by Joe Chappell
Nov 9 2011
Boyden, a global leader in executive search, just released its latest issue of the Boyden Leadership Series featuring an in-depth interview with Jaime Rivera, Director & CEO of Banco Latinoamericano de Comercio Exterior, S.A. (Bladex) (NYSE:BLX).
In the interview, Mr. Rivera discusses the impact of the Information Revolution on Latin America – a prospective super potent Americas trading bloc, his unconventional views on Chinese competition, opportunities for long-term growth, intangible qualities needed in executives and how becoming a pilot trained him to navigate risks on the ground.
Boyden: Are we now seeing a “coming of age” for Latin America and will the future be even brighter?
Rivera: The answers are yes, and yes. Latin America has come of age both in terms of sound macroeconomic management and also how Latin Americans view their future. The Information Revolution has had a profound effect on our people’s expectations and enabled them to make
much better choices regarding political, investment and consumption decisions. Large segments of our population have now had the opportunity to experience the very real and significant benefits of democracy, free speech and open markets. I don’t think there’s any going back at this point.
Boyden: What do you believe brings countries to reach this success?
Rivera: I am a firm believer in the power of information. Once the Internet allowed Latin Americans to see for themselves which political and economic frameworks tended to work best, they abandoned the ideologies of the left and the right and became pragmatists. A number of political leaders embraced this new approach and formulated centrist, credible visions for their countries. Not surprisingly, they were elected into office. In most cases, they executed along the lines they had promised, with the results that we have seen in the last decade in terms of significant economic and social progress.
Boyden: Can you elaborate on that?
Rivera: Different countries reached different visions of their futures and executed on them. In Chile, for instance, a decision was made by society that, beyond their political differences, their country was going to become an extremely efficient export machine and that the wealth thus generated would provide the resources needed to improve their standard of living. In Panama, as another example, people agreed on the idea of a country that would be geared around exploiting the competitive advantages of its privileged geographic position to become one of the most important logistics and service centers on the planet. Similar social consensus is being reached in an increasing number of countries in the region. Where such consensus hasn’t yet emerged -- some countries in Central America and in the Andean region, for example -- progress is taking place at a slower pace.
Boyden: What do you see in the future of Mexico as a key market?
Rivera: I believe that the Mexico’s strategic fundamentals are so strong that it will not only remain a key player within Latin America’s economic context, but it will also become increasingly important on the world stage. There are a number of reasons why I think this way. First, Mexico has a fairly large domestic market, which provides it with an effective buffer against the market volatility that is likely to be with us in the coming years. Secondly, Mexico has become the most industrialized economy in the region. And thirdly, Mexico is located right next door to the largest economy in the world. If you believe -- as I do -- that the US combines the greatest research and development capabilities in the world, a huge pool of natural resources, a large population, and solid institutions, then you have to conclude that it’s just a matter of time before the country recovers from its current problems. When that happens, Mexico will really take off.
Boyden: As a Guatemala native, should Central America be a bigger part of the conversation, at least outside the region?
Rivera: Although the Central American region did not suffer as much as did the rest of Latin America following the Lehman crisis, its recovery has not been as vigorous. That said, over the last nine months, our business in Central America has started to pick up rapidly again. Part of the reason, as we see it, is that companies from other countries in the region, such as Mexico, Colombia and Peru, are investing and expanding into Central America. But perhaps even more importantly, Central American companies themselves are becoming regional. Although on an individual country basis, Central America lacks scale, it is nonetheless an attractive regional market which will remain an important element of the integrated Latin American trade and investment flows.
Boyden: In five to ten years, what market in Latin America will surprise people?
Rivera: I think that Colombia will do even better than what people expect for a number of reasons: excellent government, lots of natural resources and a well educated and skilled business community, among others. I also believe that the country will succeed in its fight against terrorism -- no terror organization can succeed for long without the support of the population. The other surprise that I would “bank” on is Uruguay. While the country has a relatively small domestic market, it’s located smack in the middle of two regional giants: Brazil and Argentina. With its macroeconomic house increasingly in order, I have to believe that over the next decade Uruguay will find a way to integrate its economy with that of its large neighbors and thus do much better than currently expected.
Boyden: What are your thoughts on Argentina in the next five to ten years?
Rivera: Structurally, Argentina has tremendous advantages in the production of grains and energy, both of which are competitive and becoming increasingly important to the world. The country also enjoys the benefit of a large, educated population. Once Argentina normalizes its links with the international financial community, it can and will do very well.
The full interview with Mr. Rivera is available at www.boyden.com.
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