the ZINNOV awards for innovation testifies to this. The enhanced visibility on platforms like LinkedIn and the growing word-of-mouth referrals within Fidelity further validate our trajectory. It’s essential to note that this growth didn’t happen by chance: Our strategy pivots around a blend of external hiring and in-house development, which has been a cornerstone of our GCC approach.

As we ponder the road ahead, our focus isn’t just on being a traditional GCC but evolving as capability and innovation centres. Our vision encapsulates three tenets: run, grow, and transform, with a diversified portfolio of work distributed across these segments.

Also read: EY GDS’ Sreekanth Arimanithaya Details How GCCs Are Solving Talent Shortage Crisis In India

For new GCC entrants, it’s advised to adopt the capability model from the start, eliminating the “captive” mindset. This approach involves fostering an innovative culture, diversifying work into execution, growth, and transformation, and aligning strategies with similar capability-focused entities. Transitioning from captive to capability requires changes in hiring, and compensation structures, a shift from cost-focus to talent-focus, and a comprehensive change management strategy.

You emphasised the significance of the learnability quotient in the rising interest for GCCs. Has the pandemic further fueled this?

Absolutely. While the COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to humanity, it also ushered in certain positive shifts. I’d categorise these shifts into three primary segments:

Globalisation of Mindsets: The pandemic, with its push for virtual communication, flattened the world in a sense. Distances shrank, and the global mindset grew exponentially. We were no longer bound by geographical limitations, which fostered a stronger intercontinental connection.

Acceleration of Digital Learning: The transition to a virtual space meant that traditional classroom training was no longer viable. This change was a boon in disguise. It paved the way for educational institutions worldwide to offer their courses online. For instance, at Fidelity, our management development programmes, previously limited to India, expanded. We began collaborating with global universities, giving our leaders access to a diverse range of experts and professors. The move to a digital landscape also prompted a surge in self-learning. Employees, enjoying the flexibility of their schedules, gravitated towards self-paced courses, leading to a significant rise in enrollments on learning platforms. This acceleration in digital education and self-learning might not have been so rapid if not for the pandemic.

Equitable Skill Development: We conducted a global skills assessment during this period and found an encouraging trend. The opportunities to learn and apply skills have become more accessible, making skill development more even across the globe. The convenience of the virtual environment, coupled with hybrid work models, empowered individuals to enhance their capabilities. Recognising their progress, we instituted rewards through our digital recognition platforms. Frankly, if not for the pandemic-induced shift to a digital mindset, achieving this level of progress might have taken another half-decade.

Also read: Resurgence in Hiring Activities Among GCCs Expected if Inflation Mitigates: Sriram Gopalswamy, Sabre Bengaluru

With two decades of experience, Fidelity is paving the way for many GCCs. As newer GCCs are emerging each year, what lies ahead for those that are already well-established?

That’s a wonderful question. Currently, we’re conducting a study focused on global workforce planning to address just that. Given our present maturity, our primary goal is to envision our trajectory for the upcoming three years.

We’ve introduced the concept of “centres of gravity.” This concept aims to define, for all our global regions, what Fidelity’s India region specifically represents in terms of capability. We’re delving into the questions of which skills we possess, the nature of work we’re best at, and our understanding of the customer. Moreover, we’re also considering how we plan to retain talent in this region.

For instance, we embraced the agile model around five years ago. Now, we’re looking to deepen our engagement with this model. Questions arise, such as whether we should have more product leaders in India or if we should be focusing on having more co-located teams that own specific segments of the customer experience. Our work in India mustn’t be fragmented, as this would not be sustainable in the long run.

Three core elements form the foundation of our “centre of gravity” discussion: scale, skill, and co-located impactful work related to customer experience. As a mature GCC, this framework will guide our future direction.

Central to all of this is our employees. Ensuring they have a fulfilling career path is paramount. Interestingly, our performance year kicks off in October, and we’re also collaborating with external academic institutions. Currently, we’re researching with seven top-tier academic institutions in India to pinpoint areas like financial independence, cryptocurrency, AI, and emerging analytics, which will shape our focus.

Another crucial factor for a GCC, especially from a leadership standpoint, is advocacy. Our leaders should be strong advocates for their regions. Such advocacy ensures that every country brings unique thought leadership to discussions. This perspective is supplemented by insights from bodies like NASSCOM and equivalent entities in other countries.

Lastly, the importance of corporate governance cannot be overstated. With operations in different countries, understanding and adhering to the fiduciary responsibilities in the GCC becomes paramount. This includes aspects like risk, compliance, auditing, and understanding the laws and regulations specific to each region.

Also read: Mashreq Head HR Jayanthi Gopal’s Guide on Adapting New-Age Recruitment for Banking GCCs

Can you provide an overview of Fidelity’s hiring trends over the past two years, projections for the next few years, and your perspective on the “buy versus build” approach?

Reflecting on the last two years, it was a unique period, particularly post-pandemic. The technology sector experienced significant attrition, with talent movement reaching levels that seemed to condense what might have been seen over three years, had the pandemic not occurred. During this period, Fidelity, like many others in the industry, faced challenges with retention.

Historically, our approach has leaned towards a 70-30 or 80-20 mix. This means we’ve primarily focused on grooming internal talent, especially fresh graduates from universities. This has allowed us to mould talent according to our organisational needs. We’re proud of our retention rate, particularly among those with five or more years of tenure at Fidelity. Around 70% of such employees have stayed with us, which is commendable.

When it comes to external hiring, our strategy is always intentional. We assess gaps in our skill set and hire accordingly. Recently, due to emerging tech trends, we’ve been hiring experts in areas like architecture, AI/ML, cryptocurrency, and cybersecurity. Our approach towards recruitment has involved seeking talent from top-tier and second-tier educational institutions, offering a balance between experienced professionals and fresh graduates.

Our “buy versus build” strategy evolves based on our organisational goals for any given period. In the past couple of years, given the surge in high-demand skills, our strategy tilted slightly towards buying or hiring externally. However, the commitment we offer when hiring is our brand promise, which is why our retention rates remain competitive, even with industry challenges.

Looking ahead, the next two to three years will likely focus on skill enhancement. We will aim to further develop the skills of those we’ve recently hired, especially in high-demand areas. Additionally, we’ll concentrate on employees handling significant volumes and crucial customer-centric processes and solutions. The goal is to ensure that we not only attract but also retain top talent and continue delivering value.

Also read: Future of GCCs Hinges on Optimising Human-Machine Collaborations: Mitun Chakraborty, Carelon Global Solutions

Given the current landscape, would it be accurate to suggest that mature GCCs are pivoting towards retaining and training existing staff, while the newer GCCs are in a rapid hiring phase? Additionally, are mature GCCs becoming the prime talent pool for emerging GCCs?

Absolutely. In the past, third-party service providers might have been our main competitors. But now, with the maturity and strength of our GCCs, we’ve become a prime target for new entrants looking to tap into established talent pools.

For mature GCCs like ours, the focus has shifted to retention, skill enhancement, and maximising the value derived from existing talent. This is a natural evolution after having spent years developing expertise and establishing a strong presence. With a foundation already set, it’s vital to consolidate and ensure the talent we’ve nurtured remains with us, particularly in this competitive market.

On the other hand, emerging GCCs are in a race against time. They don’t have the luxury of building over two decades like some of us did. They need to rapidly establish their presence, create value, and carve a niche for themselves in an already crowded marketplace. This inevitably means they’ll be on a hiring spree, and given the reputation and talent pool of mature GCCs, it’s no surprise they see us as prime recruitment grounds.

In the immediate future, I foresee the talent competition intensifying among GCCs. For the next couple of years, as mature GCCs focus on strategic retention and skill development, we might primarily be looking at replacement hires and backfilling roles due to the competitive nature of the market. The war for talent is in full swing, and it’s going to shape the GCC landscape in profound ways.

Given the emergence of cost arbitrage from other countries, is there a potential risk to Indian talent in the global landscape?

It’s essential to remain vigilant about the evolving global landscape, but based on our research and observations, India continues to be a stronghold in the talent ecosystem. Several factors contribute to this:

Robust Ecosystem: India’s talent ecosystem has significantly evolved, with modern cities attracting foreign institutional investments and showcasing urban development.

Positive Indicators: Metrics such as the innovation index and living index for India have been on the rise, indicating an upward trajectory in terms of country development and appeal.

Strong Corporate Governance and Compliance: India demonstrates a robust corporate governance framework and compliance mechanism, reducing geopolitical and operational risks.

Beyond Cost Arbitrage: India’s value proposition has transitioned from merely being a “low-cost” hub to a “talent arbitrage.” The skills, expertise, and adaptability of the Indian workforce play a pivotal role in this transition.

Demographic Dividend: India’s youthful population and vast talent pool, coupled with the marketability of its workforce, place the country in a competitive position on the global stage.

Multiple Determinants: When global companies consider a region for talent and operations, they evaluate various factors – geopolitical stability, geographical advantages, regional dynamics, and the country’s inherent diversity. India scores well on many of these fronts.

Diversity of Talent Pool: With initiatives like the apprenticeship programme, we’re tapping into varied talent sources within India, thereby diversifying and enriching our talent reservoir.

Adaptability and Innovation: India’s ability to adapt, innovate, and align with global requirements has made its talent pool more attractive.

In summary, while it’s crucial to keep an eye on emerging regions and their offerings, India’s multifaceted advantages make it a formidable contender in the global talent landscape. Nevertheless, continuous improvement and adaptation remain key to maintaining this competitive edge.

Can you explain the different models that exist within GCCs and their evolution, specifically looking at the differences between captive and capability centres?

GCCs have evolved from the traditional “captive” model, where centres acted as extensions of the parent organisation, primarily executing orders and functioning at arm’s length. This model often limited innovation and led to fragmented operations. On the other hand, the “capability” model represents an advanced GCC, emphasising value addition, innovation, and equal partnership with the parent entity. They fully integrate with the parent, fostering innovation and thought leadership. Key features of a capability-focused GCC include internal innovation initiatives, academic research engagements, an internal gig platform for diverse projects, and a high rate of innovative idea submissions. 

For new GCC entrants, it’s advised to adopt the capability model from the start, eliminating the “captive” mindset. This approach involves fostering an innovative culture, diversifying work into execution, growth, and transformation, and aligning strategies with similar capability-focused entities. Transitioning from captive to capability requires changes in hiring, and compensation structures, a shift from cost-focus to talent-focus, and a comprehensive change management strategy. Overall, choosing between captive and capability determines a GCC’s strategic direction, efficiency, and value proposition, with the latter being more relevant in today’s dynamic global scenario.

Also read: upGrad’s Srikanth Iyengar Explains the Dynamic Shift in India’s GCC Skill Ecosystem

For the financial services sector in India’s GCC, what emerging skills should job seekers prioritise?

Jobseekers should focus on full-stack development skills, given the rapid technological advancements. This encompasses the entire development lifecycle, especially as roles like quality assurance are becoming integrated into broader team structures. Utilising learning platforms can guide current industry skills. It’s crucial not to chase trends but to gain depth in areas like AI, analytics, and even mainframe engineering, which remains relevant in many financial systems. Recognising one’s proficiency level—beginner, intermediary, or expert—is also essential.

When it comes to external hiring, our strategy is always intentional. We assess gaps in our skill set and hire accordingly. Recently, due to emerging tech trends, we’ve been hiring experts in areas like architecture, AI/ML, cryptocurrency, and cybersecurity. Our approach towards recruitment has involved seeking talent from top-tier and second-tier educational institutions, offering a balance between experienced professionals and fresh graduates.

In the context of the intense competition for talent within GCCs, which areas are experiencing the most demand?

For GCCs, the most competitive talent domains are AI/ML, architecture, and analytics, provided the GCC incorporates analytics.

And is Fidelity currently recruiting from these domains?

As of now, Fidelity isn’t aggressively hiring from these domains. While the attrition rate is currently low and the market is muted, our focus has shifted from hiring to consolidation and retention. Earlier in the year, we were actively recruiting, but our current emphasis is on our robust total rewards strategy and retaining our talent.

Finally, how has Fidelity’s hiring comparator set evolved as the company shifted from a captive to a capability mindset?

Initially, our comparator set for hiring was primarily third-party service providers. This was because GCCs and these service providers shared similar talent pools. Over time, as we shifted towards a capability mindset, our comparator set expanded. Today, it includes product companies, analytics firms, and various GCC segments like retail, aeronautics, financial services, and banking. Instead of focusing solely on third-party service providers, we now benchmark ourselves against a diverse set of industries and companies within the GCC realm.

About the expert: Before her current role as Head of Human Resources and Regional Leader at Fidelity Investments India, Seema Unni honed her skills at esteemed organisations like Arthur Andersen and Ernst & Young. She has over 25 years of rich experience spanning leadership roles in HR business partnerships, mergers and acquisitions, and organisational development.

Registered name of the company & location: Fidelity Business Services India (FBSI) Private Limited, Bangalore and Chennai
Year of Incorporation: 2003
Number of employees: 7,000+
Name of the founders: Edward C. Johnson II
Name of the key execs: India Regional Leaders – Vijai Kishan, Seema Unni, Rangarajan Satagopan, and Srinivas Sriperumbuduri
Business line: Fidelity Investments India began operations as a global capability centre of the company in 2003 and currently has around 7,000 employees located across Bangalore and Chennai. We deliver solutions to our customers across all lines of the global business in the areas of technology, operations, analytics, research, and data science


Leave a Reply


Click on allow to subscribe to notificationsStay update with the latest happenings on out site