The Nearshore Executive Alliance (NEA) recently interviewed Francisco Camargo (FC), Head of Citi Shared Services in Costa Rica. The conversation happened a few days after Citi announced the investment of $35 million dollars in their new center to be built in San Jose and will be called “Campus Citi”.
NEA: When did Citi first open its captive center in Costa Rica?
FC: Citi has been operating in Costa Rica for 45 years. On February 2008 Citi decided to expand its presence and operations in the country by opening a Shared Services Center that today employs more than 900 people and as it was recently announced, the Center will hire 800 professionals during the next 2 years in Costa Rica.
NEA: If you could summarize it, what would you say have been the key success factors for your operations in the country?
FC: There are several success factors but TALENT is one of the most relevant. We have a mix of international plus local talent in a very solid relationship. Also, the partnership and support of the Government and other companies in the market has been important. We can also mention stability and political environment, strategic location, connectivity with the US and Latin America.
NEA: How would you qualify the human resource element, in terms of education, availability, certifications, language skills, attrition rates, and costs?
FC: The human resource element in Costa Rica is among the best in Latin America. INCAE, for example, a local Business Administration University, has one of the best MBAs in the world and it is associated to Harvard Business School. INCAE is a source of good talent for us and it is located in Costa Rica.
We have found a vast talent pool of financial analyst or BP&A professionals but we have a bigger challenge trying to find bilingual CPAs. In terms of language skills, local Call Centers look forward to get English, Spanish and Portuguese workforces. French and German speakers are not very demanded.
In terms of attrition, rates range in the lower teens, even though, this is better than the average in the country. Costs are still competitive compared to North America, Latin America and Europe. Manila in Asia remains more competitive than Costa Rica.
NEA: How would you define the quality of life in the country (cultural compatibility, environmental conditions, business and entertainment facilities, etc.)?
FC: Several studies highlight Costa Rica as the happiest place in the world. Costa Rican professionals are very hard working and tend to have enjoyable life styles. Costa Rica is a ‘green country’; surrounded by mountains, forests, and beaches. Environmental awareness is an important topic on every company’s social responsibility agenda in the country. In terms of business facilities, there are high and low costs. In terms of entertainment, San Jose (the capital city) has very good dining options with local and international cuisine, among other entertainment alternatives.
NEA: In your experience, have CINDE and the Costa Rican government been supportive of the investment and development of your center in the country?
FC: The relationship with CINDE and the Government is one of the key factors for Citi’s success in Costa Rica. The support, partnership and close relationship with CINDE and the government have been key for the development of our operations in the country, driving us to excellent results. A project which started back in 2008 with 24 employees is now growing to 1,600 employees by 2015.
NEA: What are the main challenges that you have encountered for your operations (immigration issues, lack of consistency on FTZ regulations, bureaucracy)?
FC: Bureaucracy and infrastructure remain as opportunities for improvement. Nevertheless, the fact that the telecommunications industry has further developed during the past years, has helped us to improve our service.