Tomorrow's leaders today: Latin America's future CEOs do not travel alone.

Author:Guevara, Michelle
Position:Dream Teams

Francisco Garza Zambrano is on his way to achieving the ultimate goal: CEO of the company. At 46 years old, he is running one of the biggest divisions of global cement giant Cemex after being part of an aggressive takeover team in charge of multimillion dollar acquisitions from Venezuela to Panama over the past decade. "You need a lot of people to achieve certain goals," says the president of the North American region.

Like Garza Zambrano and his team, the next generation of leaders in Latin America lurks just under the CEO level. These potential chief executive officers are learning through hands-on experience in high-pressure situations to lead subsidiaries and divisions. Perhaps most important, the region's top players travel in groups of at least twos and threes, according to a LATIN TRADE survey of the world's top executive search firms.

LATIN TRADE asked experts at Amrop Hever, Boyden Worldwide Network. Korn/Ferry International, Mariaca & Associates, Russell Reynolds and Spencer Stuart to name executives in Latin America with the potential to climb to the highest rung of the corporate ladder. The region's up-and-coming CEOs have made it to regional VP, country manager or CFO, among other positions, but have not yet nailed the job of head honcho.

Our survey's results show overwhelmingly that the region's future bosses have one trait in common: They do not travel alone. Almost 200 executives were nominated, but we narrowed the field based on companies with the highest concentration of nominees. Fifteen companies account for 40 of the region's future leaders.

"Teams are not just created for the purpose of having good relations, but rather to develop a common vision on how to resolve a problem and be successful," says Mateo Budinich, general director for the Americas for Telefonica Data.

Size matters. Nearly 40% of this year's future top executives work for Mexican operations. "Mexico has the benefit of being the largest and most stable economy in Latin America," says J. Steven Bartley of the Amrop Hever Group. Mexico also has the advantage of being the only country in Latin America to have free trade with the United States. This gives executives in Mexico a different business perspective and a new way to look at a company's growth.

Executives at Brazilian companies fill out our top squads, but Mexicans tend to dominate. Bartley says that's because Brazil-based managers transfer to new positions less easily than executives in the rest of Latin America. Language is one barrier, but Brazilians also tend to focus on just Brazil, and less on the regional perspective.

Some industries attract more budding stars than others. Professional services, information technology and financial services tied for top votes, accounting for three companies each and more than half of the 15 executive squads in the survey.

"There is great talent in every company:' says Bonnie Crabtree, office managing director at Korn/Ferry International. "Some are better than others at identifying and developing it."

Sabritas has clearly created a CEO-generating system. The Mexican unit of snack food giant Frito-Lay swept the competition away. Five of its executives occupy spots on our list, more than any other company in Latin America. It has achieved profitable growth, helping the company's international division to achieve a 3% increase in sales and 21% jump in profits during the first nine months of 2002.

Pablo Lagos, chief operating officer at Sabritas, says the company hires lots of leaders to manage rapid growth. "The level of intensity with which Sabritas seeks growth...attracts people who are looking for personal growth," says Lagos.

Sabritas does not always fill positions with existing employees. Instead, it recruits talent from other companies, including the parent company of Frito-Lay. PepsiCo. The Mexican company offers rapid career development based on proven results. "Many of the people who have left the larger organizations, such as PepsiCo ... have been key players for the smaller divisions" like Sabritas, Lagos says.

Acquisition transitions. Lagos left PepsiCo to help Frito-Lay build a snack-food market for the company in Spanish-speaking South America. After taking part in the acquisition and turnaround of Chile's Barcel, formerly a unit of Mexico's Bimbo, and of Venezuela's Savoy, purchased from Empresas Polar, he is now at the company's high-flying international unit, Sabritas.

Like Sabritas, Banco Santander Central Hispano has used teamwork to help manage acquisitions. Santander acquired Banco de Venezuela, the country's leading bank, for $351 million in 1996 and Banca Serfin, Mexico's third-largest bank, for $1.5 billion in 2000. The collaborative approach has made the Mexico and Venezuela units of Santander among its most top-performing businesses in Latin America. According to Gonzalo Echeandia, communications director at Banco Santander Central Hispano in Madrid, the company's...

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