STRATEGIC PARTNERS

Costa Rica 2018 | TELECOMS & IT | B2B

As technologies are rewarding those who can best play the disruptive game of leapfrog, only those providing clients with the best mix of groundbreaking solutions will survive.

Alberto Mainieri
ALBERTO MAINIERI
Country Operations Manager
IBM
Hernando Segura
HERNANDO SEGURA
General Manager
Cognitiva

What kind of demand is there in Costa Rica for your services?

Alberto Mainieri We are a delivery center that provides technology and business services for our clients across the Americas and Europe, supporting business process outsourcing for finance and accounting, human resources, procurement, supply chain, and recruiting. We also do outsourcing for IT services such as cloud, data center support, IT infrastructure management and cyber security, and we provide shared services (internal support for IBM). From our delivery center, we support clients in the Americas and to a smaller extent, Europe. About 80% of our operation is in English while the other 20% is in Spanish and Portuguese.

Hernando Segura Jumping from the health sector, the banking industry is probably one of the ripest areas for disruptive solutions because banks are already aware of how their world is changing due to the changing needs of consumers, among them millennials, who are destined to trigger new behavior for any consumer-oriented company. Fintech companies are born to cope with new customer requirements, and we find many solutions there that are going to challenge the way banks make decisions. It has been said that more than 60% of annual expenses of banks is devoted to maintaining physical branches. However, less than 12% of the interactions that consumers make with their banks take place inside these. Therefore, there is a mismatch in terms of services provided and what customers want. More and more customers want mobile-based interaction, whether on their smartphone or laptop. Banks already know that their role as an intermediary is going to decrease in importance.

Does Costa Rica have what it takes to survive in the new digital era?

AM In terms of providing services, the country is well equipped and has the capability to develop the right technical skills and professionals to succeed. To be sure, the private sector and public institutions need to work together with the education sector to develop programs and support schools, technical high schools, and universities to get the young population excited about technology, analytics and engineering careers and have the right curricula to prepare them for the jobs of the future. That being said, human capital is our most important asset. Costa Rica's educational base is excellent and, considering that we do significant in-house training at IBM, is crucial. Besides hiring people with master's degrees, we also hire entry-level positions with basic skills and knowledge, and train them with the required skills. In recent years, we have established several partnerships with universities to support the development of both current and future technical skills in fields such as data science, security, and cloud. In doing so, we are contributing to the development of the country and its resources. We want to encourage students in the first few years of high school to choose engineering, mathematics, or technology careers, especially women. Today, there are about five jobs in the IT market for every person studying IT. The services sector is the fastest growing sector in Costa Rica, surpassing even tourism as a source of revenue for the country.

HS Not only does Costa Rica have it all, but all of Latin America does as well. We have the benefit of witnessing new changes happening all over the world, and we are also smart. What is required is not only the skills, but also the will of general managers and directors, private companies, and government institutions to be disruptive. We can achieve a higher competitive advantage by making smart use of technology. That is probably the main trigger of the disruptive leapfrog in terms of the behavior of companies. People need to take decisions that lead to a change from the way we have been doing business in the past. That being said, we still have customers all across Central America—in Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic, not to mention many more in Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Mexico. Our revenue streams come from everywhere we work because we always have two types of customers: one that is already a leader and interested in maintaining their leadership in a particular area, and those who want to catch up with leaders and look to artificial intelligence to increase their value to do so.