Cathay Pacific has outsourced its housing service for 3,000 Hong Kong-based staff in what is probably the largest exercise of its kind in the city. After mulling over the matter for about five years, the Hong Kong-headquartered airline has assigned all housing tasks to Savills. Cathay's housing team used to handle tasks ranging from housing policy administration, tenancy management and orientation services for expatriates to property searches and general property advice. Chris Marriott, Savills' deputy managing director and head of leasing, said the Cathay account was 20 to 30 times bigger than any of its other outsourcing accounts. Savills handled about 10 to 15 outsourcing accounts representing about 700 tenancies, he said. A Cathay Pacific spokeswoman said the outsourcing was prompted more by a need for in-depth staff housing services than by cost-cutting concerns. 'We have a huge number of staff, and we had to seek professional advice on our service anyway, so we thought it would be a good idea to outsource to a one-stop service provider,' she said. One of the great benefits of the outsourcing would be the orientation service for expatriates newly arrived in Hong Kong. Previously, this was handled chiefly by the company's human resources department, the spokeswoman said. According to Savills, Cathay used to have a team of 10 to 12 people to handle services for staff eligible for housing benefits. 'It certainly helps to free up some of our manpower in a non-core area,' the spokeswoman said. Savills has employed most of the Cathay housing service team to handle the airline's needs. Neither Savills nor Cathay Pacific would confirm how many members of the original team would be retained. Because of the diverse nature of Cathay's housing allowance budget for its 3,000 staff, Savills, which focuses mainly on luxury residential transactions, would subcontract some of the work to local agencies with a greater exposure to the mass market, such as Midland Realty and Centaline, Mr Marriott said. The greatest challenge would be to maintain quality control over third-party agencies, he said. Agencies would be screened for their due diligence practices to ensure service standards were maintained.