Amongst all the technological advances of modern society, call centres excite an immediate and often visceral reaction, but not always a positive one. You would be forgiven for wondering why we are using this space to write about the topic, let alone hold such a business in the fund. The fact is, not only is the ‘customer experience’ industry very different from what we think it is, but it also displays some interesting aspects of sustainability. This month’s stock story explores French-listed Teleperformance (www.teleperformance.com). Founded in 1978 by Daniel Julien, who still runs the business, Teleperformance is the global leader in customer experience management. In short, this means a global network of call centres providing corporate clients with crucial customer engagement information.
Now more than ever, companies are using technology to understand their place in the market and increase their ‘share of wallet’. Teleperformance offers a comprehensive service to a wide array of industries, from autos to banks, and healthcare to utilities, through a complex network of businesses which employ over 300,000, serving 170 countries and spanning 265 languages and dialects. These are big numbers and are meaningful employers within local communities, the UK boasts eight of their ‘campuses’ including a multi-lingual hub based in Bristol. This requires Mr Julien’s executive team to be very well organised, spending large sums on technology to deliver excellent service to large global brands. Teleperformance is no Tower of Babel; this is a powerhouse with an impressive track record, managing ever-increasing interaction points and growing complexity (working both onshore, offshore and ‘nearshore’).The fact that Teleperformance is growing faster than its peers is recognition that it is winning business from the largest global brands, who rely on outsourcing to high-quality third parties.
Teleperformance sits in the High-Quality segment of the fund. Well managed, the business consistently invests heavily in security of its systems and quality of service. The interaction between a customer and a brand is a touch point that needs to be positive and is a ‘transaction’ that needs to be carefully managed. Staff training and the quality of service provision demonstrate Teleperformance’s understanding of it most important asset, its people.
Teleperformance take the S of ESG very seriously and this comes across strongly in the company literature. The culture shines through the performance metrics and business continuity plans necessary in times like these. During the pandemic, the company moved fast to make provision for almost a third of its workforce to work from home. To put that into perspective, around 5,000 people in total were working from home at the end of 2019. The key ability to maintain the link between worker and the company needed to be forged to avoid the feeling of isolation. Social interaction is promoted through online training, entertainment and other measures, designed to make the worker feel part of the group, which Daniel Julien describes as like replicating ‘campus life at home’.
Teleperformance is a fast-growing business, which has been bolstered through acquisition, with particular focus on specialised, multi-lingual services such as translation, visa application and health advocacy. Using the consistent cashflows from its core services, the company has spring-boarded into higher margin faster growth areas, where it will build scale and power. This diversification is key to the group’s performance and rise in the share price.
Julien’s culture stamp is embedded through the company, from top to bottom, the tone set by its board with 6 of its 14 members being women, a proportionately higher standard than that of FTSE 100 listed counterparts. Often winning awards as the preferred employer or the best place to work, Teleperformance takes the issue of diversity very seriously, and we find a strong example in the ‘TP Women Initiative’, which seeks to address women’s issues in the workplace and drive positive change. TP Women stands behind diversity, inclusion, and gender balance, supporting equal opportunity and participation at all levels and in all aspects of work life. Brazilian Director Simone Nunes writes “More than 60% of the entire workforce at TP in Brazil are women, while women hold 53% of leadership positions. This has been a natural process, made possible because the company values competence. Rather than resulting from stringent policies that facilitated this high percentage of women in the workplace and leadership roles, this came from a forward-looking mentality that puts professional competence first. When we have a balanced management with men and women, we have a better chance of success.”
Monsieur Julien is only 67, younger than some of the leaders on the global podium. It seems strange that there is little discussion about succession planning for the charismatic leader, even though he is very much still in his prime. This undoubtedly needs addressing, but it’s tempting in these divisive times to phrase it slightly differently. The world’s stage needs a lot more people like Daniel Julien at the helm.
Written by Rory Hammerson
Information is accurate as at 10.12.2020. Opinions constitute the fund manager’s judgement as of this date and are subject to change without warning. The officers, employees and agents of CIP may have positions in any securities mentioned herein. This material may not be distributed, published or reproduced in whole or in part. With investment capital is at risk.