U.S. Company Opening Contact Centre in Saint John That Will Employ 300 People

S&P Data has opened in the location of the former Sears centre. Image: Mark Leger/Huddle.

SAINT JOHN – U.S. company S&P Data is opening a new customer contact centre on the east side that will eventually employ 300 people, a company official told Huddle on Tuesday.

The centre will be opening in the former location of the Sears contact centre that closed last year, said Brian Cato, President of Support Services for S&P.

The company employs a firm that searches for new cities to host contact centres. It identified Saint John as a potential location and did an assessment of the quality and size of the labour pool. Saint John is a great fit, they concluded, a message that came through “loud and clear,” said Cato in a phone interview Tuesday from the S&P’s Toronto office.

“We made a lot of phone calls to a lot of individuals who have done business in Saint John and we didn’t get one bad report [about the city],” said Cato. “We met with the ONB team. They were excellent at selling Saint John and what the market could do for us. And so the selection became relatively simple.”

Cato said 50 people will be in place when the centre opens, and it will “go from zero to 300” in the first seven or eight months of operation.

S&P, which has six other North American locations, is hosting a job fair January 11 to fill several senior management positions. The company will host weekly job fairs leading up to the opening of the centre February 5.

He couldn’t yet comment on whether S&P was being given incentives like payroll rebates that are commonly awarded to companies that create jobs in the province. Huddle wasn’t able to speak with an ONB official before press time.

Cato is aware that people are used to seeing call centres come and ago, with the recent closure of the Sears centre still fresh in the minds of many Saint Johners. He said S&P will be here to stay, and the company’s track record proves that.

“We’ve never closed in the market that we’ve gone into,” said Cato, who will be in town for the job fair Thursday.

“If I was to send one message to the New Brunswick community that’s the message I would deliver. With Sears closing obviously that there would be some concern, ‘Yeah, okay, another call is coming in.’ But we’ve never closed one … When we come, we’re there for good.”

The company’s head office is in San Diego, with other contact centres in Ohio, New Mexico, Michigan, Toronto, Hamilton and Trenton, Ontario. In total, Cato said they have between 2,500 – 3,000 employees.

S&P provides customer care services in several industries, including energy, Fintech, financial services, and telecom and cable.

The Saint John centre will provide customer care services for a Canadian telecommunications company that is expanding its contract with S&P. Cato said a privacy agreement prevents them from revealing the name of that client.

Cato said S&P prides itself on treating its employees well. “You hear companies say, ’employees first,’ we live and breathe [that philosophy],” he said.

“The executive team keeps in touch with employees through different channels,” he said. “We have what we call a ‘can we chat hotline,’ which is a portal that comes directly to me. I talk to employees and it can be anything. It can range from if they have great ideas to enhance the current programs, to a question they may have about the organization or any ideas they have on how to make the organization a better company.”

Cato started as a customer-service agent with the company 20 years ago and now holds a senior management position. He said this is common trajectory for employees within the company in all departments, including finance, human resources and IT.

“Ninety-five per cent of our [senior level] employees … were agents to begin with,” said Cato. “They have an opportunity to go through our leadership development program and graduate into management.”

Cato said the company wasn’t yet prepared to publicly discuss salary levels, but he did say the company focuses on career advancement and higher wages than what are offered in many other companies.

“Through our organization, we build a career path for them,” he said. “We try to allow them to make a lot more money than they may make in other call centres. We’re really focused on personal development, business development and providing a good working environment.”

The career fair on Thursday is taking place at Loch Lomond Mall, 120 McDonald Street, 10 am – 5 pm. At this stage, they’re recruiting for several management positions, including Call Centre Trainer; Team Leader, Inbound Customer Care; Site Director; Human Resources Manager; and Operations Manager.