Tue | Jan 26, 2021

Epstein back on track with new hirings at itelBPO

Published:Friday | December 4, 2020 | 12:16 AM

Yoni Epstein, CEO of itelBPO.
Yoni Epstein, CEO of itelBPO.

Business process outsourcing company itelBPO expects to grow its staff by nearly one-third to 4,500 workers in 2021.

But amid the ongoing expansion, the company won’t be looking to the stock market for capital, having decided to hold off on going public.

Instead, itelBPO founder Yoni Epstein is banking on partnerships secured last year to fuel the growth plans in Jamaica and the region.

“At this time, there are no plans for listing. As you are aware, we did a transaction last year with PanJam Investments and Portland Private Equity, and our focus is on continued growth over the next three to five years in order to create shareholder value,” said Epstein, itelBPO’s chairman and CEO.

PanJam, a public company founded and controlled by the Facey family, and Portland, a private operation controlled by Michael Lee-Chin, both buy into businesses as investors.

Epstein said that COVID-19 initially affected his firm, but that the company continues to recover. Now it’s hiring at a faster pace than previously expected.

“I would say that we lost revenue from between March to May, between 18 and 25 per cent. But we were back on budget by June and have been growing to pre-COVID levels across all geographies since July,” he said.

The growth in staff from 3,500 to 4,500 in a year will see most of the new jobs going to St Lucia, initially, followed by Jamaica later in the year.

“By next December, we expect to add an additional 1,000 team members, bringing our overall staff complement to north of 4,500,” Epstein added, which puts the company on a path to beat its 2024 target of 5,000 workers.

Founded in 2012 in Montego Bay, Jamaica-based itelBPO describes itself as the region’s largest home-grown outsourcing firm.

The company launched operations in St Lucia in July during the pandemic, with 30 full-time staff. That’s since grown to 450 staff, with an expectation for further additions to 750 by the first quarter of 2021.

The BPO firm now has 2,100 staff in Jamaica, 500 in the United States, 450 in St Lucia, 100 in Bahamas and 25 in Canada.

The 30 per cent equity stake acquired by PanJam and Portland in a joint deal in late 2019, which gave each 15 per cent, came as itelBPO was putting up a 20,000 square-foot-customer contact centre in St Lucia.

Development of the two-storey building in St Lucia’s free zone district was done in partnership with government investment agency Invest St Lucia. Based on client demand and increased staffing, itelBPO is currently retrofitting another building in the free zone.

Both investments in St Lucia will run to US$3 million, he said.

Epstein explained that clients are looking for greater geodiversity to mitigate risk in their outsourcing operations, and that St Lucia remains an attractive proposition, saying clients like the country of around 182,000 people for its stable business environment and educated labour force.