Revisit this interview with Ocorian's Head of Global Client Operations & Managing Director in Mauritius, Robert Hovenier which ran in Mauritius' L'Express in July 2022.

L'Express ("L'E")
Ocorian's Mauritius team is currently recruiting for around 50 professionals. More broadly, Mauritius Finance expects to have 2,000 openings in the financial sector by 2023. What explains this dynamism?

Robert Hovenier ("RH")
From an Ocorian Mauritius point of view, we are growing with new business intake – in support of this, our Mauritius team has grown from 250 to 400 employees over the last two years – a remarkable growth story during a time of pandemic. We are also providing a growing number of services to other Ocorian offices: we operate in 20 key global locations so there's lots of opportunity.

The financial services industry is having a hard time recruiting despite the available job opportunities. Can your global mobility programme make a difference in the market?

We honestly think it will. The COVID pandemic coupled with economic downturn has resulted in the workforce being more discerning in terms of new opportunities. People in general are averse to taking risks and stay in their comfort zone.

This is not only affecting us in Mauritius but is a global trend. The local economic context as well is driving the workforce to seek better opportunities abroad. This strategy will enable us not only to retain but attract this segment of the workforce by offering the opportunity to work for a company well established in Mauritius with a global footprint. This is a risk-free opportunity.

For the last two years, we have been working on the transformation of the Mauritius operation and building a reliable brand for clients and employees. We therefore see a growing number of relevant applicants reacting on our vacancies and we are therefore in a better position than many of our other offices in challenging labour markets.

On top of this, we are stimulating our staff to work from abroad for the short or longer term and we facilitate that within our global group. This not only helps the other offices in our international network but also means that the colleagues seconded to other locations bring back valuable knowledge and experience.

The term "skill-mismatch" comes up a lot in the news. What is your observation in financial services? (Are you planning to recruit and train?)

We very much believe in a program of recruiting younger ambitious staff and training them on the job as well as providing them with a challenging career path locally and/or internationally. We are a growing company and therefore we can offer our staff a lot of opportunities to grow their careers.

The skills mismatch in the financial services industry is growing. To drive continued innovation and remain relevant, companies must bridge this gap... if we don't, we will be left behind. New regulations and a shift towards the digital economy are some of the factors behind this shift. This mismatch is driving the cost of hiring to exponentially high levels, and companies are having to pay a premium for specific skillsets... this is not sustainable in the long-term.

And recruiting and training has been at the forefront of our strategy since day one. We hire not only for immediate but sustainable long-term success. The recruit and train strategy has been at the forefront of our strategy from the outset. We put a lot of emphasis on staff learning and development through on the job training and via our industry leading online learning platform – Grow. This platform facilitates self-learning with over 2,000 different courses. In addition to all this we have a financial educational support scheme where we academic and professional courses for our staff.

What about the availability of specialised expertise in the sector (for the hiring of specialists and executives in finance, etc.)

The Mauritius labour market is relatively big compared to many other countries in which we operate. Many of the more senior specialists have studied and worked abroad and have brought back that expertise to our jurisdiction. On top of this, we are not limited to Mauritius as we are also looking at South Africa for certain positions, like we have done in the recent past successfully.

There are a lot of specialised firms in Mauritius offering and assisting companies expertly with their recruitment needs. I am sure they add value and are a great help to these companies.

At Ocorian, we have our specialised recruitment team. We have invested a lot in terms of framework and technology. This adds value to our recruitment needs as our team know the exact profiles we are seeking in line with our company culture. It also reduces our cost of hire, and we use these savings towards incentives such as bonus, performance awards, and staff referral schemes where we encourage our staff to refer friends, family members or acquaintances to work and if they are appointed, the member of staff who has made the successful referral is rewarded with a substantial referral fee. This is a great incentive for our staff.

We do not only hire the right skill sets but more importantly we look for the right attitude... We hire for success in every sense of the word and want to get the word out about the great opportunities available with us. We have a sense that many of the people who would love it here simply don't know what we on offer so take a look at our open roles with a search on our website!

At the global level, the West is facing an economic crisis, perhaps even a recession. What about the impact on the financial services in Mauritius and by extension on recruitment?

The effect so far is inflation and therefore on the remuneration of staff, which is where we are able to compensate. We have not yet seen a drop in new clients or increase in receivables. The impact for our industry may be good: you can even imagine an increase in structuring needs from clients to counter inflation and recession.

Mauritius has decades of experience and achievements, but Kenya and Rwanda are positioning themselves in the region, not to mention the performance of other jurisdictions such as South Africa. How can we consolidate our position?

The position and experience of Mauritius as a financial and structuring hub has existed since 1993, plus the country has a stable governmental system, very much appreciated by investors and HNWIs. The financial sector has been well established since then. Kenya is much more focussed on digitalisation and has an advantage, but this is not affecting the private client (trust) and corporate services sector. In South Africa, there has been an economic and political challenge for many years and many South Africans and their businesses have relocated to places like Mauritius. Rwanda is trying to build and facilitate international structuring as well as a trust and corporate services sector, but that will attract mainly regional attention, whereas the structuring coverage for Mauritius is much bigger, bridging the East and the West with Africa.

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