In a conversation with All Things Talent, Anju Sansoa, Head of Recruitment, Swiss Re GBS India talks about the company’s vision to increase global resilience, its efforts to ramp up employee count in the last three years, supporting women in technology through mentorship programs, and much more.
Could you please throw some light on the company’s presence and employee base in the country?
Swiss Re GBS India has been in India for over 20 years. We started on a small scale, and we have been in Bangalore ever since. It’s only this year that we decided to extend our footprint and move on to a different city. Our employee base today is over 1800. Our growth path in India has been 3X in the last three years. We are a leading tech and data-enabled risk knowledge organization. We use a lot of digitalization as our prime aspect where we help customers to get benefits. We aim to increase global resilience which will enable society and people around the world to manage and mitigate risk. However, our business is not only about creating knowledge from data, but also to assess, transfer, and manage those risks for our clients.
What is an Indian employee’s contribution to the global workforce of Swiss Re GBS?
We have approximately 15,000 employees worldwide, and if we have 1800 employees in India, it is almost 10 % of what we contribute. When we talk about APAC, that number goes up to 20-25 %.
In terms of talent acquisition, how much hiring was done in the last three years and what kind of strategies did you roll out in the country? What is its impact, including tech enabling the entire process?
We have been ramping up, that is how we managed to hire 200+ employees, especially in the tech space. I’ll split it into tech and non-tech roles in Bangalore and Hyderabad. We put together a very high-octane hiring event in Hyderabad a couple of months ago.
Our focus was in terms of talent and skills of application engineers, full-stack engineers, and cloud and data architects, wherein we screened 400 plus applicants. We invited 80 plus candidates over to these events and were able to make 30 offers from there. This has not happened in the history of Swiss Re India or maybe as a group. So that’s how we were different this year compared to what we did last year.
If we look at tech hiring in the last three years, in 2020, of the total number of hires, 30 % were for tech and 70 % were for non-tech. Over the years, that number has increased. Today we speak about a 50-50 split across tech and non-tech roles. We do see this trend continuing for our organization over the following two years. We are a knowledge centre for the group here, not a volume organization, since we are developing our capabilities. The numbers that we hire could be just 10-20 % of some of the bigger firms. Hence, from a number perspective, it was a journey for us because Swiss Re hasn’t witnessed that before. As a result, we substantially increased our hiring by 75 % from 2020 till this year.
“We have approximately 15,000 employees worldwide, and if we have 1800 employees in India, it is almost 10 % of what we contribute. When we talk about APAC, that number goes up to 20-25 %.”
You mentioned that Swiss Re was primarily in Bangalore before for so many years and now you have a Hyderabad center as well. So, will there be more such inclusion of cities in the coming times?
Hyderabad is in our top three list because of its quality digital talent pool and robust technology ecosystem. The implementation of our hub and spoke model was the expansion that I was talking about, and it will continue to be our spoke location. The Hyderabad GBS Center brings in exclusive capabilities around tech which will help us transform our global solutions and help in driving the resilience that we talk about.
Talent movement to smaller cities has made many organizations open satellite offices to bring the workplace to where the talent is. Was that one of the reasons why you sought refuge in Hyderabad Center after spending so much time in Bangalore?
As you know, 56 % of tech talent today sits in South India, Bangalore, and Hyderabad. We didn’t want to expand within Bangalore because we already had a base there. So, we looked at Pune and Hyderabad. Several things contributed to our decision. First, the talent availability that suited our requirements. The cost was the second element we had to take into account. Hyderabad ticked all the boxes.
Additionally, the local government was extremely kind and welcoming when it came to opening doors for new organizations and establishing new offices. Consequently, I believe it was another important factor in our decision to build up the hub and spoke model in Hyderabad.
Can you tell us a little about the Own The Way You Work model that Swiss Re GBS presently has?
“Own The Way You Work” is our trademarked program and has long been a part of the culture at Swiss Re. We started this specific aspect of owning the way you work in the year 2015. It’s a cultural change initiative that not only gives the management but also the managers the autonomy to decide how, when and where work is carried out in compliance with the applicable laws, rules and regulations of their particular region. With that in mind, we now embrace a hybrid work model and recognize the values of how we create a culture and relationships through the hybrid work policies that are in place.
All our 1800 employees work in a hybrid model but on any given day of the week, you will find around 75 % of the employees in the office. Currently, we are looking at a minimum of two to three days a week in the office. So, to be completely honest, we do not currently encourage workers to work remotely; however, we do encourage them to visit the office at least twice a week.
What are your key talent requirements for the reinsurance business? And how do you identify and analyze the skill gap and train the internal talent?
Our talent and skill have been increasingly cloud-focused across the technology space. We place a lot of emphasis on data architects, regardless of whether they are data engineers, application engineers, or full-stack engineers. And over the next few years, we’ll continue to concentrate on this. There is a lot of emphasis on data governance as well.
We’ve just started our journey full-fledged in the tech space. The gap that we identified was more externally driven than internally up until this point, and we haven’t built an external measure to fill in those gaps because talent acquisition was something that we were trying to do and were able to do successfully with certain practices. Internally, I think most of the businesses which are set up this year have been coming out with training programs that help their employees get upskilled on the latest applications which is the need of the hour for any organization. Internally, if there are any gaps, they are identified; nevertheless, the focus is on developing talent rather than finding the gaps.
“We have been ramping up, that is how we managed to hire 200+ employees, especially in the tech space. I’ll split it into tech and non-tech roles in Bangalore and Hyderabad. We put together a very high-octane hiring event in Hyderabad a couple of months ago.”
From the HR perspective, how does the company function?
The way we operate, our scale is essentially determined by our two lines of business: regional setups and global setups. We are a matrix organization, so we might have a regional manager and a global manager at any time. Therefore, we have done the same thing in HR. With some influences from global practices, we are more regionally focused now. So, I would say it’s a combination of both regional and global factors.
But again, these are global programs. If we talk about how local talent is connected to global talent, I believe we have put a lot of effort into supporting the advancement of our women in technology over the past several months. There are two big programs that we currently run and these are predominantly mentorship programs. PowerHer is a pure-player mentorship program where we have a mentor and a mentee. And again, this is a women’s specific program. Accelerate is the second program. In this program, the emphasis is on skilling, upskilling, and reskilling talent, instilling an analytical attitude, and assisting the company in developing future-oriented competencies. This is something we have accomplished locally.
You mentioned that you took less time to hire during the pandemic. Can you elaborate on what you did differently in 2020?
There were multiple factors. In the past, we had people walk into our office for interviews, but with the pandemic, we switched to virtual interviews, which meant we had more availability of candidates and that our hiring managers had more time to spend elsewhere rather than pacing up and down the building. The number of dropouts that we’d probably see because people can’t make it to the office also drastically reduced. In 2020, dropout rates decreased by 10 to 15 %.
Year of Incorporation: 2001
Number of employees: 1800+
o Amit Kalra, Head Swiss Re Global Business Solutions Centers India
o Sukanya Padmanabhan, SVP Tech Area Lead, Group Digital & Technology
o Suguna Jayaraj, SVP, SVP, Head of P&C Analytics, Swiss Re GBS India
o Jitender Bahri, Head P&C Solutions Operations, Swiss Re GBS India
o Puneet Kumar, SVP, Head – Reinsurance Finance Hub, Swiss Re GBS India
o Priyadarshi Bhattacharya, Head – Human Resources, Swiss Re GBS India
o Anju Sansoa, Head of Recruitment, Swiss Re GBS India
Business Line: As the third largest office location for Swiss Re Group, GBS India operates as a centre of excellence with a focus on innovation, driving business impact and building global expertise/capabilities.
Key HR Factors:
Own The Way You Work – Swiss Re’s trademarked programme, Own the Way You Work, is a cultural change initiative which gives managers and employees autonomy to decide how, when and where work is carried out in compliance with the applicable laws, rules and regulations of their particular region. (In place since 2015)
DEI initiatives – Importance of embedding a safe emotional and physical infrastructure in the company culture via year-round educational programs and gender-neutral policies like gender-neutral washrooms & dress code
PowerHer mentorship and AccelHERate programme– enabling the growth of women in technology
Focus on skilling, upskilling, and reskilling talent – focused programs to inculcate an analytical mindset and build capability for future-ready tools
Entrepreneurial skill-building – Employees are selected to work with early-age social innovation startups in the scale-up stage to cross-collaborate and learn
Employee Engagement: Swiss Re GBS India regularly orchestrates events like carnivals, cultural days, food festivals, family days
Agilympics: An initiative aimed at further sharpening our understanding of success and failures, learning from our failures, and finding better ways to collaborate and address problems.