Can you detail your firm's experience in providing outsourcing services to companies in Australia?
SBS has over 15 years of experience providing Finance and accounting solutions to corporates across various industry types and small and medium-sized accounting firms. Working with end clients of accounting practices, SBS has vast experience and in-depth knowledge in providing accounting services to companies from different industries and of various sizes and complexity.Some of the leading wealth management firms across Australia have leveraged our outsourced CFO Support services to streamline their finance operations by having an optimal headcount onsite to focus on more strategic initiatives and offshore the transaction intensive work. Our robust operational framework, people expertise, insightful metrics and process efficiencies has helped the CFOs to focus on more value-added priorities while leaving the back office work to SBS.SBS provides services to one of the top ten accounting firms in Australia with a scalable back-office and has been instrumental in helping them grow their business. Our time tested solution has allowed the firm to add more value to their clients through time spent on analysis and insights while leaving the processing to SBS. This way, the firm has used our services to grow their practice by acquiring more entities and gaining more face time with clients.Having experienced “The Sundaram Way” of working, the majority of our clients have been with us for over 10 years and continue to entrust us with more activities year after.
How will you segregate our work and information to protect our business?
From an IT infrastructure standpoint, Sundaram create private VLANS for its clients and provides access to servers, internet and email services etc. that are exclusive to that client's work environment. These separations ensure our clients’ information is protected and that there is no cross-over in the use of IT infrastructure.From a contractual obligation standpoint, Sundaram’s Master Service Agreement (MSA) covers clauses on confidentiality, privacy, liability and non-solicitation. This mutual agreement is signed by both parties - Sundaram and each invidivual client.
What commitments will you make to staff continuity? For example, what has your staff turnover been like in the last three years?
1. Merit based Performance Management - Promotion/increment based on merit rather than tenure
2. Continuous Learning Opportunities – They will have wide range of learning opportunities rather than a narrow path.
(Example: In a span of 1 to 2 years, according to their learning capabilities, they will acquire and deliver end-end accounting rather than specializing in one area).
3. Career progression opportunities within SBS and in Sundaram Finance Group
4. Safe and secure work environment driven by ethics, values and culture
5. Comprehensive Rewards and Recognition program
6. Structured employee connects & employee engagement initiatives
How does Sundaram vet its employees? How do you check their references, police records etc.?
1. SBS conducts strong recruitment process (Subject Matter Expertise Test, Aptitude Test, HR and Ops Interviews)
2. Document Validation - Identity, Educational & Employment Documents
3. Police Record Check
4. Employment Verification from his current / previous employer which covers employment details, behavior / conduct, etc.
How do you supervise staff to ensure output is up to the required standard?
1. Service Level Agreements (SLA) are established with clients at the beginning of the engagements. These would include accuracy levels and turn-around times primarily and other key performing indicators as required in the scope of work outsourced. These parameters are mutually agreed, included in the contract and are assessed on a regular basis during governance meetings. The governance meetings would be in varying frequencies with appropriate stakeholders - daily scrum meetings, process updates, weekly meetings and monthly KPI reviews with a larger audience, etc. In addition to this, we also have representatives based in Melbourne and Sydney who are available any time at short notice.
2. Staff are equipped with operational controls which include standard operating procedures, checklist based internal reviews and system based sanity checks. These checks and controls are calibrated with the SLAs agreed and are diligently used by the production team. The usage is monitored by supervisors and effectiveness assessed on a regular basis.
3. Quality Management System: Quality Management System consists of a central body / neutral team empowered to monitor errors and feedback from clients. The team ensures that errors are acknowledged, provide support to ops teams to work through the Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and provide appropriate Corrective and Preventive Measures. These measures are assessed on their efficacy by monitoring the repetitive nature of errors.
4. To ensure there is continuous improvement, KPI based feedback is circulated to the clients end of every month to obtain their inputs. Inputs from clients are cascaded to the team and become part of their learning continuum.
How do you access only the parts of the client’s system that you need to access?
Folders can be created within the drives with restricted access where SBS will have access only to the folders that are required by SBS to access and for the work assigned to SBS. Client can also provide restricted access to the SBS team based on the requirement of work. For instance, the client can give the project manager full admin access to say the folder called “SBS”, and the associate level can have limited access.
What IT tools do you provide to employees, and what is your cyber security strategy?
We work off client servers / systems of our clients using Remote Desktop Protocols without transferring data to SBS. In many client engagements, we use Cloud based applications of our clients, for example, Xero. In such scenarios, we use in-house built Stealth Login or Password Management Protocol, a module that will encrypt the login credentials of the Cloud based application and provide the staff with an Icon on the system to click and login. The user will not be in possession of the login credentials. The login credentials will be available only with the IT head of SBS. This will ensure staff are not be able to access Cloud based applications outside of SBS IT infrastructure. Internet site access is also restricted for the staff. The staff will only be able to access the internet site which are available on the client's systems. SBS does have its own Cyber Strategy explained in #Q8
Do you have user controls in place to limit behaviours like copy/paste, printing, screen capture, USB access, saving etc.?
Yes, SBS IT Security and Compliance ensures:1. Workstations would not facilitate.
- any removable storage media (including CDs/DVDs, USB/Flash drives)
- access to internet
- access to emails that can transmit messages to addresses other than an approved list of addresses.
2. SBS network is protected against wireless access; access permitted only to recognized devices.
3. Connection with customer networks would be, as far as possible, through VPN circuits.
4. SBS network is fully ring fenced and protected against virus, intrusion and denial of service attacks.
5. Access to individual workstations would be controlled through user ID and password unique to each employee managed through Active Directory.
6. Access to customer systems would be through masked utilities. User ID and password for accessing customer systems will not be made known to employees.
7. SBS has an alternate site in the state of Mumbai which is used as a BCP site.
8. Emails are encrypted relating to inward/outward transmission of work would be received/sent through an impersonal email id monitored by shift supervisors so that absence of any one individual does not affect flow of communication.
9. All computing equipment are purchased from original equipment manufacturers with warranty.
10. Software licenses (Windows OS) are original and procured from approved vendor.
How do you ensure end point security?
We use CrowdStrike for end point security. CrowdStrike is a leading provider of next-generation endpoint protection, threat intelligence, and pre- and post-incident response services. CrowdStrike Falcon is the first true Software as a Service (SaaS) based platform for next-generation endpoint protection that detects, prevents, and responds to attacks, at any stage - even malware-free intrusions. Falcon’s patented lightweight endpoint sensor can be deployed easily in hours providing visibility into billions of events in real-time.
How is my environment separated from your other clients’ environments?
SBS creates private VLANS for clients and provides access to servers, Internet, Email, etc. that are exclusive to a specific client's work environment. These separations ensure there is no cross use of IT infra amongst clients.
What is your recruitment process?
Recruitment Processes in the chronological order:
1. Subject Matter Expertise & Aptitude Test - Assess technical knowledge, communication, analytical abilities and & aptitude
2. HR Interview - Every candidate will be analysed on various aspects (Suitability, Stability, Scalability, Communication, Expectations alignment, etc.)
3. Operations Interview - Competency Level and international client orientation
4. Document Validation - Identity, Educational & Employment Documents
5. Reference Check (Current / Previous Employer)
6. Police record checks - criminal records, if any.
Recruitment Avenues (Top Ones):
1. Internal Job Posting (IJP) within the group companies: This encourages our employees across, as it provides scope for career growth/aspirations, learning/developing skills, cross-trainings, etc.
2. Employee Referral
4. Internal Movements [within SBS' departments]
5. Job Portals – to source active / dormant candidates
6. Partnership with recruitment consultants
7. Campus Recruitment from reputed Colleges & Universities.
What is the policy if an employee is made redundant?
We ensure that our employees do not become redundant by ensuring the following.
1. Every employee is aligned to COE (Centre of Excellence) which is pertaining to employees' skill development & assessment program.
2. Employees' are cross-trained & cross-utilized across various departments/Programs to ensure they have a good learning curve which is beneficial to both the employee and the organization.
3. During Performance Management, employees' training needs both technical and behavioural aspects are collated and analysed. Post which, there is a customised training plan and calendar for our employees.
In the event, an employee is made redundant, the onus of managing employee redundancy will be with SBS completely.
What will be the training and probation period for employees?
Training depends on the complexity of the process, probation period for new employees would be 6 months post which they are confirmed based on structured evaluation process
What if we are not satisfied with the performance of an employee? For example, who is responsible for terminating their employment?
Through rigorous screening processes, SBS will ensure that it has the right people for the right job. In an unfortunate event if the performance of a staff is found not to the expected levels, we put them in a PDP [Performance development plan] and closely monitoring their progress. At the end of the PDP if the performance does not meet standards, SBS would remove the staff from the process assigned. SBS takes complete onus of the entire life cycle of an employee - on boarding to off boarding
What employee insurance do you provide?
Employees are covered under 3 categories:
1. ESI - Employees are covered under the mandatory state government's medical policy act depending upon the salary slab.
2. Medical Insurance premium reimbursement - This helps the employees to customize their insurance as per their needs and benefits.
3. Group Personal Accident Coverage.
How does Sundaram ensure it complies with Australian Accounting Standards?
We completely go by the processes laid down by the client which follow Australian Accounting standards. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are built around these processes and staff ensure they adhere to these SOPs. Any changes in the standards are received from the client and the SOPs get amended with such changes.
What is the disaster recovery/business continuity plan?
As a part of ISO 27001:2013 Information Security Management System standard implementation, SBS has a documented business continuity plan. As per the plan and the degree of availability/continuity agreed with customers in the contract, the Crisis Management Team at SBS decides on invoking Site Outage Plan or City Outage Plan. Disaster or crisis are categorised into 3 types of crisis.
A category 1 crisis can be defined as a major disaster at the facility causing failure of operations for more than a week like a pandemic spread, earthquake etc.
A category 2 crisis can be defined as an incident, which may disrupt some or all process beyond 1 day but less than a week like a big local fire, communication failure etc.
A category 3 crisis can be defined as an incident, which may disrupt a single or multiple processes for a short period of 4 hours to 1 day like electrical outage or ISP outage.
Category 1 crisis invokes site outage plan or city outage plan at the planned and tested alternative locations. Category 2 crisis invokes local disaster recovery plans. Category 3 crisis invokes regular contingency plans and services gets restored through ticketing channels. SBS has an alternate BCP site in the city of Mumbai in India but this comes at a differential cost. In the event of epidemic / pandemic which come under Category 1, SBS has a well designed work-from-home model to switch over
How quickly can your services be available following an outage or disaster situation?
Based on the contract and business criticality/impact analysis study conducted every year, recovery time objective(RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) for restoration of services are set differently for each team. The same is tested every year during annual BCP drills. Recovery Time Objective varies between 4 hours to a week depending on the nature of disaster
How do you reduce attrition and retain your employees?
1. Providing a safe and secure work environment driven by ethics, values and culture derived from 65 year old group company
2. Rich learning opportunities through Centre of Excellence
3. Wide career progression opportunities within SBS and in the large group
4. Empowerment aided through various soft skill modules conducted for various levels
5. Comprehensive Rewards and Recognition program which includes representations across all levels and SPOT awards for staff that exhibit values driven by company
6. Open door policy
7. Transparent Performance Management System
8. Structured employee engagement initiatives such as Fun@Work and events organized across various fields such as sports, music, art, etc. driving staff to exhibit their talent
9. Employee Satisfaction Survey – We organize a survey (anonymous) to understand the needs/wants/concerns of an employees, meet all the employees, analyze the inputs and take up as goals of the organization for the following year which is further cascaded into KRA of all the respective managers.
Is network data encrypted in transit?
Yes, we use GSuite for email and all emails are encrypted. VPN connectivity to clients are completely encrypted.
What business improvement process will you bring to the table?
Some of the business improvement processes we are able to bring to the table would include:
1. Creating an As-Is process map and providing recommendations for elimination of non-value add activities and streamline functions
2. Operational controls: standard operating procedures, checklists, Six Sigma tool FMEA (Failure Mode Effects Analysis) to identify risks with mitigation recommendations
3. Manage by metrics: Transparency and operational visibility through well defined metrics supplemented with regular reporting of KPIs
4. Efficiency gains over a period of time - possible reduction in headcount or same headcount being able to handle more volume. Gain sharing is discussed and mutually agreed with client at the appropriate time
5. Robotic Process Automation*
6. Digital Workflow*.
*will include implementation and other costs which will be discussed and mutually agreed.
Will your employees work to the Australian time zone?
SBS works 24/7 and is able to provide support to its clients based on client's business requirements. Client processes that are cut off based and require real-time support, SBS provides such real-time support working alongside the Australian counterparts i.e. 8 AM AEST onwards for example. In processes such as Reconciliations where there is no requirement of business hours support, SBS provides after hours support i.e. 10 PM AEST onwards. Whereas in finance back office type of work, SBS usually provides coverage during the time window of 11 AM - 8 PM AEST and these have been found to be absolutely effective.
At the end of the agreement, how will we transition to another BPO or back to our office?
SBS will support with reverse transition either to a BPO by identified by Client or to Client's office. The repository of information in the operations engagement such as SOPs, checklists, FMEA, queries and responses, etc. will ensure the reverse transition is seamless
What is your Covid plan? How is your team working at the moment?
We have a well planned and well backed IT infrastructure supporting our workforce to work from home since Mar'20. SBS provides all the IT infrastructure required to work from home (WFH) to its staff. The IT infrastructure provided by SBS in WFH mimics the IT infrastructure available in the SBS offices. Staff use VPN connectivity from their homes to login and establish connectivity firstly to SBS office and then they would enter remotely into client systems ensuring there is no leakage of data at any point in the chain. Internal / client meetings and trainings happen over online platforms such as Microsoft Teams.We have been supporting larger a part of the clientele in the WFH model since Mar'20. If for any reason, the client is unable to approve WFH, the client would need to pay SBS 50% of the monthly billing during the period SBS invokes WFH. We have a formalized Covid plan which can be provided to you if requested.
Do we have a say in the composition of our team?
Yes, we will provide you with names, photos and CVs of all team members. These team members will be dedicated to Client and will be an extended part of your Australian based team members and we encourage you to treat them as part of your team. Any change in staff as a result of staff turnover or other operational reasons, Client will be notified formally. SBS will ensure such movements does not cause any impact on the deliverables and are able to provide the committed monthly productive hours.
Do we have to pay for annual salary increases of staff?
No, SBS will look after all aspects of staff salary. When you contract with SBS you can be assured that there is only one monthly all encompassing fee to pay. However, an annual price revision of 3.5% is applicable year on year to the flat fee agreed which would come into effect from the anniversary date.
Does Sundaram complete Standard Operating Procedures for each process? Who owns these SOPs?
Yes, for every process we will prepare comprehensive SOP’s which we will share with our clients. These SOPs are constantly refined and improved and if for any reason our engagement ceases we pass these SOPs back to our client. The benefit for our client is that all tasks are documented and no information continues to remain in people’s heads.
What do the various layers of the fully loaded flat fee entail?
Yes, you can try us for free for 30 days. If you want, we’ll provide you with a free, personalized 30-minute onboarding call to get you up and running as soon as possible.
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