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FEATURE STORY December 8, 2017

Chennai colleagues: keeping the trains running



  • For 16 years, the World Bank Group’s presence in Chennai has grown into supporting key operations and services across Accounting, GSD, HR, ITS, and Treasury
  • Treasury colleagues in HQ and Chennai manage annual cash flows of $6.3 trillion in 130 currencies through 1,800+ bank accounts in 184 countries and relationships with almost 400 banks
  • Chennai colleagues reflect the regional diversity of India and match the caliber of Chennai’s technical labor market

For over 16 years, the World Bank has leveraged Chennai, India – a city filled with skilled, talented professionals– to increase business continuity to 16 hours per day. With over 800 employees, Chennai colleagues work across HR, ITS, GSD, Accounting, and Treasury to support critical operations for the World Bank Group and provide a highly diverse talent pool with a substantial cost advantage. 

Treasury manages the pensions for all World Bank staff – and much of that work is handled by 19 colleagues in Chennai across pension operations and administration teams. Colleagues in Chennai support daily operations and settlements, produce periodic investment reporting, process pension benefits payments, and conduct counseling and education services.

“Treasury invests in people,” says Arunma Oteh, Vice President and Treasurer of the World Bank, who recently completed her second annual visit to the Chennai office. Arunma met with leadership teams and hosted town halls for both Treasury colleagues and for all 800+ colleagues in Chennai.

Diann Martin, Director of Treasury Operations, who has recently retired, after 30 years of working for the World Bank, joined Arunma on this mission. “There’s just one Treasury, one team”, she says, adding that she makes sure her staff are treated just like any other colleagues at headquarters in Washington, D.C.          

The data supports it: Treasury’s engagement survey results in Chennai are positive. The Engagement Index is at 99%, while the Diversity and Inclusion Index and Managerial Effectiveness Index is at 86% and 73%, respectively.

Chennai is a hub for industry in India, where highly skilled people live and work. Amit Bajaj, who started his career with the World Bank in Chennai and then moved to DC, says, “Staff in Chennai crave the next challenge.” He explained that many team members stay in one position for only two to three years before moving up. Although the private sector presents sometimes lucrative alternatives, the World Bank Treasury competes with the private sector by enabling  staff to work on almost all types of work handled by headquarters.

Ajoy Gupta, who is acting for Monika Ahluwalia, lead for Treasury in Chennai, explains how the teams structure helps colleagues support and learn from each other, and this is helped by the tremendous team spirit that has been built over the years. The learning curve is sometimes steep but this helps create value for individuals and brings in fresh thoughts. It also serves as an appealing alternative to private sector outsourcers, where work happens in rigid silos.

The success of the Chennai office extends across all teams and in its diverse mix. Almost all staff were born in India, but many come from different regions across the country, explains Sunil Kumar, Center Manager for Chennai office, who joined the office when it first opened. "Colleagues learn so much from one another from both a technical and cultural standpoint. This also helps draw new talent to the Bank."

It is this team spirit, innovation, value creation and diversity that represents the story of WB Chennai's evolution through the years, and demostrating its growing importance to the Bank’s mission.

Written by Robert Lucas in collaboration with Treasury Communication Team and Chennai colleagues.