Boasting its iconic silver-starred emblem, the Mercedes-Benz Tower has become a landmark in the Philippines, supporting the brand’s position in the Asia-Pacific market.
With offices in both Cebu and Clark, Mercedes-Benz Group Services Philippines (MBGSP) provides finance and accounting services for the Daimler Group, one of the world’s most successful automotive companies.
Supporting esteemed vehicle brands like Mercedes-Benz, Heiko Nitsche, President and CEO, says that the firm’s services are critical for the automotive giant’s success.
“MBGSP is responsible for paying Daimler’s supplier, so we are ensuring that our factories across the world get the parts, materials and services they need.
“MBGSP also supports many of the Daimler Group subsidiary companies with the production of their financial statements,” he adds.
“So even though we are just 500 of Daimler’s 289,000 employees worldwide, I think we play an important role.”
Since its creation, MBGSP has steadily matured, surpassing its initial growth target.
Serving at the helm of the company for almost seven years, Nitsche has helped to build the Daimler subsidiary from the ground up, working with peer groups and sector leaders to gain the latest industry knowhow. “It was really exciting to be the first person in the Philippines from the Daimler Group and to start something completely from scratch,” he notes.
Building a company from its very foundations is a challenge for any executive. For Nitsche, perhaps the biggest priority was finding the right team with the right skills and attitude for the job.
“In the beginning, most of the time was focused on recruiting the right people, our pioneer team,” he explains. “It was of the greatest importance that we found the right team with the right skills but, even more importantly, that they had the right attitude and spirit.
“I think we are unique because of our people and our corporate culture. At MBGSP we believe in the best of both worlds. This mean you can’t copy and paste the corporate culture of our parent company into any country.
“We merged the best elements of the German Daimler culture with the Filipino culture. In the Philippines, you have world class customer service, excellent English skills, and the people are very adaptive to new cultures. Now, we have a very young, dynamic and customer-service oriented organisation with lots of energy.”
MBGSP has a millennial-centric environment and is committed to providing equal opportunities.
Creating a progressive, open and welcoming work culture is something which Nitsche is clearly passionate about, so much so he describes his team as “more like a family”. It’s an ethos which is well placed amidst the Philippines’ family-focused culture.
“I would say what also makes the company unique is our working atmosphere and high retention rate. We have a low employee turnover, which is a critical success factor in this industry. Because of this, we have a higher performance and service quality because every time you lose an employee you have to find a new employee and retrain them to the same level of quality.
“I'm very supportive of open communication and believe everybody should speak their mind. We speak to each other on a first-name basis and we break down the hierarchy walls. We treat everyone as equal without tarnishing our roles and responsibilities and without sacrificing our respect for one another.”
By tapping into the local language, embracing the Filipino culture, and creating meaningful relationships with his employees, Nitsche has strived to create a positive work environment.
As such, he says that whilst other companies may list impressive values, they are taken to a new level at MBGSP.
“Here at MBGSP we really embrace and live by our corporate values. Our values of passion, respect, integrity and discipline are a part of our DNA.
“In order to showcase this, we created an annual corporate value award system, whereby our employees can nominate someone to receive an award for really displaying these values on a day-to-day basis.”
As well as selecting the right team, location was a top priority for the company. Positioned in the fast-emerging Asia-Pacific market, the Philippines may have been a unique choice of location however, Nitsche believes it has been an ideal choice and one which has given the company a competitive edge.
Selecting a strategic site in Cebu, the MBGSP headquarters has become a distinctive landmark for the region.
“We chose this location because it's very important to have the right infrastructure, transportation, and facilities,” Nitsche says. “Today we now have a seven-tonne star on the rooftop. It's really a landmark in Cebu. Everybody in the city knows the building, which is good for us as it strengthens the company brand and also helps us recruit our best talent.
“The key to our success has been how we attract and then retain the best talent,” he adds. “With our company culture and brand, which is symbolised by that star, we really can attract the best talent in Cebu. I think the proof that we are an employer of choice is the fact that the vast majority of our employees are recruited by through an employee referral programme. It shows people actually enjoy working here, and they encourage their friends to join also.”
Keen to keep up momentum, the Daimler subsidiary has also opened a second state-of-the-art Philippines office, in Clark. This not only ensures there’s capacity for growth, it also means MBGSP’s services are not disrupted and always available.
“If something were to happen to our operations like a natural disaster, for instance, that could be a significant issue for us,” Nitsche explains, “therefore, we have developed a very sophisticated business continuity management programme. As part of this, we created our second office in Clark which gives us additional operational stability, security, and a world-class business solution for our global customers.”
Keen to ramp up its operations further, MBGSP has focused its investments on two pivotal areas: the upskilling of its staff and digitalisation.
As part of this, the whole Daimler Shared Service network is investing in robotics, automation and artificial intelligence, for example, to improve its productivity and efficiency.
“For our business, technology is very important. It’s crucial for the finance and accounting function, but it’s also vital across all of Daimler’s subsidiaries,” Nitsche says.
“With technology comes the opportunity to automate certain activities to free up your team. This means they can do fewer manual tasks and focus on the more interesting, value-adding jobs.
“On the infrastructure side, when we established our second site in Clark, it became a hub site for IT,” he continues. “For example, in this site, we installed a state-of-the-art server room, which houses Smart Row cabinet.
“Our Cebu and Clark site are fully integrated and capable of absorbing the load of each other in case one site fails to perform,” he adds.
On the other hand, whilst technology has been a core focus, MBGSP hasn’t forgotten its most important asset: its people.
As a result, the Philippines firm is investing heavily in development and training programmes to help attract and retain the best talent in the region.
“We have soft-skills programmes from communication to change management and stress management to leadership, which are all equally important,” explains Nitsche. “These programmes are not given arbitrarily; each employee's career plan is carefully designed by their respective managers together with HR.”
It’s been seven years since MBGSP was first founded. Years before, Daimler has already started its Shared Service journey with Daimler Group Services Madrid (DGSM) and Daimler Group Services Berlin (DGSB). Since then, the Daimler subsidiary has gone from strength to strength, offering state-of-the-art finance and accounting services and more.
In doing so, MBGSP has bolstered Daimler's position in Asia-Pacific but, not one to rest on its laurels, Nitsche believes it’s only the beginning for the firm.
“In 2011, we started with three employees in total. Now, we have almost 500 in both Cebu and Clark. I'm very excited for the further growth of that family. The company still has the potential to grow, whether that's in terms of headcount, processes, or value-added services.
“Our most important target is to have a very good relationship with our global business partners, our customers so that they earn the trust and the confidence in us,” he continues. “For our employees, we want to ensure that there is always an opportunity for successful career growth. We also want to have mature and standardised processes. We want to integrate robotics and automation into our processes. It’s a journey which we’re currently on but it won’t happen overnight.
“As a responsible employer we create job opportunities within MBGSP and beyond in our supplier network to encourage business growth in the region.”