When did Arkk Solutions first offshore in India, and how did the opportunity to nearshore come about?
In 2010 Arkk set up an operation in India employing qualified and part-qualified accountants to tag companies’ files for conversion to iXBRL. After three years of operating the tagging team in India, we started a review of our business and processes. We saw that bringing the operation closer to home provided an opportunity to improve internal communication, consistency of service and ultimately the quality of delivery to our customers. We phased into Belfast over a six-month period.
Why did you choose Belfast as your location?
Belfast stood out, partially due to the support offered by Invest NI, but also the opportunity to hire quality staff. Belfast has good universities – a high proportion of students are local and remain local after graduation. The Belfast economy is in an upswing; being part of that growth and seeing the city develop into a great place to work and socialise has been fantastic.
Was it easy recruiting the kind of specialist staff you needed?
The universities turn out quality graduates, and we can pick these people up after a few years of professional experience. The background we need is accounting but the tagging is quite unique, so all staff go through a structured eight-week onboarding and training process.
What was the process involved in switching between one location and another – how did the transition work?
It was essentially about knowledge transfer. Luckily the people managing the Indian team were doing that remotely from London, so the knowledge remained consistent in the business. We hired a group of employees to start on day one in Belfast and took them through a training process while the Indian team continued to operate. We then phased some work into Belfast, controlling the volume until we were confident to switch everything over. Our roots as a technology company made the transition of the IT infrastructure processes relatively straightforward.
What was the client reaction to nearshoring?
Clients enjoy the option of being able to talk directly to the person who has tagged their financial statements should they have any queries about the file. Being in the same country and time zone as the majority of our clients has strengthened our drive to act as a partner to our customers – essentially an extension of their finance team. This has been instrumental in winning new clients and also strengthening bonds with existing customers.
Have there been any additional benefits you didn’t anticipate prior to completing the exercise?
There has been new business, particularly an upswing in large blue chip clients. We had probably underestimated the importance that CFOs and tax managers would place on local operations – even the Big Four do some of this work overseas, so you never really get through the layers that sit above the person who tagged your document to get a direct conversation.