Malaysia as springboard for regional expansion

The bulk of BAE Systems Applied Intelligence’s current workforce in Kuala Lumpur is Malaysian, with foreign staff accounting for only about 22%. “We have more diversity here in this office than we have anywhere else in the world,” the company says.The bulk of BAE Systems Applied Intelligence’s current workforce in Kuala Lumpur is Malaysian, with foreign staff accounting for only about 22%. “We have more diversity here in this office than we have anywhere else in the world,” the company says.

By Zhen M

Ease of doing business, good infrastructure, a steady government and a pool of talent with the right skillsets – these were among Malaysia’s qualities that drew BAE Systems Applied Intelligence to set up its Global Delivery Centre (GDC) in Malaysia.

When the company wanted to set up a GDC in Asia – it has GDCs in UK and Poland as well – it surveyed several countries in the region, looking at a variety of things. Malaysia ticked all the right boxes.

BC Aug28.2The attractions of Malaysia were numerous, says Mark B Womble (pic), BAE Systems Applied Intelligence’s regional director for Asia.

“We’re incredibly pleased to be here. We couldn’t be more pleased with the quality of the employees we have found to date. And we’re incredibly excited about the opportunity to participate in the Economic Transformation Programme, supporting Malaysia in whatever way we can to grow that initiative,” he enthused.

Indeed, Womble and GDC Malaysia general manager Andy Williams seem to be all praises for the group’s decision to house its regional headquarters and GDC in Malaysia. In an interview with Business Circle, they reiterated several times how pleased they are with the high calibre employees and the ease of doing business here.

Nurul Hidanah, the company's first employee in MalaysiaNurul Hidanah, the company’s first employee in Malaysia

The World Bank in its Doing Business 2014 report ranked Malaysia at number six in ease of doing business. “And it feels like it too!” Williams concurred, adding, “We also have an MSC status, which has been massively beneficial to us.”

While parent company BAE Systems has a 30- to 40-year history in Malaysia and has good relationship with the government – for example, it has been supplying naval guns to Malaysia for decades – its Applied Intelligence outfit is young and up till December last year, has only a small presence here.

Applied Intelligence first set up shop in the country in July 2010, then known as BAE Systems Detica. As at November last year, it had a headcount of 20. Then the staff population exploded, thanks to the group’s decision to house its Southeast Asian headquarters and Asian GDC in Malaysia. Womble himself only arrived in February, and Williams, December last year.

Barely eight months since moving into its new office in high-tech Menara Binjai, where it occupies two floors, it plans to take on another floor in the same building to cater for its growing workforce.

“We currently have 150 people. We hope to have 250 by the end of this year and 350 by the end of next year,” shared Williams. As the current office only has a 210-seat capacity, “we’ll reach maximum occupancy in a few months. By November, we’ll be squeaking at the seams!”

The bulk of the company’s current workforce is Malaysian, with foreign staff accounting for only about 22%. “We have more diversity here in this office than we have anywhere else in the world,” Williams says, adding that he is fascinated with the Malaysian team’s cultural diversity and constant learning vibrancy.

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Leveraging Malaysia to realise regional growth opportunities

BAE Systems Applied Intelligence offers solutions that combine large-scale data exploitation, ‘intelligence-grade’ security and complex services and solutions integration. It operates in four key domains of expertise: Cyber Security; Financial Crime; Communications Intelligence; and Digital Transformation. BAE Systems have about 90,000 employees globally, and Applied Intelligence has about 2,500 in 26 offices.

The group pursues opportunities and growth in the region out of the Malaysian office. “At the moment, we’re predominantly focused on Malaysia and Singapore and the business is doing well… We see tremendous growth opportunity potential for the region and that’s part of the reason why we came to Malaysia,” Womble shares.

Meanwhile, GDC Malaysia executes projects on a global scale in close relationship with the other two GDCs.

When asked what determines which work goes where, Williams says: “It varies. Sometimes it’s timezone. We have an advantage here of being in a different timezone. Sometimes we may do development work in one centre and test in another – overnight testing. Each centre is specialised, to some extent. We use our UK centre mostly for local government work, so it’s very much focused on the UK market. Our Polish centre has skills in some of the fraud and compliance, financial work.

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“In this office, we do a lot of the product engineering. We’re actually building that specialisation here for that, and we have genuine Java capability – we’re a Java specialist and test centre. You’ll probably see the biggest collection of test capability in this office than anywhere else.”

With more work than they have people doing it, GDC Malaysia is in urgent need to rapidly ramp up its workforce and will hold its second walk-in recruitment drive on Sept 6. What is Applied Intelligence looking for? “Creative, ambitious, gifted” Java specialists and C Sharp experts, “we’re looking beyond skills to growth potential,” says Williams.

“It’s a wonderful exciting time for us to be here and for the employees as well, to be part of growing company that gives them the opportunity to grow their skillset, take on new challenges and learn,” Womble says.

“We’re incredibly pleased with the talent we find here. The challenge is finding enough of that high calibre talent,” he adds.

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