The staff working at Western Union’s European Regional Operations Centre in Lithuania are outperforming their counterparts in other countries, according to the company’s President Kerry Agiasotis. Mr Agiasotis, speaking on a recent visit to Lithuania, describes the specialists working in Western Union’s Vilnius office as better educated, more proactive, smarter and younger than those in other regional offices of the international payment services giant. He also confirmed that the company will maintain and even expand its operations in the Baltic state, even as its economy continues to grow.
So much more than just competitive costs
Asked if increases in salaries and the cost of living in Lithuania might lead Western Union to shift its operations elsewhere, Mr Agiasotis was clear that Lithuania was chosen by Western Union for many reasons, not simply cost competitiveness. “Western Union had analysed the situation in Lithuania thoroughly before it was chosen for the establishment of the European Regional Operations Centre,” he points out. “Such calculations take a lot of factors into account. The short-term forecast is among them, but so is the long-term growth of the economy and relative attractiveness. There are so many different reasons why we chose to do business in Lithuania,” he concludes.
Currently, Western Union has three regional operations centres globally; its Vilnius office plus centres in Costa Rica and the Philippines.
The Lithuanian office now employs about 1,600 specialists, and according to Mr Agiasotis, the team in Vilnius is being given increasingly complex and important tasks. At first it only performed basic operations, but today it employs many highly qualified specialists. In fact, eighteen months ago Western Union decided to move some of its core operations from the office in Washington to the centre in Vilnius.
And whilst the company President readily admits that cost competitiveness compared to the US was a factor in the decision, he is keen to point out that this is just one of many benefits the company derives from operating in Lithuania.
“Here we get better quality than in the USA,” Mr Agiasotis argues. “Cost effectiveness was also one of the factors. Even if the Lithuanian economy grows significantly over the next decade, cost competitiveness is still going to be better here than in Sydney or Washington, where we also have offices,” says Mr Agiasotis.
Three specialists in Lithuania doing the work of four elsewhere
The President of Western Union believes one of Lithuania’s biggest advantages is its wealth of talented, well educated people. The company now works on the basis that a job which would take four specialists to complete elsewhere can be done by three in Lithuania, such is their drive and competence. “It is not a 2-2 ratio when we are transferring our operations here. Two positions in another country are substituted with 1,5 here, because people in Lithuania work smarter and are always looking to improve business processes,” he explains. “
Usually, the employees in other regional centres who monitor money transfers are much older and do not have a higher education. Here we have a completely different situation – most of our employees are young and have graduated from a university or college. Most of the Lithuanian team are interested in developing their careers. Another bonus is the cosmopolitanism of the Vilnius office, with around one third of the employees at Western Union’s European Regional Operations Centre coming from abroad.
Mr Agiasotis even sees a positive side to increasing youth emigration, despite its potential to bring a shortage of specialists. “The situation where demand (of specialists) is larger than supply is very positive for the economics of a country,” he argues. “Historically, the youth has always been the part of a society willing to travel abroad for better employment opportunities. These days many employers are choosing Lithuania for their operations here, which means new jobs and more opportunities for people here.”
Mr Agiasotis, who currently lives in London, is also confident that the company’s business in Europe will grow, which could lead to the Vilnius office expanding. Currently, continental Europe accounts for only 10% of Western Union’s total business. He says they expect this figure to grow, and this in turn will lead to more investment in the regional centre in Vilnius.
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