London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) has a rich history of over 3 centuries. “The Group has very strong fundamental values, which starts with ‘Our word is our bond.’ It’s built on trust and these values are deeply embedded in our culture” says Head of Shared Services Center at LSEG Sri Lanka, Arjuna Nanayakkara. Headquartered in London, the British-based stock exchange and financial markets infrastructure and data business, expanded into Sri Lanka in 2009. The Group, recognising Sri Lanka’s tech talent saw great value in investing in the country. Fast forward to 2016, the Group’s local entity has since evolved considerably with its Center of Excellence supporting its global operations.
Now operating in 3 locations, LSEG employs over 1200 individuals in Sri Lanka and plays an active role in developing the local IT industry. Describing the Group’s local operations, Arjuna said, “It’s very strategically diverse. Starting from a technology base for R&D development it has evolved greatly with the Center of Excellence today, which is part and parcel of the global day to day operations for LSEG.”
Continuous improvement: The Center of Excellence (CoE)
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. LSEG’s CoE in Sri Lanka is a continuous and crucial component of the wider Group. It’s responsible for taking over many different operations for the Group, including infrastructure management, application management, corporate services such as Finance, HR, Marketing and many more. Notably, it’s responsible for supporting many of the Group’s companies, including the London Clearing House, which is one of the largest clearing houses in the world.
After taking over these operations, the Center of Excellence is tasked with delivering services with strict KPI’s and SLA’s. Towards this, the Center of Excellence works with a philosophy of continuous improvement. “Over a period of time, we derive our own core competencies to make these processes more efficient. By leveraging innovative technologies like Robotic Process Automation and quality-driven concepts like Lean Six Sigma, we work towards making these processes more efficient,” said Arjuna explaining this philosophy.
To better illustrate the example of the scale at which the Center of Excellence operates, Arjuna picked Finance; It’s not only just maintaining accounts. Rather he goes onto explain “We do the entire spread of finance going up to taxation, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and every other finance function needed for growth.” Similarly, it’s also responsible for managing the technology infrastructure of the Group, R&D operations, information security, and so much more. Further, it’s not only for a single location but across the entire Group on a 24/7 basis. Meaning the team must be mindful of several variables as they operate across several geographies.
Needless to say, the Center of Excellence has a wide mandate. Today, the Center of Excellence manages several Group-level functions necessary for the London Stock Exchange Group to operate as a global entity. While the core teams are based in Sri Lanka, it has extended teams across the world.
Adapting to a sudden pandemic
In March 2020, Arjuna officially joined LSEG. The move comes after a 13-year stint at Global Market Technologies where he held several leadership positions. Prior to this, his career took him across industries in roles at Richard Pieris, Janashakthi Group and Asian Hotels and Properties. When he joined LSEG, he planned on utilising his enterprise experience to help the group accelerate its efforts to create business excellence through stability, resilience, and converting that into a competitive advantage.
“What I didn’t predict was the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced us to work from home 15 days after I joined,” shares Arjuna. Thankfully, the organisation had strong standards for business continuity, planning risks, and operational excellence. Thus, it was capable of converting to a completely remote working environment within a week. “We plan for things far in advance. We moved into a sophisticated distributed working environment while maintaining resilience and dependability as a business. Over a period of time, once we stabilised the business, we made it an ongoing practice. It was an exciting journey.”
He continued, “Yet change is not easy. It’s not something that’s written in business books or taught in MBAs. Adaptation is the key to success. LSEG as an organisation and its leaders had the capability to adapt. Our teams quickly converted to new operational dynamics. It was marked by trust. As a regulated business, integrity is key to everything we do. Hence, the challenge when converting to a remote work environment was to ensure security while decentralising our infrastructure to ensure our colleagues could work comfortably. As an organisation, we put great emphasis on the wellbeing of our employees.”
Tapping into his experience, Arjuna argues that organisations should look towards quickly adapting to the new norms of the world. That too in a sustainable manner while generating value for customers. Doing so requires taking the necessary precautions to ensure there are calculated risks taken for the organisation to function. Technology will play a key role here as it has been the foundation of remote working and life itself since the pandemic began. Arjuna goes on to boldly summarise, “From the learnings of COVID-19, is it possible to take the necessary precautions to operate safely and still run a competitive business? My answer is yes!”
What’s next for London Stock Exchange Group in Sri Lanka?
“The capital markets business is a very sophisticated industry. We’re talking about global wealth and solutions that directly impact economies,” is how Arjuna describes the realm LSEG operates in. Unlike most other industries, the capital markets have absolutely no room for failure. They demand constant pinpoint accuracy, low latencies, and robust security. It requires complex engineering that challenges the norms of product development to create sophisticated solutions and infrastructure spanning across the globe.
To say meeting this criteria is challenging would be an understatement. “It requires high IQ and experience. You need the best of the best in the world,” says Arjuna explaining why the London Stock Exchange Group maintains a presence in Sri Lanka. “The Group saw this level of talent in Sri Lanka. Having seen what we’ve built and our potential, the Group has continued investing in us for many future generations of software solutions. All of which will complement their strategic business plans for expansion.”
Given its strategic importance, the London Stock Exchange Group has strong plans towards increasing the size of its footprint in Sri Lanka in 2021. Arjuna detailed that the Group is already renovating its local headquarters while expanding its team. The Group’s investments are also geared towards developing the local industry as a whole. “As a Group, we’re committed to investing in Sri Lanka and enhancing the local tech industry by working with all stakeholders. In doing so, enable the nation as a whole to grow into various other dimensions,” said Arjuna optimistically looking towards the future.