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RISMEDIA, July 2, 2008-When it comes to transferring employees around the globe, the majority of the world’s financial-services firms are focused on reducing costs and increasing efficiencies, yet still have to accommodate the need for “knowledge transfer” into emerging markets. These firms also remain unsure of the return on investment associated with transferring employees to these markets, according to a survey by GMAC Global Relocation Services and the Centre for Performance-Led HR at Lancaster University Management School in the United Kingdom.

The survey, International Mobility in the Financial Services Sector: The Challenge of Emerging Markets, included interviews with human resource professionals responsible for international assignment strategy at some of the world’s leading financial services companies. Companies surveyed represent the finance, insurance and real estate sectors, with offices throughout the world and an employee population of 1.25 million.

“This survey leaves no doubt that the majority of financial services companies are looking for ways to further streamline programs associated with global expansion while still obtaining a knowledge transfer into those markets,” said Scott Sullivan, senior vice president of GMAC Global Relocation Services. “The survey shines a light on emerging worldwide relocation trends, and in turn can help companies as they create or adjust their international mobility programs.”

For companies expanding their presence in emerging markets, a growing challenge identified by human resources professionals is striking a balance between those who are willing to accept an assignment versus being able to send the most talented or competent employee.

Economic Conditions Affecting International Mobility

According to the survey, 52% of companies are making efforts to reduce international assignment expenses. To that end, companies were focusing their efforts on three primary areas to help reduce costs:

– Policy components offered to expatriates
– Local hires
– Taking more care and time to select the right candidates

In addition, fewer companies (40%) are looking for alternatives to long-term international assignments this year. In the emerging markets, the long-term assignments continue to prevail due to the time needed to transfer skills, knowledge and the company culture.

Financial Services Firms Are Not Measuring ROI

The overwhelming majority of financial services firms-84%-said they do not measure return on investment (ROI) for their international mobility programs. A number of reasons were given for the lack of attention to the issue, including:

– There is little internal pressure to measure ROI.
– Some financial services organizations argue that the work process, even for international assignees, is collective and interdependent.
– Assignments become a part of the company culture where the culture has for a long time stressed the need for mobility.

“When it comes to return on investment, there’s ongoing debate regarding the merits of using short-term measures that might look at the success of a particular assignment, or long-term measures that assess whether mobility in general has assisted in developing the capabilities of an emerging market,” said Sullivan.

Standardization

In an effort to streamline policies and program administration while also reducing costs, 73% of respondents are seeking global standards and a further 23% are moving back toward regional standards. The survey found that standardization becomes easier in those organizations with shared service centers handling assignment administration and can be an important enabler of subsequent growth in expatriate numbers.

GMAC Global Relocation Services conducted the financial services-focused survey as a supplement to its Global Relocation Trends Survey, published annually since 1993. Each year, the Global Relocation Trends Survey provides companies with in-depth information and analysis on global mobility trends.

The company will host a complimentary Webinar presentation exploring the findings of the financial services survey on Tuesday, July 15. Participation in the Webinar is free and limited to the first 100 registrants.

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