Sema Group has openings for more than 20 technical positions as the information technology (IT) specialist company is expanding rapidly within the Asia-Pacific region. The European company specialises in three main areas: IT products such as credit card payment software; systems integration; and outsourcing, an area which accounted for more than 40 per cent of its near-GBP1 billion (about HK$12.6 billion) turnover last year. Outsourcing is a relatively new concept in the last decade. It involves IT companies approaching large firms such as financial institutions and airlines and purchasing or contracting out their IT departments. IT companies such as Sema then take over a client's IT department, all of its assets, equipment, employees and contracts and then deliver, for a fee, complete IT services. Fraser Laidlaw, Sema's outsourcing sales director, said the concept of outsourcing had been embraced by large organisations as information technology had become so specialised it often deflected from a company's core strengths. He said companies were attracted to outsourcing because of the cash injection which resulted from buyouts, the guaranteed reduction of assets and the fact that it reduced IT costs overall. In some cases, IT costs had been reduced by as much as 14 per cent. Mr Laidlaw said for the average bank, IT costs were about eight to 14 per cent of overall operating costs. 'Outsourcing is strongly entrenched in Europe and North America but tends to be limited in Asia to multinationals. Asian companies tend to deal out little bits at a time to see if they are comfortable with it,' he said. 'Part of the problem is IT is not readily accepted as being an integral component of an organisation. IT is seen as technical boffins who don't necessarily understand the business and there is a lot of justification to that thinking. It all depends on getting the business to understand the advantages. 'Our view is we are able to do it cheaper than they could themselves,' Mr Laidlaw said. Worldwide, Sema has 110 offices in more than 20 countries employing about 15,000 people. Europe is the company's main market but Asia is its fastest-growing region, accounting for seven per cent of the company's revenues. In 1996, the company's turnover reached GBP927 million and the first-half growth for last year was 31 per cent. Sema expects this growth to continue this year. Mr Laidlaw said: 'For young people who join us there is tremendous room to grow. They are given the opportunity to move into diverse areas that might not have been open to them in the past. 'Filling the skills bill is the important aspect. If anyone has the skills and works hard, the Sema Group can guarantee career development. We are fairly open to university graduates who can integrate into an organisation, but the emphasis is on skills,' he said. The company has vacancies for a senior technical specialist and a technical specialist (mid-range). The positions require five and three years experience respectively in a similar role and a sound educational background in computer science or a related discipline. A senior technical specialist and a technical specialist (mainframe) are needed with five and three years experience respectively. The positions require strong skills in system programming and support and good problem isolation skills. A chief technical consultant is required to provide hands-on experience in hardware/system software configuration design on mainframe or mid-range/ UNIX and AS400. They will also perform network design and implementation and systems management on the above platform. The job requires 10 years experience and good people skills. A project manager is urgently required. He will manage the various projects and deal with clients in the financial and insurance areas. The position requires a minimum of five years relevant experience in credit card management and insurance with financial knowledge and sales experience preferable. A shift manager is needed to supervise a team of computer operators. He will also manage the external hardware vendors and auxiliary equipment engineers in resolving equipment problems. A senior computer operator and computer operators are required to monitor system activities and execute the batch suites. The senior position requires a minimum two years experience in operating mainframe or mid-range platforms with experience in banking products preferable. Other job openings include a service system support analyst (three years experience), service system analyst (mainframe), and an account assistant (three years experience). Sema employees work a 5.5-day week (alternative Saturdays) and receive discretionary and performance bonuses. Benefits include a minimum 18 days annual leave, medical and dental coverage, hospitalisation insurance and a provident fund.