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Business Strategy

Recruiting for a Shared Service Center

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

· 8 minute read

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

· 8 minute read

Today, many multinational organizations are going through some kind of finance, tax, or IT transformation project to drive efficiency and reduce costs. Often, these transformations include the use of technology to automate processes or centralizing common functions through the use of shared centers. No matter what delivery model that your organization finds best to support statutory reporting, there are four elements that must work together in harmony to enable success: process, people, data, and technology.

For this multi-part blog series, we’ve interviewed industry experts and customers just like you to get their take on these crucial four elements and what they mean for centralizing and standardizing compliance operations. In our first installment, we hear from Ed Heffernan, co-founder of Barden Financial Recruitment Agency, as he talks through trends he’s seen in recruitment for shared service centers and tips for companies looking to set up a shared service center (SSC) or expand their current operation.

What are some trends that you’ve observed in the financial recruitment industry for shared service centers (SSCs)? Have you noticed a change from a transactional type of work to moving toward more of a compliance and decision-making focus?

SSCs have evolved dramatically since their inception in Ireland. As Ireland became a more expensive place to do business, lower value, transactional activity was off shored to lower cost locations.  AP/PTP is a good example of this. Oversight and approval/review, process development/systems enhancement, and project management activities, however, remained in Ireland. The evolution of AP in Irish SSCs is a classic case study and can be reflected into the evolution of other processes within SSC environments across the country. This transition from lower to higher value activity has driven a natural change in the demand for talent. Project management and business process transformation experience in particular have been in high demand (interestingly the Big 4/Top 10 consulting teams have grown to meet this demand rather than direct hires) along with specialist skills across compliance, stat reporting, and similar. A few SSCs have evolved FP&A/Business Partnering functions, but this activity has oft times remained in country/closer to the business units/operations. Additionally, experience in managing teams across multiple sites has become increasingly important, as has management of 3rd party service providers (like ADP in Payroll). If anything, soft skills are becoming more important in SSCs than ever before.

Do certain technologies/software skills on a resume/CV help?

Obviously experience in ERP systems and similar have traditionally and consistently been in demand. Big companies use big tech – so it’s both the experience in SAP and the fact that you have worked in a company that uses SAP (is a company of scale) combined, that’s attractive on a CV. In addition, MS Excel remains a stalwart in any finance team – people need to quantify their experience in Excel (examples of what they can do) rather than cite “intermediate user or similar.” Increasingly we are also seeing requests for data visualization technologies like Tableau, which is reflective of SSCs trying to provide information in different ways to internal stakeholders.

How do you hire? Through posting on traditional job sites, LinkedIn, other?

There is over-demand for, and under-supply of, finance talent for SSCs in Ireland. It’s the most candidate-driven market I have seen in the last 18 years – likely the most candidate-driven ever.  Traditional methods of hiring are just not good enough. Good candidates don’t need to “apply to jobs.” It’s not that they’re lazy; it’s just that they don’t have to apply. They are being approached on a daily basis on LinkedIn by recruiters, and they don’t even need to have a CV these days. Referrals, proactive Linked In approaches, and constant quality insights/expert advice articles are how we make sure we are talking to the right people out there. We’ve positioned ourselves as the “place finance people go before they start looking for a job.”

What are some traits of a good recruiter in the financial recruitment industry?

Hiring managers will typically say, “Why, a good recruiter is the person that fills my job.” They’re not wrong, but they’re not entirely right either. A good recruiter is someone that properly represents and protects your employer’s brand; someone that makes the people not hired still feel good about your company; someone that is talking about your team, building awareness and interest, even when you’re not hiring; someone that sends two people, both of whom you want to hire, not ten people and only one of which you want to hire; someone that “gets” you and can give you sensible, commercial advice on the market; someone that is interested in helping you both attract and retain talent…and so much more. Filling a job is the very least your recruiter should be doing for you.

Do you have some tips for employees who are looking at SSCs/GBS?

The key is that they all come in different shapes and different forms. People sometimes write off working in any SSC because they did not “like” the SSC they were exposed to during their training contract in practice. Think of SSCs like an accordion – the bigger the SSC, typically the more specialist the role, and the larger the team (the wider the accordion is stretched) – the smaller the SSC, the broader the role. Geographical remit, business services provided, nature of entity, resourcing of the team, location of HQ (time & culture), and a whole myriad of other factors combine to create the unique personality of each and every SSC. Don’t judge a book by its cover – get curious.

What are some recruitment tips you have for companies who are looking to set up or already set up a shared service center and are now expanding?

Set up is obviously key. It’s where you establish your employer brand. A few things that count:

  • The leader you bring in will impact the caliber of people you will be able to hire in the future.
  • Make sure that you have a plan regarding in-market teams whose work is being transitioned. I’ve seen many a good start up SSC go astray because the relationship was not well managed from day one.
  • What might be efficient from a process perspective might not be attractive from a candidate perspective. Be careful how you structure your teams and look to create attractive roles, not just efficiencies.
  • Set expectations clearly and honestly – the first 6-12 months will usually be the most challenging. Let people know this; don’t sugar coat it. People leaving four months in because “the hours were longer than I had expected” or similar will have a lasting impact on your site.
  • Talent is hard to find, and you need to work hard to find talent. With the right partner you’ll create the right team, but don’t be led astray with talk of it being easy. There is an enormous bank of SSC Finance Talent in Ireland – but the best people are happily employed and well paid – they’re not looking for a job.

Set up and expanding is a little different:

  • Make sure your team are ambassadors for you – they are going to be your best recruiters. Make sure you compensate them for referring in talent to you, and make sure you treat them right so they have good things to say when they meet their friends. Accountants know accountants.
  • The more proactive you can be the better. Going to market when you need to hire only gives you a snapshot of the market at a moment in time – a limited view. The more proactive you can be the better…If you can master this, you’ll have an enormous competitive advantage.
  • Make sure every leaver (of the company) is a good leaver – it’s not what you say or do; it’s how you make them feel. Your team is but what your leavers say about your team when they’re in their new job. Never forget that.

About Barden Financial Recruitment Agency

Founded by Ed Heffernan and Elaine Brady in 2014, Barden has grown organically into a thriving team of accountancy, finance and tax recruitment experts in Dublin and Cork, who strive every day to redefine what finance professionals should expect from recruitment. For more information, visit

For more information about technology solutions that can help you automate, centralize, and standardize compliance tasks in a Shared Service Center, visit our Statutory Reporting and Indirect Tax Compliance pages.

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