Suncorp IT staff safe from back office cuts

Liz Tay | Nov 7, 2011 7:00 AM
Union raises members concerns.

Suncorp Group has refuted the Financial Sector Union’s claims that it could move more than a thousand back office roles – including information technology – offshore.

The insurer announced late last week that it would outsource 29 full-time jobs and 20 contractor positions in its claims centre payments team to Indian company World Network Services (WNS).

Meanwhile, a Suncorp spokesman said it would hire 110 new customer-facing staff to support an increasingly service-focussed strategy.

But according to the Financial Sector Union’s acting national secretary Chris Gambian, the outsourcing decision was “just the beginning of large-scale outsourcing by Suncorp”.

“They’re doing it on a bit of a drip feed to avoid headlines,” a union spokesman told iTnews, highlighting the fears of some of its members, including Suncorp IT workers.

“I believe there will be IT jobs [offshored] down the track ... They’ve been very specific about outsourcing processing and back office functions. Back office is usually code for IT.”

Suncorp’s spokesman denied that IT jobs would be affected by its outsourcing plans, noting that its IT shop was a “separate organisation” under shared services executive Jeff Smith.

“What we try and do is invest in frontline staff – that’s where we think we should be investing in the organisation,” he said.

“If people can do back office functions better than us, then we’re happy to let them do that.”

The spokesman said the Suncorp Group would continue to work with its current IT partners, including Infosys and NetApp, to deliver on its technology goals.

Rumours of more than a thousand potential job cuts were "just union speculation", he said.

Smith, the chief executive officer of Suncorp Business Services, highlighted the group’s aggressive technology programs at an FST Media conference.

Those included: the development of its internal infrastructure, platform and software cloud, SunCloud; its “Building Blocks” overhaul; and a three-month virtual desktop rollout that allowed it to move to an “open seating” model with desks for only eighty percent of some 5000 staff.

Smith told the conference that talent was “rare ... not a commodity”, noting that for IT teams, “economies of scale generally don’t work”.

“The greatest innovations in the world generally aren’t [from] the biggest teams,” he said. “This is the only industry in the world where you add more people and the productivity goes down.”

That called for an agile, flexible culture that supported innovators and the entrepreneurial spirit, in which managers were “coaches” instead of “leaders” of teams, he said.