India Meets Wall Street — Where Mid-Level Procurement Jobs are Headed?

I'm not sure about you, but I found this New York Times article on white collar investment banking outsourcing utterly fascinating. The story describes the growth of a firm called Copal that provides outsourced services such as equity research and compiling pitch decks for leading Wall Street banks. The company's business is up 40 percent this year. What jobs are they taking off-shore? According to the article, "the jobs most affected so far are those with grueling hours, traditionally done by fresh-faced business school graduates -- research associates and junior bankers on deal-making teams -- paid in the low to mid six figures."

According to one expert quoted in the piece, "there's a huge amount of grunt work that has been done by $250,000-a-year Wharton M.B.A.'s … some of that stuff, it's natural to outsource it … These are middle of the office jobs, not back office, but they're not the people on the front line." The story goes on to suggest that India may keep moving up the i-banking food chain as it sucks in "more sophisticated" jobs like derivative products, quantitative trading models and "even sales jobs from the trading floors".

As I read the article, I could not help but consider the implications for the procurement world. If Wall Street firms can outsource their quantitative modeling (and even writing) to India, why can't procurement organizations outsource -- or move off-shore with their own shared services centers -- functions like category management and spend data analysis? Outsourcing firms like Corbus have already taken on the operational direct materials supply management function for some of the most respected companies in the industrial world such as GE. Granted, it's still only a few people here and a few people there sort of thing, but if GE is comfortable with it -- and is getting results -- I suspect that just about any other Western organization would be as well.

Now, the procurement jobs that would never move offshore are the ones that require extensive internal marketing and change management know how. For example, you're not going to rally the troops to move away from an incumbent supplier if you're 5000 miles away. Also, we'll probably never see the bulk of plant- or site-level sourcing roles fully make the migration East. But that leaves quite a lot of open room for companies to consider India and other regions for the rest of the procurement function. Perhaps in a decade, the term "strategic sourcing manager" will be more common in India than it is in the States.

- Jason Busch

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