HR Indaba Africa 2018: Xpatweb offers end-to-end expatriation services

Xpatweb's Marisa Jacobs says skills shortages are driving demand for talent from outside the country.

With less than a month to go before the inaugural HR Indaba Africa conference, the anticipation from partners is palpable. In this article, we speak to Xpatweb Director & Head of Immigration and Mobility Marisa Jacobs, about what the company does and why she is looking forward to the event. 

What is Xpatweb and how did the company come into being?

"The group has been in existence for 14 years, currently with 60 multi-disciplinary professionals. The specialist immigration department offers an end-to-end solution to some of the largest South African employer and international groups, with a comprehensive immigration service to obtain visas and permanent residence permits in an efficient and timely manner. The team includes immigration specialists, master tax practitioners, master reward practitioners, attorneys, CAs and mobility practitioners. We take pride in our long-standing client relationships which speak to our ability to deliver. Xpatweb is focussed on holistic expatriate services and immigration facilitation in particular because, when employers bring a foreign national into an organisation their first port of call is getting their permits and immigration paperwork underway. It is further vital for employers to ensure effectiveness during this process to allow expatriate assignees to focus on their relocation and to get settled in and productive as soon as possible."

There aren't many companies that offer that kind of service, presumably because there isn't a huge market for it. There are only so many people that can immigrate to South Africa, right? How does the company grow when serving such a niche market?

"You are correct in saying that we offer a pretty unique service. To my knowledge, there isn’t anybody out there offering an end-to-end expatriate solution. And you're not the first person to ask whether it's a sustainable market but you would be surprised to find out how great the demand s for global expertise. If you think about it, there are scores of multinationals operating here in South Africa and many of them bring expertise from their head office or other parts of the world. This allows them to grow their talent by exposing them to international work experience, and also allows their local workforce to benefit from the expertise that these expatriates bring with them."

"In addition, South Africa has quite a big skills shortage, as do many countries on the African continent. Because of that, there are many instances of companies simply being unable to find certain skills in the local job market and thus having to expand their search to other territories. Lastly, our services do include expatriation facilitation to Africa and other parts of the world allowing us to serve a large market."

Why have you chosen to be a partner for the HR Indaba?

"Our typical clients tend to be large corporates and, often, the first people that we engage with in those organisations are the HR executives and HR business partners. Some of the bigger corporates will have someone whose sole responsibility it is to deal with mobility, but even they too will fall within the remit of HR. Our initial point of contact when dealing with a client will invariably be within HR so we felt that the HR Indaba would provide us with a fantastic opportunity to engage with audiences of that ilk, whether they be our existing clients or potential new ones."

Do you have any thoughts on what may be the most pressing issues facing the HR profession? 

"In relation to my experience in expatriation facilitation, I think the skills shortage in South Africa and other parts of the world is a real challenge for the HR profession as a whole. Finding skills locally is tough already and, when one adds to that the complexity of finding talent from around the world including competing for skills, and navigating the immigration process, HR has it work cut out."