Conversation with José da Penha Monteiro, Director of Stefanini in Spain
Though perhaps it is unknown to many in Europe, behind the Stefanini name is one of the leading Brazilian tech companies, a family business with 26,000 workers and presence in 42 countries.
Recognized in 2012 as the fourth most innovative company in Brazil, Stefanini began its activity in this country at the end of the 80s, with local projects for foreign multinationals present in the Brazilian market. After an initial expansion focused in Latin America, a region in which it is already the largest provider of technological services, it continued growing strongly abroad with the turn of the century, both organically and through acquisitions and Joint. This internationalization process has led the company to strong growth in the United States and, more recently, in Europe.
As is evident, there is a marked difference between the Brazilian and the European markets, Brazil being a younger and larger market. This has forced them to be creative to solve unique problems, such as those derived from inaccessibility. As the Director of Stefanini in Spain, José da Penha Monteiro, likes to say, need begets creativity.
Stefanini’s main clients are global companies present on all continents, though they also work with smaller companies in a wide range of sectors, and with the public sector, especially in Latin America. It is a company marked by its loyalty to its principles and to its clients – loyalty to their clients and their degree of satisfaction are part of the internal metrics they use. Employee allegiance to the company is also strong, as shown by their turnover rates, relatively low for the sector in which they work. In this sense, Stefanini attaches great importance to their main asset, their professionals and their talent.
They define themselves as problem solvers who are not mere software or hardware distributors, and they consider themselves “agnostic” in terms of technological solutions.
Arrival of Stefanini to Madrid and subsequent evolution
Stefanini came to Spain in 2003, when it decided to accompany their clients, especially in the financial sector. This journey was done in a more or less accidental fashion, a decision spurred in part also by the fascination that its founder, Marco Stefanini, had for Spain and for Madrid. To a certain extent, the company was trying at that time to approach the decision centres of the parent companies of its large clients in the region. This approach has perhaps limited their local growth and their recognition, being as they are better known among companies that already have a presence in Latin America than among local companies.
One of its first significant milestones in Spain was the signing in 2010 of a framework agreement with a North American multinational firm in Spain and Portugal to collaborate in the Spanish and Portuguese speaking markets, which marked its development in these countries in the following years. It came at a time when the decisions of the company in Europe were taken mainly from Brussels, a situation derived from the strong presence in that country of one of the large companies that they acquired in the United States.
Stefanini’s current commitment to Madrid, after years in which its strong growth in Latin America and North America made an orderly entry into Europe unfeasible, is due to its conviction that the time has come to turn Madrid into its spearhead in the continent. Although in the past the local activity of the company had depended on projects that were formalised outside the country, in 2016 it established a commercial office in Spain to try to also generate projects at the local level. Later on, in 2018, a unit was created for the Iberian market (Spain and Portugal), based in Madrid, and additional offices in Barcelona and Lisbon were opened, which set the stage for the arrival of José da Penha in the country.
Stefanini is very aware of what it has achieved in the last 30 years, and is very wary of damaging its reputation. Therefore, they are investing heavily in order to properly understand the European context, structure their operations for the continent adequately, and make their local presence more visible and known. The commercial activity does not worry them as much as providing an adequate operative structure for Europe that will allow Stefanini to continue accompanying those customers who already rely on them for their external expansion.
Why Madrid is so important for Stefanini
With regard to the future, Stefanini aims to find solutions in Brazil that can be adapted to Europe within a reasonable period of time, taking advantage of the structure and capabilities that the company has already developed. For the company it is important to properly understand each problem taking into account the particularities of local contexts, individual countries, their different idiosyncrasies and cultures. And in this process, Madrid can play a fundamental role, as an adaptation centre and opening to other European markets: in this sense it is more advantageous for the company to bring new developments to Europe through Spain, and from here to produce for the rest of countries. This implies in some way extending their original strategy, and going from helping European companies in their expansion to Latin America, to helping and accompanying Latin American companies in their expansion in Europe.
Stefanini also believes in the importance of transferring solutions from one sector to another. Thus, solutions implemented and tested in some sectors (e.g., financial services) can be perfectly applicable to others in which they are involved (e.g. industrial automation). And in this strategy, Madrid can be the concentration point of its vertical knowledge in Europe.
Stefanini considers Spain an especially strong player in some sectors where certain companies’ experiences can be replicated abroad. In their opinion, the sectors that a priori seem to offer greater opportunities abroad are banking and insurance, retail, which are highly developed and stronger than in other European countries, and Industry and automation, an area in which there is a significant gap in the levels of technology adoption according to company sizes, and Spain can help close that gap. Other sectors such as Tourism, very strong locally, offer business opportunities for them too, but not as a platform abroad, as solutions in this sector are more complex and difficult to extrapolate to other countries.
But, in this context, how can Stefanini’s renewed commitment to Madrid be explained, setting aside the founder’s great appreciation for this city?
According to Stefanini, Madrid represents an ideal communication and access point to the rest of Europe. Madrid is very respected by Europe according to the Brazilian perspective, being seen both as a point of entry and expansion of European companies to Latin America, and vice versa. Likewise, Latin American companies that are in Europe are also accessible from Madrid.
In addition, the level of technological expertise in Madrid is very high, and many of the solutions that they develop locally will be exported to the rest of Europe, increasing their exposure to the continent.
Finally, and perhaps the most relevant reason for Stefanini, is the local capacity to train specialized talent, which continues to be its fundamental “raw material”. In this sense, the high levels of specialization and quality and diversity of local professionals are a lot more important to Stefanini than their cost. They are convinced that Madrid can help them to find the necessary talent to face the cultural and digital changes that their clients are experiencing at present.
Today, Stefanini has no doubt that Spain represents not only a strong market for its expansion, but a strategic enclave: there is a clear window of opportunity, and Madrid’s ecosystem offers great potential.