On 31 January 2017, Australia-based Ascender and NGA Human Resources announced that Ascender had acquired NGA’s Australia and New Zealand business. Part of the agreement is a partnership between the two companies to deliver payroll and HR services solutions for the ANZ region, ensuring a seamless solution for NGA HR’s global payroll and HR clients. The deal makes Ascender one of the largest HR and Payroll providers in the ANZ and APAC region.
What are the implications of the deal?
- Global deals with ANZ components will continue unaffected, as Ascender will serve as a partner provider in the region with no disruption to existing operations
- NGA will aim to use a partnership-based approach for multi-country deals originating in the ANZ region. It will no longer be active in the single country payroll market in ANZ.
- Its single country capability and reach in the ANZ region will get a boost with the addition of NGA’s services delivery and technology capabilities, specifically the Preceda and PS Enterprise HCM platforms
- It will have access to a new set of clients in ANZ, with an opportunity to sell into other regions of APAC through the newly acquired client portfolio. This could potentially increase its multi country payroll outsourcing (MCPO) market penetration in the APAC region.
Of course, as with any deal of this type, there are numerous things those in the region should watch out for.
First, NGA and Ascender will be looking to forge a partnership in a way that is beneficial to both parties beyond the immediate operational need. The scope and extent of this new partnership will evolve and take shape as the dust settles. It remains to be seen what form it will take, especially in light of Ascender’s recent entry into the Europe-based Payroll Services Alliance, wherein eight major payroll service companies have bundled their services into a unified offering that consists of strong local expertise and services, supplemented by coordination and integration at an international level.
As far as technology is concerned, with NGA’s PS Enterprise and Preceda HCM platforms coming into Ascender’s fold as part of the acquisition, Ascender will likely seek to integrate the different system capabilities under one brand over time. As with a lot of private equity-backed acquisitions, since the focus will be on improving margins, we are likely to see more investment in consolidating and improving technology, driving automation, and increasing self-service functionality.
Although the APAC market continues to experience relatively high growth rates – 7-9% in single country payroll outsourcing and 23-25% in MCPO – the region is fairly complex, and each country requires a distinct strategy to ensure sustainable growth. For instance, while India requires a heavily price-sensitive services sales approach, a technology-driven approach works better in Australia.
With the APAC region requiring a great deal of management attention and local presence to drive continued success, global providers’ APAC arms tend to be private equity acquisition targets. Indeed, while Western economy-based global players don’t necessarily have the focus to negotiate the uniqueness of the APAC region’s HR services and payroll requirements, private equity can certainly help bring that focus to the table. For example, Ascender is backed by a private equity-led consortium, and just two years ago, private equity firm Everstone Capital bought out Aon Hewitt’s APAC business, (renamed Excelity Global).
While not all will be private equity-driven, we do anticipate more acquisitions and consolidation in this space in the APAC region as the market matures, particularly in geographic markets that are fragmented, with no clear leader in sight.