THE GLOBAL DIP FOR TALENT

Costa Rica 2018 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Francisco Alba, Country Director of Fiserv, on becoming more strategic, developing a successful branding initiative, and dipping into the right talent pool.

Francisco Alba
BIOGRAPHY
Francisco Alba spent the first 10 years of his career in the IT industry, in addition to owning his own consulting firm. In 2000, he joined Procter and Gamble, later moved to HP, and finally joined Fiserv as its VP and Country Director in 2012.

Can you give us a brief synopsis of Fiserv and its operations in Costa Rica?

Fiserv was born in 1984 in Wisconsin and now has 23,000 associates and roughly 12,000 clients in 80 countries. Operations in Costa Rica began in 2004. It started as a small office, an extension of a team in the US providing basic services to regional banks. After some success the company started to grow, and a few years later we became part of Fiserv's Global Services division. As we grew, we not only supported Latin America but also began to do some software development and support for different parts of the globe. Right now, the Costa Rica division has over 600 associates. We offer product development, professional services, product support, infrastructure, as well as HR services for US associates and other clients.

Is the business continuing to grow here?

Yes, though it has slowed down in the last year and half for two main reasons. Costa Rica has become more expensive as a country and Fiserv has a large center in India. Nowadays, technology allows one to do everything from anywhere in the world. Therefore, it makes business and financial sense to use India more extensively. They have the talent, quality, and cost, so it is becoming more difficult to compete. The second reason is that rather than trying to do everything that we are asked to do, we are becoming more strategic and focusing on those services that can be better delivered from a near-shore location. We are looking to provide mostly higher value services, which are better done from here than India or other offshore centers.

What operation makes sense to keep here?

We are looking mostly at client-facing activities, which would benefit from Costa Rica having the same time zone as the US, as that allows us to service our clients during the day, whereas India's operations are good for non-time-zone dependent activities. Therefore, client-facing and daytime support are the main drivers. One more area we are evaluating is consumer support for some of our clients, which is something we do not have today.

Is the overall process of doing business in the country challenging?

We have a relatively positive environment, and there are solid institutions really trying to help new and existing businesses. We are in good shape today, which does not mean that we will not have challenges in the future, which there will always be. For instance, if we talk about talent, people tend to be very productive and committed in Costa Rica; that is what has gotten us to the point where we are today. We need more people with the skills required by the new global economy. We cannot take a kid out of college and put him in front of a vice president of a bank. This is not something that you can train in a few weeks; it requires experience and soft skills such as communication and leadership. And considering that Costa Rica's talent pool is rather small, this may become more of a challenge in the next 10-15 years.

Are your clients from Costa Rica?

They are mostly from the US, with some from Latin America—Mexico, Colombia, and Chile for the most part, in addition to some clients in the Caribbean. Recently, we have started to develop a team to sell our products and services in Costa Rica and facilitate further expansion in Latin America, so we will hopefully have a few local clients very soon.

Why do people choose to work with you?

We are not widely known because we are B2B: we sell to business institutions and white-label our products. Nobody sees our logo like IBM, or HP, or Citibank. When I joined, that was one of the greatest opportunities I had seen. So we started working on a branding initiative geared towards the IT community.