Interview: New LatAm Head Eduardo Almeida Has Unisys on Growth Trajectory in a More Digital Colombia
Unisys has been looking to expand its already significant position in Latin America, a region that the global company has been active in for nearly a century and currently accounts for around 10% of its revenue.
To support these efforts, the U.S. information technology and services company recently appointed Eduardo Almeida as its new vice president and general manager of Unisys for Latin America.
Photo: Eduardo Almeida, vice president and general manager of Unisys for Latin America. (Credit: Unisys)
Based in São Paulo, the former Cisco and Genesys executive will be looking for growth in a variety both the public and private sectors in a number of different verticals. To find out more, Finance Colombia Executive Editor Loren Moss recently sat down with Almeida to detail where these opportunities exist and what business segments are becoming the biggest priorities for Unisys in Latin America.
Loren Moss: First of all, welcome. Can you tell me a little bit about Unisys’ current presence in Latin America? Where are the strengths and weaknesses? Where are the opportunities, and where do you see areas that you can make an immediate impact?
Eduardo Almeida: Thank you very much, Loren, for the welcome. Yes, I’m very excited with this opportunity to join an amazing company with around 100 years of tradition in the Latin American region. As a matter of fact, Unisys has been present in Colombia for about 65 years, so we are not a new kid on the block. We know very much how to support the country’s needs to improve productivity, to improve education quality, and to better serve Colombia’s citizens.
I’m feeling very good because there are so many things to be done right now. I arrived to find an amazing organization, an amazing team here — not only in Colombia but across the region. We are excited to increase our presence in the region in the next fiscal year starting in January. In general, we believe that we can make a big difference in the verticals that we have. I would say that we have three pillars: the commercial space where we have different industries, financial services, and government. We want to believe that our solutions can really improve government metrics and our customers’ business outcomes across different industries.
When it comes to serving Colombian customers, we’ve been very successful here, not only with government, but especially in the financial sector business. We were very successful in the last couple of quarters closing new business, and we have had some customers here in the country for many, many years. We have contracts that have been in place for more than 20 years now, so we believe that customers are also valuing the relationship that they have with Unisys. And we have closed some important references here like Avianca and Exito, the supermarket, just to name a few. So the strategy has been successful.
Now, looking ahead, in terms of opportunity, we are right now putting together our strategic plan. We want Unisys Colombia to be a real Colombian company, so we are looking to further our presence here. We are looking at government opportunities with a more strategic approach — a mid- to long-term approach. We want to partner with government, not only in the traditional space of technology, but making sure that in the long run — and I mean three or five years from now — we have a more valuable presence in the country.
Loren Moss: What are some specific types of initiatives that may be in the future?
“Argentina is really considering technology and digitalization as a country strategy. And, for the first time, we see Colombia having a digital agenda in terms of government.” – Eduardo Almeida
Eduardo Almeida: Helping the government to improve citizens’ experience dealing with technology in public services in the country will make a big difference to us. When we see investment in space like digital cities, Internet of Things (IoT), and Big Data analytics, a company like Unisys can serve this country better by being close to government agencies and offering the best technology to allow government to leverage those services to the citizens. So, this is pretty much what we are considering here: How we are segmenting the industry.
We are digging a little bit deeper in terms of knowing what the country’s aspirations are and determining how Unisys can play a relevant role in supporting those aspirations to make them a reality. I know this is a pretty 30,000-feet-deep perspective, but this is where we are going now.
Loren Moss: Understood. Now, you mentioned having a bigger presence in Colombia, and it’s interesting because Unisys, if I’m not mistaken, you have a “Development and Excellence Center” there in Bogotá. And, here outside of Medellin, in Rionegro, you have, an operations center that — at least the the last time I was there — has around 400 people. But I think that you have expanded and grown that operation since then. Am I correct?
Eduardo Almeida: You are right and you are very precise. We do have this presence in Rionegro and Medellín. We are expanding that, and we are expanding based on the contracts we have closed recently with some customers. Some of them were mentioned to you previously, and they reflect the expansions that we are making Rionegro and in Medellín.
Now, as far as Bogota, we are kicking up the presence, which is more connected to the financial services industry. We are just hiring two guys here to help us expand business in this vertical — a cornerstone to Unisys in Colombia. So, yes, we are expanding. But more than that, what we are doing now is to realign our organization, which is pretty big. You can imagine. We have 1,200 people working in Colombia today for Unisys.
So we are no longer talking only about enterprise computing — we are talking about mobility, we are talking about cloud services, application services, we are talking about Big Data analytics. And we need to serve our customers in these different technologies, with these different technologies, according to their demands. We are making sure that we invest our talent where our customers expect Unisys to invest. We see this big market transition now.
For a company like us with such a big investment in the country, and our number of people, it’s not very easy to turn around the organization to reposition those technologies as a company priority. But we are doing that right now, and hopefully we are going to close this very soon. Maybe by the end of this calendar year, we’re going to have all the organization in place to invest even more communication in those technologies.
Loren Moss: If we look beyond Colombia. If we look at Latin America and you have your big six economies — Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, and Peru — where are the emerging markets here in the neighborhood? What countries are you seeing growth in that maybe are newly-emerging beyond those “traditional” players?
Eduardo Almeida: The point is we should also position this in a different perspective: Which country has a digital agenda? In government, it is important to have a minister responsible for digital strategy or digital inclusion, right? So, we can go with very few countries.
“We do have this presence in Rionegro and Medellín. We are expanding that, and we are expanding based on the contracts we have closed recently with some customers.” – Eduardo Almeida
Now we see that Argentina — and I was just there — has meetings between customers and government. We see that Argentina is really considering technology and digitalization as a country strategy. And, for the first time, we see Colombia having a digital agenda in terms of government. Argentina is doing well in this regard. I think they are ahead of the curve. Peru is also a big surprise and doing great in terms of having a digital strategy. Now, of course the penetration is very high in Chile compared to other countries because they started 10 years ago. So, it is not new to them. So, those are the countries that we see.
Mexico, depending on where you are, is also a very interesting opportunity to us, particularly in the public sector. In the financial sector we understand that Colombia has the largest market after Mexico. Now, Brazil is suffering big time because of the crisis that happened a couple of years ago. The country is starting to emerge again, so probably there are some analysts that are saying that the country’s GDP will be positive in calendar-year 2017, which will be a big surprise. Even though it’s low, it still is positive.
Another thing is that both Colombia and Brazil will have federal elections next year, and we also know that when you have such elections, the government itself starts to redesign some of the priorities that they have. And we understand that the second half of 2018 will be more exciting in terms of technology adoption by government, mainly because elections will be part of the past, and in the new administration we need to start investing and executing.
Loren Moss: Last question: I think that one advantage of living there in the Southern Cone is that you’re closer to wine country. Are there any particular labels or viñas that you’re drinking this year that you would recommend picking up?
Eduardo Almeida: Absolutely! We should have more time to talk about that whenever you go to Chile and Argentina. There are so many great wine producers there. And I will tell you something, when I joined Unisys — I started October 2 — I decided to take a few days off in order to recharge my battery in Mendoza.
On my trip to Mendoza, I had a quick pitstop in our office in Buenos Aires. I had meetings with the local people there, without even presenting myself. I just said, “I’m the new employee here, so tell me a little bit about what you guys do here.” It was so interesting, because they welcomed me as a big fan without knowing that I was becoming the new person responsible for operations. And then I went to Mendoza. How familiar are you with Mendoza? Have you been there?
Loren Moss: That’s the heart of malbec country. Their malbec is as good as in Spain.
Eduardo Almeida: Yeah, exactly. They’re very good. I like the Viña Cobos producer very much. It belongs to a guy called Paul Hobbs, who is a great producer in California and who also has vineyards in Romania. He produces Mendoza. So Mendoza is good, and of course, Chile is in my heart in terms of wines. I like the carménere. I think that early in 2018, we’re going to get together here again to celebrate the New Year. We’re going to have to have a wine together here in Colombia.