BRAVO BUSINESS AWARDS 2018: Awarded by Council of the Americas.

 
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ISABEL DE SAINT MALO

VICE PRESIDENT AND MINISTER OF FOREIGN RELATIONS, PANAMA

EDUARDO TRICIO HARO

CHAIRMAN, GRUPO LALA

CARLOS MARIO GIRALDO

CEO, GRUPO EXITO

FABIO SCHVARTSMAN

CEO, VALE

EUGENIO VON CHRISMAR

CEO, BCI

PATRICIA MENENDEZ-CAMBO

VICE CHAIR, GREENBERG TRAURIG

BRAVO INNOVATIVE LEADER OF THE YEAR

ISABEL DE SAINT MALO

PANAMA VICE PRESIDENT AND MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Persevering, hard-working, organized, impatient, and devoted to her family Panama's vice president and minister of foreign affairs, Isabel de Saint Malo, is perhaps the woman with the most extensive public career in her country.

She has been the alternate ambassador to the United Nations in New York, and for 15 years was country manager for Panama for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

De Saint Malo's role in promoting avant-garde public policies has made her the 2018 winner of the BRAVO Business Award as Innovative Leader of the Year. "In the foreign ministry alone, we have completed the automation and digitization of 10 citizens' services and internal procedures," she told Latin Trade. "This has enabled us to have traceability, greater transparency and more efficiency in processing all the services we provide."

During her career, the graduate in international relations has promoted programs to ensure the accountability and modernization of Panama's public services. Probably the most satisfying of all her achievements is having spearheaded an initiative that resulted in a law requiring that women make up at least 30% of directors on the boards of state-run enterprises.

"Being in this position made me even more aware of the extent of gender inequality in leadership roles in Panama," she said. Since joining the government, she has been committed to reduce that inequality and creating more opportunities for women.

Perhaps her biggest challenge has been to balance home life and work. This has driven her to highlight the importance of family support. "Just as men need support from home to achieve their professional goals, men are also in a position to support the women to achieve theirs," she said.

De Saint Malo draws special satisfaction from having actively participated in national discussions aimed at rebuilding democracy and contributing to her country's development agenda.

"The key is to succeed in establishing a dialog where the parties are willing to arrive at agreement without trying for unanimity, and with a mediator who is able to build these bridges and identify common ground in the midst of the differences," she said. "Sometimes we forget that it is important to listen. In the process of seeking consensus, if you don't understand the reasoning behind the rest of the positions, it's hard to be able to get an agreement that addressses these concerns."

As foreign minister, de Saint Malo has had to handle one of Panama's most complex crises in the international arena: the misnamed, in her opinion, Panama Papers.

"It was a tough and unfair blow to my country's image, and we are still dealing with it today," she said. Facing up to it requires a joint effort by state institutions, from the political and diplomatic to trade, finance, and image-shaping.

"Being conscious that our development depends on this, we have prioritized an agenda of transparency and the battle against corruption, making way for empowering citizens to achieve what is a central issue in the agenda of the nation, and not only of the government," she said.

Her years at the UNDP left their mark on her homeland. Panama was one of the first countries to commit itself to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopting them as a national standard and developing a vision that looks ahead to 2030.

Panama was also one of the first countries in Latin America to adopt the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which has enabled authorities to identify and measure the population's most important needs, and to redirect policies accordingly.

Despite De Saint Malo's achievements, she admits to sometimes feeling frustrated. "The slowness of the institutional processes prevents us from moving forward as fast as we would like," she said

While this challenges her patience, she has come to realize that the results will be more tangible in the medium and long term. "And that's all right, because what we want is sustainability," she said.

PILAR VARGAS REPORTED FROM CARTAGENA.

BRAVO CEO OF THE YEAR

FABIO SCHVARTSMAN

CEO VALE

Fabio Schvartsman has notched up a string of successes since taking over as CEO of Vale in May last year. Output and earnings are up, debt is down, and the transformation of what he terms "this iconic company" is well under way.

At 64, he's at the peak of a career spanning four decades at companies with household names such as the Ultra Group and pulp and paper company Klabin. Though challenges at the helm of a leading multilatina, particularly during Brazil's political and economic storms, are greater than those he has faced in the past, Schvartsman is confident he's up to the task. "This 40-year experience has prepared me," he told Latin Trade.

To encourage teamwork, one of his first actions after taking charge was to tear down walls and locate all the directors in the same open-plan space on the top floor of the company's Rio de Janeiro headquarters. Their 20th-floor office overlooks the Guanabara Bay and commands views of the city's iconic sugar loaf mountain and statue of Christ the Redeemer.

Results of this and other innovations are clear. "We have created value for our shareholders thanks to an 80% increase in the value of the company recently. Our goal is to create a lot more value than any other mining company on the planet over the coming years," he said.

Vale is the world's largest iron ore producer (336.5 million tons last year), with total sales of $34 billion.

From the start, Schvartsman concentrated on capital allocation and cost reduction. "This was my first and most important focus," he said. The wide-ranging cost-cutting program...

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