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Gaming site bets on flexible benefits software

Bill Goodwin

Online gaming company Bwin.party is betting on specialist benefits software to help it attract and retain top talent.

Bwin.party, which claims to be the world’s largest listed gaming company, expects a payback within three to five years after rolling out flexible benefits to 3,000 employees across 20 countries.

The company employs a young, highly IT-literate workforce in offices across Europe, Asia, and Austria. The technology allows them to exchange salary for extra holidays, medical insurance, and other benefits, or to swap their benefits for extra salary.

Game on 

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Bwin began looking for technology solutions to manage employee benefits after a merger with Party Gaming in 2011 left it with employees on different benefits and salary packages.

“There were people with no benefits, people with very good benefits plans and people in between,” said Debi Povey, Bwin’s head of reward. “We knew this would be a problem from day one of the merger.”

The company spent a year researching how best to harmonise benefits and salaries, taking into account the different legal and cultural requirements in each country.

“We went through the process of discussion, legal requirements, custom and practice, and focus groups with employees,” said Povey.

Shortlist

Bwin approached ten software suppliers, before shortlisting three.  It chose Darwin, a package supplied by Thomsons Online Benefits, which offered the performance Bwin needed at a lower price than rival suppliers.

Bwin has linked the Darwin system, which is hosted on Thomson’s premises, to its Oracle HR and payroll systems.

The company rolled the technology out gradually, initially to its offices in the UK and Gibraltar. Offices in Austria, Bulgaria, India, Sweden and Israel followed.

Show stopper

There were some mistakes on the way, Povey revealed. For example Bwin discovered part way through the roll-out that, under Austrian law, it was illegal to allow employees to swap holiday for salary. “That was a show stopper,” said Povey.

Employees have saved on their tax bill by using the software

Debi Povey, Bwin.party

The company is now using the system to offer employees fully flexible benefits in six countries, while employees in other countries can use the system to check on the total value of their salary and benefits package.

The Darwin system has raised morale and has helped people contribute more effectively, says Povey. People feel part of one organisation and they can see how much the company pays on their behalf.

Substitutions

Employees can use Darwin to substitute their family medical cover for cash if they do not have a family. Or they can buy and sell holidays, and opt in and out of other benefits.

Bwin has also introduced an employee-recognition system, which allows managers to nominate high-performing employees for reward points, which they can exchange for gifts.

“It is hugely popular,” says Povey. “It gives people the opportunity to nominate someone for a monetary award, or simply an e-card that says "great job".

Savings

The company has carried out annual reviews of its benefits providers since it introduced the Darwin system. It has saved enough by changing providers to cover the cost of the technology.

“Just one benefit has paid for the investment in the platform and the software,” said Povey.

The system has also helped employees reduce their tax bills, by taking advantages of incentives offered in each territory.


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