“There is an excellent opportunity to attract more investment to the Global Services sector in Uruguay and grow.”

Organized by Uruguay XXI, the first Uruguay Global Services Day brought together more than 100 local and international industry players.
Publication date: 11/10/2023

With more than 100 local and international players in the Global Services sector, Uruguay XXI held the first Uruguay Global Services Day.

According to the Executive Director of the investment, export, and country brand promotion agency, Sebastián Risso, the services sector in Uruguay has grown steadily over the last 15 years and currently represents almost 30% of the country’s exports. “This shows Uruguay’s level of development, as the most advanced countries have an increasing proportion of services in their export alternatives. These exports are proliferating; data from the Central Bank of Uruguay show an increase of 11% in the first half of the year”, he said at the beginning of the day.

The Investment Promotion and Aftercare Manager, Alejandro Ferrari, presented the most relevant figures of the sector -which has 665 companies, generates nearly 33,000 jobs, and exports US$ 6 billion- as well as a detailed analysis of the international centers (operations of more than 20 employees of foreign companies); a segment that accounts for 15% of the total number of companies and 60% of the employment in the global services sector.

These international firms set up their regional headquarters, shared services centers, trading activities -often shared with regional distribution centers-, ICT centers of excellence, and other activities. “There is a sequentiality of investments in this sector and companies that combine different platforms,” Ferrari clarified.

The primary origin of these operations is the United States (more than 30%), followed by Argentina, Switzerland, Canada and Brazil. More than 95% of the international centers were installed in the last 20 years, with a higher rate in the previous decade. Likewise, the sector’s dynamism was reflected in an increase of approximately 60% in employment, comparing 2023 with 2017.

Uruguay is talent, stability, and certainties

During the meeting, a panel of companies and the government testified about why international companies chose Uruguay to provide services to the region and the world. The conference brought together the Director of Economic Policy of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), Marcela Bensión, with the Country Lead of Mercado Libre Uruguay, Patricia Blanco, the Managing Director of Hub Montevideo BASF, Patricia Nunes, and the Vice President, Finance & Managing Director of Sabre Uruguay, Guillermo Prosper.

Blanco recalled that Mercado Libre is a Latin American company that originated in Argentina and has been operating in Uruguay for over ten years. The proximity represented an obvious opportunity to establish itself, but growth was based on other variables. Although they started with a user service center operation, they currently have a team of more than 1,800 people, of which more than 1,100 develop products and technology for the entire region.

“A few years ago, we saw that we could find qualified talent and a legally secure place in Uruguay. So we started by affinity, but we grew because it is a market with good talent,” Blanco said.

Mercado Libre has doubled the number of people working in Uruguay in the last three years.

“We see a country in which we want to continue growing. We value the context of certainty and tranquility it offers, added to the tax benefits and the possibility of hiring talent that generates good productivity and has a cultural affinity with other countries,” she said.

The case of BASF, the world’s largest chemical industry of German origin, is similar. They landed in the country in 2014 with a focus on financial services and 14 people employed, 10 of whom remain with the company, and currently employ more than 1,000 people to additionally provide Supply Chain, health, safety and environment, human resources, communication, digitalization, and technology services to subsidiaries in its other 18 markets.

“Why Uruguay? Because of the quality of the people and talents. Our goal was to provide quality services within the company, and the choice was a success,” Nunes evaluated.

In closing the panel, Nunes added that the Global Services sector in Uruguay has an excellent opportunity to continue growing.

“We have the support of the government, the figure of Uruguay XXI to promote us, and the players have an obvious objective, to make the sector grow and attract more investment to Uruguay,” he said.

Sabre’s representative, Guillermo Prosper, said that the company has been working from Uruguay for about 20 years when the phenomenon of offshoring companies to reduce costs was beginning to consolidate. He explained that they chose Uruguay because of its legal certainty and security.

“Here, contracts are respected, there are clear rules of the game; the country has the best index in terms of democratic quality and a very low level of corruption in the system. These are fundamental values for companies in terms of the certainty that comes from planning a very long-term investment,” she stressed.

To close the panel, the Director of Economic Policy of the MEF, Marcela Bensión, mentioned the undeniable relevance of the agribusiness sector in Uruguay and the attention it receives but reflected on the role that Global Services are currently playing. “They have been growing enormously, and you can see their leap in exports. This sector is important because it generates quality employment with good remunerations, activity level, and export currencies and diversifies the country’s export matrix and destinations. Advanced countries are strong buyers of Uruguayan services, and this is very important for our economy”, he concluded.

The activity closed with two presentations for companies in the sector, one by the executive director for Latin America of Chazey Partners, Esteban Carril, and the project director, Ezequiel Rizzo, who discussed the evolution, maturity, and trends of Global Service Centers. The activity was closed by Borja Castelar, former Director of LinkedIn for Latin America and Corporate Trainer, who gave a talk on talent retention and development.