Roundtable – Shared Services & Outsourcing in Latin America

I think the first question we should look at is: is it right to talk of “Latin American shared services” at all? Latin America is a very big region geographically and in terms of population; it’s got a smaller linguistic diversity than, for example, Europe, but there are still very big differences between, say, Brazil and Costa Rica. To what extent is it actually possible for organizations – captive or BPO – to take a truly regional approach in Latin America? Is it impossible to avoid having significant resources in individual countries?

Ricardo Neves: This is a region different from other regions in the world. If you talk about intra-region services, you’re talking about two major languages which are, in some ways, close to each other; you have also a closeness of overall culture; and usually what you see with multinational or regional operations here is that the larger countries like Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile correspond to a significant size of the operations. Usually if you look at most of the global or multinational companies in the region, they have 50% or even 75% of their operations carried out in two or three countries at most – and then 10, 12 other countries where they do have operations but which make up only 25% or less of their business.

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This gives a challenge when setting up a regional center, because there is a scale for the larger countries which is not present in the smaller ones – and what I’ve seen here is a mix between totally centrally run shared services and a lesser local presence in smaller countries to make sure the right scale is achieved and the right support is done at the regional level. There are companies based in Brazil that I’ve seen who have regional shared services – like the brewer AmBev, now connected with InBev and AnhauserBusch, which has a very large regional shared services based in Sao Paulo serving not just operations in the region, but also the firm’s operations in Canada for the Labatt operations. Unilever has also set up an HR shared services – and has just sold its finance shared services to Capgemini in the region.

In sum, from those large operations that I’ve seen, as I said I’ve seen a mix of some centralised services and some small countries with local services combined.

Esteban Carril: We’re serving Argentina, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil. My team is divided into three functional areas, in two countries. One team is working in Sao Paulo, Brazil; the other two functional teams are working here in Argentina. We run accounts payable, accounts receivable, credit and collections, billing, cash applications, payroll, commissions and bonuses. It’s actually not divided linguistically: we found we already had some good skills in Brazil to develop the credit and collections department there, so we decided to leave the existing group providing services there in Brazil, to provide services for the rest of the Latin American countries. We wanted to have three functio

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