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Citi Executives Share Experience and Tips on Doing Business in Latin America

January 30, 2013
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Pictured, from left to right: Driss Temsamani, Daniella Quintero, and Oscar Mazza

With Latin America becoming an important growth market, global companies such as Citi have shifted their focus to understanding this developing market to aid its expansion.

To discuss the challenges of business in Latin America, Citi partnered with the Strictly Business, a club at the School of Business, and the Latin American Business Association to host a session on “Leveraging Global Business & Career Opportunities in Latin America” in January.

Citi Group has been involved in Latin America for more than 100 years, with offices there since the financing of the Panama Canal.

“We have the right combination of being an international bank with all of the technology and advances of being global, and the experience of being a local bank in many of these countries,” said Oscar Mazza, managing director, cluster head for the LATAM Region and head of client sales management for the consumer and health care sectors at Citibank. 

It was not until the last decade, however, that the area has shown a significant amount of growth.

“In the last five to eight years, Latin America has been doing extremely well,” said Mazza. “It was not in that position in the last 50 to 60 years. Meanwhile, if you are looking at the level of growth of GDP in Europe, the level of debt they have is very large.”

In addition to Mazza, panelists from Citi Transaction Services included Gordon Joost, regional business head, LATAM Bank Services Group; Driss Temsamani, marketing director; and Daniella Quintero, assistant vice president and regional client sales manager.

The panelists discussed the obstacles they face in determining the expectations of an emerging market.

“One of the challenges we have is to forecast the future,” said Temsamani. “Latin America shows great trends and a very healthy environment for growth, but we constantly see reverse effects because of what is happening in Europe and other parts of the world.”

Another challenge that Citi has is that its offices in 24 different Latin American countries all have diversified cultures that present different issues.

“It is difficult because the region is not as integrated as it should be,” said Temsamani. “As a regional office, you need to adapt to all of the country’s cultures and their ways of doing business.”

In addition to having to understand one other, it is critical that the Latin American offices are able to translate to abroad offices their market’s environment, said Mazza.

Other speakers at the event included John Mezias, associate professor of management; Bill Fisse (BBA '75, MBA '77), senior HR officer, Citi Transaction Services; as well as a panel of Citi professionals from the LATAM Regional Office based in Miami.

Fisse says the most important thing to keep in mind when working as an expatriate is to remember that you are part of a global business.

“You need to bring a global mindset,” said Fisse. “You need to be comfortable as an American walking into a Latin American office and figuring out those global nuances.”

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