Nearshore Americas

Brazil’s IT Labor Gap: HSBC Struggles to Fill Global Services Center

By Edileuza Soares

A lack of skilled labor in IT has become one of the biggest problems in Brazil,  where research indicates that there is a current shortfall of about 70,000 professionals. A majority of domestic and export oriented service providers have jobs available but are unable to find the right people to sustain their growth because of the country’s sizzling economy. One such example – HSBC Global Technology Brazil (GLTB) – is scouring Brazil for talent to fill the 300 vacancies made available in October. As of yet 235 are still unfilled. There is no lack of candidates but few are able to meet the requirements for the jobs.

In operation in Brazil since 2006 GLTB was the third global offshore of the British bank outside Asia. The other two were opened in India and China. A fourth was inaugurated in August in Malaysia. The Brazilian market was chosen because of its ability in bank technology, considered to be one of the best in the world.

These centers were set up to cater for the IT demand of HSBC, one of the biggest groups in the financial sector in the world market, with headquarters in London and operating in almost 90 countries. The Brazilian GLT provides services for England, France, U.S, Canada, Hong Kong and other countries in Latin America.

Located in Curitiba, the capital of Paraná State, in the south of the country, the Center received an initial investment of US$7 million  to set up in one of the most developed cities in Brazil and which boasts a good quality of life. The city  has more than three million inhabitants and serves as an offshore destination for multinationals such as Accenture, Nokia, Siemens and Wipro.

Depocas: “The Brazilian DNA includes flexibility, creativity, the “Brazilian way”, adaptability, and a capacity to think “out of the box” and to get on well with people from all over the world”

The HSBC Center is driven by the Colombian business administrator and son of Canadian parents, Jacques Depocas, 47, who has been based in Brazil since 1993. With no background in IT he worked in the bank for ten years and in 2006 was named CEO of GLTB. He is also responsible for operations in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Guangzhou (China), along with Pune and Hyderabad (India).

Depocas began 2010 with a team of 450 people and ended the year with double that. He expects his team to grow to over 1,000 in 2011. In an exclusive interview with Nearshore Americas he spoke of the challenges involved in maintaining growth in their operations in Brazil with the shortage of skilled labor and his plans to freeze the advance of India.

What is the biggest difficulty you face in hiring professionals ?

Depocas: The market is hot and as such many firms are hiring. Another challenge is persuading candidates from outside to come and live in Curitiba because they don’t know that this is a great place to live.  The good thing once they move is that they are unanimous in their praise.

What kind of professional profiles are you looking for?

Depocas: We are searching for professionals of all types of profiles: senior, juniors and trainees for almost all technologies and platforms such as mainframe, Java, IT Security, IT Operations (Unix, DB2, etc.), Business Intelligence and AS 400/RPG.

Where do you normally recruit talent?

Depocas: The market in Curitiba is small and today we are hiring professionals from all over Brazil. As well as the interior of Parana, we are recruiting people from the cities of Recife (PE), Brasilia (DF), Porto Alegre (RS), Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Sao Paulo (SP), Florianopolis (SC), etc.

How is GLTB trying to overcome the lack of English fluency?

Depocas: Finding IT professionals fluent in the English language is one of our biggest challenges. I have been in Brazil for several years and everyone I met has studied English for many years but, unfortunately, the majority are still unable to speak. We encourage staff to constantly practice their English inside the company. It is better to practice among friends and lose ones fear before having to speak to clients.

What are the biggest attributes of Brazilian talent?


Depocas: Technically they are every bit as good as the Indians and Chinese. The biggest differential is in the Brazilian DNA, that includes flexibility, creativity, the “Brazilian way”, adaptability, and a capacity to think “out of the box”, to get on well with people from all over the world. Another differential is that the majority of Brazilians enter the work market at an earlier age. The professionals of GLTB are on average 27 yrs old and have seven years experience. In India and China people only begin work after they graduate which is something rare in Brazil. As many collaborators begin work at 18 they are more mature and self-confident than their Indian and Chinese counterparts of the same age. They are also more versatile which always impresses clients.

Could the lack of talent in Brazil result in you hiring professionals from India or other markets?

Depocas: There is no lack of talent in Brazil. There is a lack of training aimed at the needs and opportunities of the present market. We don’t expect to have to bring professionals from abroad to work permanently in Brazil. Up to now 100% of our employees were contracted in Brazil.

How do you work to retain high quality talent in your Brazil operations?

Depocas: A combination of elements help to keep our talents. One of them is that the culture of our enterprise is focused on people and on an excellent organizational environment. We also have a policy of promoting from within, whenever possible. We invest heavily in training as we need to enable our collaborators to grow inside the company.

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of operations in Brazil in comparison to GLTs in India and China?

Depocas: The advantages of Brazil are several: the “Brazilian DNA” mentioned previously, the geographical proximity and small time difference to North America, Latin America and Europe and the low turnover of workers. Brazil has a mature and sophisticated IT industry. The main disadvantages today are our lack of competitiveness with these countries due to the strength of our currency (Real) as well as the high costs of worker’s taxes that makes our hourly-rates expensive.

How does HSBC Group intend to maintain growth in China and India, while prioritizing operations in Brazil?

Depocas: All multinational groups work to minimize their concentration of risk, and for this reason distribute their activities and operations among several regions. This also happens at HSBC. The objective of the HSBC Group is to have trained teams in each of our four centers to provide support to vital systems of HSBC. For this reason we are prioritizing growth in the smaller centers of Brazil and Malaysia, which began their operations in August and already have 220 collaborators.

What would you like the President-elect of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff to do to increase IT offshore operations?

Depocas – Brazil is suffering from a lack of competitiveness due to the high cost of workers. The Brazilian government could help industry by offering greater tax relief. GLT Brazil is a part of the Brazilian Association of Companies of Information and Communication Technology (Brasscom), that presented several projects to improve our competitiveness. We hope to see this approved.

Kirk Laughlin

Kirk Laughlin is an award-winning editor and subject expert in information technology and offshore BPO/ contact center strategies.

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