C-suite: interviews and insights from Latin America

16/06/2021 Six interviews with partners across Latin America reveal a complicated C-suite agenda that is balancing economic imperatives with societal and environmental pressures. Read excerpts from each interview below and see the report – featuring partners from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay

Explaining the optimism

Business leaders in Latin America were the most optimistic of all regions on their growth outlook, according to the Mazars 2020 C-suite barometer. Some 91% of respondents on the continent expect to grow in 2021 - well above the global average (71%).

That optimism is warranted, says Luis Martinez, Managing Partner, Uruguay: “A large part of the Latin American economy and the Uruguayan economy is agriculture-based and the global need for food is constant. Other businesses have sought ways to offer more through technology and the pandemic has pushed businesses to do better and do faster when it comes to digital. Department stores here have massively advanced their ecommerce offering as a direct result of Covid, for instance. These ‘leaps forward’ are not reserved for more advanced economies and business leaders in Uruguay have proven resilient to difficult trading circumstances.”

Read the C-suite: interviews and insights from Latin America here.

The impact of the pandemic combined with macro-economic trends has made Mexico an attractive place to do business, says Jorge Santibañez Fajardo, Partner. “We have seen growth and innovation from ecommerce and delivery platforms, which have responded to new trading conditions by expanding operations and pivoting to work effectively amidst Covid-19. The Mexican Online Sales Association reported 81% growth on ecommerce in 2020 compared to 2019.”

He adds: “International companies are looking at Mexico for future growth – backed by projections that Mexico will continue to rise up global economic rankings over the coming decades. While Europe and the US are fairly saturated markets, Latin America and Africa still have huge potential in terms of untapped markets and consumers.”

Transforming for the future

When asked for the transformations they most expect to face over the next three to five years, C-suite leaders in Latin America said technology and new service, market, and business model developments.

Questioned about how to prepare a business for these transformations, Gonzalo Urien, Managing Partner, Argentina, says: “The key is to plan for the middle and long-term. If you’re investing with just the next one or two years in mind, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Businesses have to plan for the next five, or more, years. Continuous change in terms of business and legal parameters is the only thing that can be relied upon… We know our economic path will not be straightforward but that will not stop us from working towards improving the business environment.”

Keeping up with new service, market and business model developments depends on thinking outside the box and finding ways to attract global attention, notes Carlos Andres Molano, Managing Partner. “Colombia is home to one-third of all the free trade zones in Latin America, meaning a business can manufacture around one-third of its goods here and benefit from no tariffs or VAT when exporting elsewhere, while paying a lower rate of income tax. These zones are very attractive to businesses in China, hit by the recent trade war with the US, but also European businesses wanting to move into Latin America.”

Sustainability done seriously

Latin America had the highest proportion of executives (50%) treating sustainability as a long-term investment, according to the global findings. In their recent interviews, partners share insight on harnessing new green energy methods as well as making existing industries more sustainable.  

“We have an incredibly diverse natural environment: the north is arid and home to the energy-intensive mining industry, while the south has huge expanses of coastline. As a relatively hot country with affordable land, Chile attracts businesses looking to develop solar and wind energy solutions”, says Damien de la Panouse, Managing Partner. “Chile is also positioning itself as a leader in green hydrogen production. Green hydrogen is competitive pricewise and will play a key role in the decarbonisation of the copper industry, which will be fundamental to reaching national – and global – decarbonisation objectives.”

Improving diversity at the top

The C-suite in Latin America recognise growth depends on the overall evolution of business, but the continent lagged behind Western Europe and the US on gender diversity at the top - only 13% of respondents in Latin America said they have a female majority of decision-makers.

“It’s a stark finding and a harmful reality. Bad for society and bad for business, more has to be done to create gender equality here and around the world,” says Luis Martinez. “As President of the French Chamber of Commerce in Uruguay I helped create a gender diversity committee and signed an agreement with UN Women to support gender equality. We have asked members of the chamber to share their best practice so others can learn from it and 14 members have since signed women empowerment principles.”

Meanwhile, in Brazil there are signs that businesses are taking the lead on fixing the imbalance while looking to policymakers for help. “Businesses in Brazil are taking diversity seriously, in some cases even more seriously than environmental sustainability,” notes Eduardo Cabrera, Managing Partner, Brazil. “Some companies have even said they will not work with those that do not have plans to improve diversity… It is up to companies to do better for women to reach higher positions, but it is important that we also have changes in legislation, in order to correct any distortions in the labour market.”

You can read the interviews featuring Mazars partners in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay here.

To see the global results of the C-suite barometer, go here.