SPARK held a call on March 31st for member companies to discuss the impact that measures to address COVID 19 in the US, in India, and around the world are having on global outsourcing in the retirement plan market.
The retirement industry depends heavily on the outsourcing industry, especially in India, to administer its plans. Many India-based software companies support this sector. The US retirement industry leaders expressed their concerns on how their business is going to be impacted in the near and long term as India sees the virus ramp up and stricter measures are put in place to limit its impact.
Speaking on the call was Balaraman Jayaraman, co-founder and president, Congruent Solutions, a Chennai-based retirement plan technology and outsourcing services company.
Key points in the discussion:
- The disease has been slow in coming to India, giving the government and businesses the chance to learn from others and prepare in advance. In the last two weeks, the Indian government has put in place what has become standard containment protocols, including lockdowns, social distancing, and basic hygiene training.
- The trade association of the technology and outsourcing industry in India, NASSCOM, has been successful in having this industry classified as an essential service. This has enabled companies to maintain some office workers while shifting the bulk of their workers to telecommuting.
- Businesses themselves have also been very proactive, leveraging existing infrastructure and setting up new capabilities to enable workers to maintain productivity as they serve clients in their home environment. Telecommuting practices, security infrastructure, and data loss prevention tools, as well as robust business continuity plans (BCP) that were in place before the pandemic, have all proven their worth. Where local internet bandwidth is not sufficient, workers are either utilizing cellular hotspots or are working longer hours.
- During the first three days of the lockdown, productivity did drop. However, it has returned to 100% and is expected to remain there for the foreseeable future.
- In order to maintain the health of workers, self-protection training has been put in place. To plan for worker absence in the face of illness, workers have been trained to recognize and report symptoms early so that alternative workers can be arranged. While hiring and onboarding has been disrupted in the near term, existing workers are staying place, and new hiring practices are being planned should the restrictions last longer than expected.
In looking at best practices during this crisis, Bala stated, “Constant communication and 100% transparency between outsourcers and clients is foundational to maintaining trust in each other and in prioritizing critical work, so that plan sponsors and participants are well supported in this difficult time.”