Monday, May 10, 2004

Bank of America expands India outsourcing

By The Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Bank of America Corp. may hire 1,500 people at its subsidiary after it opens in southern India this month, 50 percent more than previously disclosed, and the bank has reserved land that would allow for even more expansion.

Late last year, the bank said it eventually expected to have 1,000 people at its Continuum Solutions subsidiary in the software hub city of Hyderabad, but wouldn't give specifics about work intended for the center.

Executives with the Charlotte-based financial giant told The Charlotte Observer that Continuum employees will initially work with corporate accounts drawn from London operations and later from the bank's offices worldwide. In the future, Indian workers are likely to work with consumer information.

"We expect that this will be a successful though modest part of our overall strategy for supporting our businesses, so we need space for growth if we decide we want to grow it," said Tim Arnoult, the bank's technology and operations executive. "Our current thinking is that Continuum, if everything is successful, probably will top out around 1,500 people over about three years."

Arnoult stressed that Continuum employment will be less than 1 percent of the bank's work force, which jumped from fewer than 134,000 to more than 180,000 with its FleetBoston Financial Corp. acquisition, completed April 1.

The Indian startup is Bank of America's latest step in moving work abroad, part of a cost-cutting trend called offshoring or foreign outsourcing that critics say is siphoning professional jobs to lower-wage countries, mimicking the exodus of factory jobs.

Arnoult acknowledged that Continuum will displace workers throughout the bank's operations, but he couldn't say how many or from which offices. The bank also has not said how much it expects to save with the move.

Those job losses come as workers worry about the additional 12,500 job cuts the bank plans over two years as part of its FleetBoston acquisition. The bank also will continue outsourcing software work to firms in India, a move employees have blamed for job losses.

Bank of America has been contracting with firms in India to handle software development, testing and modernizing for about two years.

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