Shared services in the heart of Catalonia

August 17, 2009

Have you already had the possibility to make some days holiday this year? And have you already known that the first tourist destination of Spain is Catalonia? Yes, it is the first address where you can spend your holiday. But… What about shared services?

We will come to the topic shared services, too. Let me first guide you through possible holiday time in Catalonia. You have deserved it!

Let’s start with the climate. The populated areas of Catalonia lying by the coast in Tarragona, Barcelona and Girona feature a Mediterranean climate with dry, hot and humid summers, sea breezes, and the maximum temperature of around 30°C. Quite nice, isn’t it?

It is worth seeing… – Catalonia offers their visitors a variety of different landscapes: Mountains on the Pyrenees, green hills on north, agricultural planes on the west and beaches on the east of the country. Around fifteen million foreign tourists visit Catalonia every year, of which five million come to visit Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. The latest is one of the most visited towns in Europe.

Catalonia is not just famous as a holiday destination but also well-known as a financial, commercial, media, entertainment, arts and international trade center. Around 1.8 million people (over 54% of the active population) in the region are employed in the services sector which generates more than 62% of the GDP of the region. Catalonia has already attracted a number of multinational corporations which have set up their European shared service centers (SSC) here. Shared services sector in Catalonia employs around 3,000 professionals. Companies which have established their shared service centers here include: Accenture, ACS-General Motors, Agilent, Aspentech, Avis, Citigroup, Euroservices Bayer, Hewlett-Packard, ICI Packaging Coatings, Mindpearl and many other.


Catalonia fulfils all the criteria relevant for foreign investors (financial attractiveness, people skills and availability, business environment as the A.T. Kearney methodology says) to establish their shared services or BPO operations here. According to ACC1Ó, part of the Ministry of Innovation, Universities and Enterprise of the Catalan Government, there are at least 10 reasons to invest in Catalonia:

European center of dynamic economic activity. Catalan GDP growth over 3% is above the European average. Regarding business activity, more than 20% of the new businesses created each year in Spain are based in Catalonia.
Strategic geographic location which makes it possible to gain entry not just into the European but also to the Latin American, North African and Middle Eastern markets. Only in the Euro zone, there is a consumer market of 309 million people with a GNP of EUR 7,980,344 million and they are only 2 hours’ flying time far from Barcelona.
Extensive infrastructure network of Catalonia consists of more than 12,000 km of roads, around 1,600 km of railway, three international airports, two of the largest ports in the Mediterranean, and the future high-speed rail line.
Excellent suppliers and service providers. More than 35,000 flexible and customer-based manufacturing companies operate in Catalonia with a balanced combination of both: industry and services sector.
Qualified and motivated human resources. Catalonia has a wide range of educational programmes, comprising more than 725 high-quality public and private schools. In addition, it has a network of 12 universities and some of the most prestigious business schools in Europe (IESE, ESADE). All of them have established collaborative agreements with important universities throughout the world. More than 225,000 students are enrolled in the public universities in Catalonia.
Multilingual population and multinational talent. Catalonia is a remarkably cosmopolitan region, with many different nationalities. In 2005 there were almost 800 thousand foreign residents in Catalonia. In addition, 20 million people of different nationalities visit Catalonia every year. And Barcelona has become the number one destination in Spain for young foreigners.
Design, technology and innovation activities. Regarding the research and development (R&D) activities, Catalonia stands out in pharma, health and ICT’s. The four largest Spanish pharmaceutical companies were founded and have their head offices in Catalonia and seven of the world’s ten main pharmaceutical companies are established in the area. 30% of total Spanish biomedical research is done in Catalonia, where a large net of hospitals and universities have leading clinical research groups at an international level. ICT companies in Catalonia (EDS, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Indra, Microsoft, Sony, Telefonica, T-Systems, Yahoo! Research) are considered the most innovative in Spain. In order to foster business innovation and research, Catalonia boasts a network of science and technology parks, mainly concentrated in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area.
Stability and regulatory framework. Being the member of the euro zone, Catalonia benefits from the euro and its advantages: stable currency, macroeconomic and price stability, standardized distribution agreements and lower transaction costs and 4 freedoms: movement of people, goods, services and capital.
Excellent quality of life. Year after year, Barcelona consolidates its position as the leading European city in terms of quality of life for its employees. According to a study by Cushman & Wakefield Healey & Baker, Barcelona has maintained this position since 1996, beating other European cities such as Paris, London or Dublin.
Pro-business government. The industrial policy of the government of Catalonia lends support to both business activity and strategic change, promoting occupational quality and economic competitiveness, as well as R&D, technological innovation and transference, and the international nature of the businesses.

And one of the destinations really worth visiting being in Catalonia is Barcelona. You can get here by air, train, sea, bus or by car. Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain having a population of 1.6 million and is recognized as a global city. Except of around five million tourists visiting Barcelona each year, many events, conferences and trainings take place in this town. For instance, Axiom Groupe, a Spanish event and communications company has decided to organize a big event soon. Financial Shared Services 2009 will take place on 17-18 September in Barcelona. Among the speakers there are representatives of such corporations as: Sanoma Uitgevers, 3S Solvay Shared Services, LyondellBasell Industries, Nokia Siemens Networks, Atos Origin, Hasbro, Lafarge, General Motors, Pfizer, BNP Paribas, KPMG and many more. They will discuss such topics as: leadership for shared services, the way from efficiency to effectiveness, how the world best in class do that and what tools they use. Also the forecast about the future of outsourcing will be presented and the question: shared service center: a profit center or a cost center will be asked and further analyzed. Much hospitality, e.g.: boat cruise, city visit with “Go Car”, wine tasting and sport activities round the event out.

Why am I writing about that all? Not just due to my interest in shared services but also due to my fascination felt for Barcelona and the decision to attend the shared services event in September (and to spend a week in Spain!) – I have not had a real holiday this year, too…

Magdalena Szarafin


5 Responses to “Shared services in the heart of Catalonia”

  1. Pam on August 18th, 2009 6:08 am

    Very good info.

    Cost wise how do Catalonia compares with other cities in Euro region?

    Within Euro, is there a difference in tax structure, policies, and trade barriers?

  2. Magdalena Szarafin on August 19th, 2009 6:26 am

    Thank you for your comment Pam.
    Let me very briefly answer your question about the European Union: the objective of the EU is to harmonize all the member countries in terms of institutions, economy and law. However, it is not as simple as the countries differ from each other regarding their number of population, growth rates, infrastructure and life conditions. Let’s take just the growth rates (GDP) in 2008 as the example: Estonia had -3.6%, Ireland -2.3%, while Poland noticed 5.0% and Bulgaria 6.0%…
    Within the EU the rule of free movement of goods, persons, services and capital should hold true. However, due to the different conditions of different countries (e.g. different level of wages and salaries, price differences) there are still many constraints regarding the four freedoms.

    Magdalena Szarafin

  3. Shared services in the heart of Catalonia | Tarragona Travel - Culture and Recreation on August 19th, 2009 5:20 pm

    […] You find the original post here | Magdalena Szarafin […]

  4. Nearshoring on August 20th, 2009 6:20 am

    More and more companies are considering onshore outsourcing and nearshroe outsourcing options for their outsourcing needs. This is started happening both in big corporations and in small companies. I think more and more companies in EU will consider locations close to them for their outsourcing needs.

  5. Ravi on August 25th, 2009 5:16 am

    I think the next growth opportunities are going to be coming from Europe, Japan, and China. So there will be huge marketing push from all the outsource vendors to gain market share. Not sure about BPO opportunities, but there will be huge demand for IT outsourcing from these countries.

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