THE HEART OF THE DIGITAL MATTER

Colombia 2018 | EXECUTIVE GUIDE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Marco Ribas, Executive President of Accenture Colombia, on connecting with the startup world, driving digitization, and remaining at the heart of every technological transformation.

Marco Ribas
BIOGRAPHY
A senior executive at Accenture, Marco Ribas graduated in mechatronics engineering from London University. Having successfully delivered various projects with an emphasis on operations improvement and operations technologies in metals, mining, and chemical industries, he has extensive experience in practice lead for Accenture, MES strategy and implementation, management consulting, and R&D project management.

What were some of Accenture Colombia's major accomplishments and challenges in 2017?

Accenture has been operating in Colombia for more than 10 years, during which our focus has expanded from the financial sector to consumer goods and natural resources. Accenture operates in more than 120 countries and thus has a very thorough selection procedure on where to invest. Accenture selected Colombia as a key country for our investments in Latam because we are convinced about the potential of Colombia. Since I arrived here a few years ago and took over, the company has grown and increased investment, and we are now focused on recruiting the best talent in the country. While Accenture is well connected to the start-up ecosystem in other countries, it is a new step for the company in Colombia. Our goal is to connect the start-up world with the biggest companies in Colombia by promoting Open Innovation concepts that have already worked for Accenture in other countries.

What are the main challenges in terms of digital transformation?

Colombia has huge potential to improve processing and the consumer experience; in a word, there is great potential for better client services. The market is mainly dependent on call centers with a physical presence for client contact. However, we see that Colombia can and will overcome other markets due to the availability of easily implementable technology and connectivity.

The World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) has Accenture as a partner for its new platform, DigiLab. How is Accenture Colombia involved in this partnership?

There are two aspects of the partnership with IFC: Colombia's use of financial products lags behind that of the majority in Latin America, and only around 30% of Colombians have access to traditional banking product. Greater access to banks makes it easier to reduce money laundering, corruption, tax evasion, and informality. The initiative is aimed at helping countries in Latam, including Colombia, make better use of digital in the financial sector. Cultural barriers also need to be addressed since traditional institutions will need to work closely with fintech. To overcome this, Accenture is working with several banks on concepts such as frictionless payments that will allow cell phone payments without a need for physical credit cards or traditional bank accounts. Similar systems are already in place around the world, and there is huge potential for Colombia, where 50 million people own more than 50 million cell phones.

What are the main innovation trends you see coming up in Colombia over the next five years?

An established and strong ecosystem for start-ups is definitely one, and external investment in the country is growing year after year. Comparatively, the start-up ecosystem in Israel allowed us to attract large investments from big companies. Colombia's ecosystem needs to gain size and strength to join the current innovation wave. Another upcoming trend is the transformation of the customer experience through much better support.

What industries will grow the most in 2018?

There is the usual feeling of uncertainty due to the imminent presidential elections, but growth prospects in Colombia are imminent. We upgraded our investments after analyzing the country's underlying fundamentals over the past 10 years. In the face of declining oil prices, Colombia managed to address its deficit concerns in an exemplary way. Its strong local market boasts one key characteristic in the region: its dependency on external consumption ranks. For this reason, it is more immune to external shocks, such as fluctuating oil prices.

What main targets and goals are you setting for Accenture Colombia in 2018?

Our prime target is to be at the heart of the country's digital transformation and all the other transformations surrounding the use of new technology. Accenture Colombia wants to participate with all actors and help Colombia. Similar to other countries where we operate, we are about to open a Center for Innovation and Technology in Medellín because we believe in the talent of Colombians and the strength of its domestic companies.