The Secrets of a Successful Global Payroll Transformation, from an Expert

As we use technology to reach new parts of the world, the business barriers we’re used to seem to break once a quarter. Payroll is one area where keeping pace with the expectations of a global workforce is critical. But how do you transfer, and translate, a payroll function across the globe?

We caught up with Paul Wickes, Group Head of Global Payroll at fintech organization FNZ. Paul has led millions of dollars worth of multi-year transformation projects across as many as 50 countries at once. Paul’s experience with multiple projects makes him an expert in international payroll transformation.

FNZ is actively engaged with CloudPay on a 5,000-employee global payroll transformation across 43 international entities.

In this article, we’ll hear some wisdom and knowledge bytes from Paul, as well as some key thoughts that will help you navigate your own global payroll transformation project. 


Introducing FNZ

FNZ is a Fintech company based in the UK that focuses on opening up wealth by reducing the dependency on legacy systems and practices. Part of FNZ’s ethos is to open up wealth by giving people more freedom to invest in what matters to them.


The most important elements of a successful global payroll transformation

Identifying the need, and timescale, for an international payroll transformation is a challenge within itself. Before getting stuck into the operational elements of change across borders, the first step, as always, lies in collating knowledge, information and data.

“Before we get into the interesting stuff, you have to have a solid plan and a partner you can rely on” says Paul. “For example, here, I brought in my own change management principles, as there wasn’t a defined strategy for payroll transformation here at FNZ”.

It’s also about connecting with the right partner, and tapping into their expertise.

Paul goes on to explain why CloudPay was the right choice for global payroll implementation for FNZ. “CloudPay delivers on compliance continuously’. As well as having a strong presence in the market, the fact that compliance is built-in was also appealing. “In Fintech, you have to be 100% compliant, there’s no other choice’.

So let’s get into the details. According to McKinsey, as many as 70% of global payroll transformation projects end in failure. And according to Paul, getting the following four key points right can help you to be in the 30%.

  1. Strong stakeholder buy-in

“We have very strong support from stakeholders at all levels when it comes to the payroll transformation project at FNZ” Says Paul. “When you have buy-in, you benefit from a strong project management methodology and ethos, strong project governance tools and experienced payroll project managers who guide us every step of the way.”

Transformation projects are fraught with complexity and require meticulous planning, so if one link in the chain doesn’t want to comply, or doesn’t have to comply, then the transformation can grind to a halt.

“We had a project in Tunisia where we had to pause. Our contact there didn’t understand our requests, as English wasn’t their first language, so they couldn’t buy into what we wanted to achieve.”

  1. Factoring in payment services

Before the payroll transformation project, FNZ had never had a treasury solution before. Everything was conducted in-house through finance. But Paul and FNZ decided that treasury would be a strong part of the global payroll transformation.

This meant that not only could payments be more flexible and fast, but also the finance team was unburdened from the repetitive, manual task.

Despite initial concerns that removing treasury from the finance team’s remit would result in a loss of overall control, Paul found it was actually an easy sell. By taking away the ‘nuts and bolts’ of treasury, the finance department could focus on ‘bigger picture’ objectives, like strategic finance.

“When you have two separate systems in operation, there is twice as much administration and management work involved in keeping them running, e.g. having to enter the same data into each system individually.”

Furthermore, there is also the risk of inconsistencies in payroll data if the two platforms aren’t integrated and synchronized, which is how payroll errors can easily creep in.

By factoring in payment services, the burden of a sudden increase in global employees doesn’t land on a finance team that may not have capacity.

“The treasury team at CloudPay is amazing. CloudPay’s Treasury Implementation Consultant is fantastic and has been a lynchpin throughout. He’s one of the reasons that we’ve been so successful launching the project because he’s taken care of the treasury side of things – making sure the penny tests are done and the mechanics and infrastructure are set up and ready to go.”

  1. Allocating project resources correctly

Paul’s approach to delegation and planning of resources is quite black and white: “Define roles, engage with stakeholders and give them a platform, then use robust change management principles to deliver.”

Again, according to Paul, success here comes down to actively engaging with stakeholders from the start. Sharing the roadmap, ensuring sufficient resources are budgeted, and checking in regularly can all help to ensure project resources are in the right place, at the right time.

Paul also adds that you need to learn to ‘fix as you go’, and fully expect your project to go off track. Embrace problems and use data to turn them into opportunities!

  1. Anticipating and mitigating risk

“Payroll transformation comes with inherent risk, and some countries come with bigger risks than others” says Paul. So what risk management tactics can be applied to the overall strategy?

Paul believes it comes down to two approaches. The first is researching new territories thoroughly and creating a comprehensive risk assessment for each. Then, it’s all about utilizing your global payroll partner’s in-depth expertise for that particular country.

“If you go into a new territory trying to apply the same logic as your home country, then the transformation will fall down.”

The CloudPay project at FNZ started in June/July 2022. We started with the UK, then India. We then moved on to Canada and Switzerland. We’re now live in 12 countries and we’ve researched every last one of these countries thoroughly, identified risk, and mitigated risk where necessary.”

Final thoughts

Although each global transformation project is different, these simplified approaches can help to cover multiple focus areas and make it slightly easier to develop an overview and roadmap. However, Paul also believes FNZ’s partnership with CloudPay has been a massive part of the success so far. 

“It’s the first time we’re running payroll through one company,” says Paul, referring to CloudPay’s all-in-one global payroll solution. “We’re looking to enhance our service level across Human Resources and payroll, and the way to do that is through improved technology and automation, including employee self-service. CloudPay’s global payroll services and payroll experts help us to do this.”

If you’re planning a global payroll transformation, or are looking for further support on an existing transformation, then CloudPay is ready to help. With experts in over 130 countries and flexible, tailored solutions depending on the transformation project, CloudPay can drive an entire payroll transformation, or contribute to specific jobs or projects as required.

Reach out to CloudPay to learn more about global payroll transformation services today.



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