Shared Services Across the Super Region

In the world of shared services, Tampa Bay and Metro Orlando are front and center—leaders among large U.S. markets in making life easier for businesses.

With a keen eye on the bottom line, businesses are working harder—and smarter—than ever. And one way companies are controlling costs and working more efficiently is through shared services. By avoiding duplication of effort and streamlining operations, shared services can lower the cost of doing business.

In Tampa Bay, Metro Orlando and throughout the Super Region, shared services are helping to broaden the economic base, with local companies providing such shared services as financial, human resources, IT and customer-contact support for both internal operations and externally for a variety of global-scale industries. In fact, according to a study conducted by KPMG, one of the world’s largest professional service companies, Tampa and Orlando rank No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, among large U.S. markets for shared services centers.

So, what’s the draw? Beyond the year-round great weather, proximity to international airports and ports, and a favorable tax structure, there are three additional key factors, according to Karan Mehra, director of finance transformation for Verizon Communications in Lake Mary, and William A. Johnson, vice president of Finance Shared Service for Coca-Cola Refreshments in Brandon. The region’s overall quality of life, a large pool of top talent and a business-friendly environment also are attractive regional components, they cite.

“The availability and quality of talent as well as quality of life were foremost in our assessment,” says Mehra of the yearlong search for the ideal location for Verizon’s new shared-services finance center, which culminated in the selection of Lake Mary in Seminole County. During the search, Mehra adds, “The Metro Orlando EDC [Economic Development Commission] did a great job of pulling together an agenda that had us interacting with key representatives from universities, local hiring agencies and Workforce Central Florida to get a true picture of the local talent pool.”

That pool is deep, says Johnson: “The talent pipeline here is great. When we started looking in 2001, Citibank, J.P. Morgan and MetLife were already here; we found out what they found out.”

What Coca-Cola learned was that the region produces top-quality graduates in a variety of fields, including the financial areas important to the company. “USF is one of the biggest enablers of our success; they’re a big reason why we expanded here,” adds Johnson, noting that the University of South Florida has one of the country’s highest pass rates on the CPA exam, a testament to the caliber of graduates. Similarly, the University of Central Florida in Orlando and other colleges and universities also contribute significantly to the region’s number of well-prepared graduates.

And it’s not just recent college graduates that make the workforce appealing. The large metropolitan areas and diverse economy ensure there’s a plethora of skilled, well-educated and experienced candidates for a wide range of positions. “Currently, we have filled 490 of the planned 750 positions at the Finance Center in Lake Mary,” says Mehra. “We are very pleased with the quality of both the applicants and our employees hired from the market.”

In addition, with successful public-private partnerships and support from entities such as the Central Florida Partnership, the Metro Orlando EDC, Enterprise Florida, Workforce Florida, Tampa Bay Partnership and CareerSource Florida, the region is hard at work to welcome and foster a thriving business climate. “There are great support training programs here,” said Johnson. “The real hidden gem and what we are competitive in here is training incentives; that’s creating an asset. That’s one of the things that Florida in general and this area in particular are really smart about, is how they invest in these types of programs.”

Case in point is the $50 million, 220,00-square-foot Verizon Finance Center, which broke ground last April. Verizon had spent a year narrowing down its search for a site from 300 metro areas to several top locations. The goal is to have all employees on-site by 2014-15 to perform functions such as accounting, payroll, commissions, revenue assurance and fraud detection.

Other companies serving a variety of business segments have discovered similar benefits to calling the region home. Ten percent of the nation’s Fortune 50 companies and 9 percent of the Fortune 100 companies have located their shared services operations in the Super Region. No. 59 on the list for 2013, Lockheed Martin, has its Financial Services operation facility in Lakeland, which employs more than 350 full-time professional employees and provides transactional processing for 75 percent of the company.

In addition to Verizon and Coca-Cola, other major shared services employers in the Super Region include the Walt Disney Co., BBA Aviation, Alere North America, Bloomin’ Brands, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, PCSU, Nielsen Media Research, USAA, GC Services, Humana Health Care Plans, Certegy, Tech Data, Health Management Associates, Talbots, Southern Wine & Spirits, Summit Consulting, Geico, Time Warner, Home Shopping Network, Marriott Vacation Club, McKinsey & Co., Franklin Templeton, First Advantage, WellDyneRX, T. Rowe Price, Equifax Payment Services, Progressive Insurance, Ceridian and FACS.

There’s more: TravelClick, EZYield, Connextions, NIIT Healthcare Technologies, ProductionHUB, MonsterMedia, FiServ CBS Worldwide, Harland Financial Solutions, FIS, Optria, BNY Mellon, EnableSoft, Convergys, Charles Schwab, Liberty Mutual, The Hartford, Pershing LLC, Chase and Wells Fargo.

All of these companies do more than just provide essential business services. With the aid of the Central Florida Partnership, Tampa Bay Partnership, Enterprise Florida and others, they help fuel the local economy by providing employment opportunities in a diverse array of growing industries.

Johnson thinks the future is bright for shared services in the Super Region.

“It has established itself as a great location for business services,” he says. “I see it becoming a magnet not only for companies, but also for graduates who want to stay in the market and for talent relocating here.”