By: Ericka Campos, Manager, LATAM, Graebel
With 33 countries and a population of over 651 million people, Latin America (LATAM) is a growing region for global companies looking to expand or enter new markets. Encompassing Central America, South America and the Caribbean, LATAM is diverse with varied industries, economies, policies and practices to navigate.
That’s why we asked Ericka Campos, Graebel’s Latin America client manager, based in Costa Rica, to share her expert perspectives on LATAM’s mobility industry, including trends and advice for global companies. With over 15 years of relocation industry experience and as a native to the region, Ericka oversees Graebel’s LATAM supplier partnerships, operations and business development. Graebel has been helping companies relocate talent to and from the LATAM region for the last 30-plus years.
Describe the mobility industry in LATAM.
While all 33 countries within the region are culturally close, each is unique. There’s not a one-size-fits-all mobility approach because the countries have different labor laws, local governments and corporate structures. Global companies need to understand these to successfully conduct business and relocate talent.
The change in mobility volumes to and from LATAM are generally tied to the country’s political, socio-economic situation and key industries. For example, we’re seeing the greatest growth potential in Brazil and Mexico. Brazil is the LATAM epicenter with industries that we support including automobiles, agriculture, steel, petrochemicals, computers and consumer goods. Mexico is well-positioned in the eyes of the world and benefitting from a stronger U.S. economy. Other growing countries include Peru, Chile, Panama, Colombia and Costa Rica.
Plus, global companies from the U.S., China and India are entering LATAM or expanding operations, along with those in European countries, such as France, Germany, Switzerland and Spain. It’s an exciting time to be part of the region’s growing mobility industry.
What are the top trends you’re seeing in this market when it comes to global companies’ mobility programs?
I’m seeing two key mobility trends shaping mobility services and solutions in LATAM.
First, there are changing types of assignments and transferees. Like in other parts of the world, companies are focusing on short-term versus longer-term assignments in LATAM that better fit with the lives of their employees. The transferees also tend to be Millennials or younger employees moving into furnished accommodations versus long-term rentals. With these changes, we’re seeing more lump sum and flexible arrangements, which give transferees more control over their relocation. Our role is to be an expert in making connections and offering counsel. One of the things I love about Graebel’s structure is that we have an open network model. This means we work with the top service providers in the region, which gives our clients and their employees a sense of confidence and security, while providing greater options.
Second, we’ve seen more challenging and restrictive immigration processes and procedures implemented in a number of countries. This is mainly due to recent legislative, political and socio-economic events across the region. Global companies need to be prepared that these changes could potentially impact or delay relocation plans.
Tell us about the unique housing and rental market in LATAM.
It can be a tricky housing market. Here are four things that make it different from some other regions:
- There’s no Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system like in the U.S., and properties are often listed with multiple Realtors with different listing prices. This makes it tougher to find housing.
- Internet ads aren’t reliable. The listing photos don’t always match the property address.
- Guarantors or bonds are needed to secure properties
- And departures are challenging – local law tends to favor landlords, meaning tenants are required to leave their property in the same condition as when they moved in
To protect our clients and transferees, we partner with our local experts in the region to ensure we work with reputable landlords, and we use the most accurate and standardized lease terms that support and benefit the transferee.
What are the top considerations companies should think about when expanding or relocating talent into this market?
I have three tips for companies and their potential transferees before they move to LATAM:
- Visit the host country. This is so important to set expectations! An advance country trip by the employee allows him/her to experience the country firsthand and assess if it’s the right cultural fit. Things move a little more slowly in LATAM. Transferees should understand the culture and how it would impact them/their families.
- Learn about visa requirements. Plan and allow more processing time for your assignments. Across LATAM, some visas may take longer to obtain and immigration processes are slower. Each country in LATAM has its own immigration intricacies, including distinct visa requirements and specific application processes, some of which are more challenging than others. For example, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico have greater waiting times for completing the immigration process. Other countries are going through transitional visa arrangements, which aim to promote investments and facilitate the arrival of foreigners.
- Match the housing allowance to the market according to the type of assignment. Global companies should make sure the housing allowance is appropriate so their employees can find safe, secure and comfortable accommodations. This is a very important step to ensure a successful relocation for the employee and to get a positive return on your mobility investment.
How is Graebel helping companies address mobility opportunities and challenges in LATAM?
We work closely with supplier partners and clients to make the relocation experience as seamless as possible. For example, we:
- Ensure compliance. Through our clear understanding of each country’s unique laws and regulations, we ensure our suppliers and clients stay in compliance with the necessary laws. We also facilitate local payments in the proper currencies.
- Conduct coaching. We coach each of our clients on cultural knowledge, no matter the region or country where that company is relocating employees or an office. Recently, we helped a Chinese-based company implement its LATAM business in Brazil by leading customized cultural training for relocated employees.
- Guide through experience. We provide a strong network by combining Graebel’s 30 years of experience relocating talent to and from LATAM with the relationships I’ve built in my native region over the last 15 years. We leverage that network to find solutions quickly to provide great experiences for clients.
What excites you most about helping Graebel and its clients in the region, especially since you’re a native of Costa Rica?
It’s an honor living and working in San Jose, Costa Rica, which is an ideal location in the middle of the Americas and near the Caribbean. I have the opportunity to work with friendly and passionate people, and for a company that practices its values of truth, love and integrity. I find it so rewarding to provide great customer satisfaction every day through our high-touch and people-first approach to mobility.
About the Author: Ericka Campos is Client Manager, Latin America (LATAM), where she cultivates client relationships for Graebel while developing and strengthening supplier partnerships. With over 15 years of experience in the relocation industry, Ericka taps her regional business acumen and cultural awareness to create strong relationships, manage service quality and ensure exceptional mobility experiences. She previously worked as Graebel’s LATAM Regional Director of Vendor Management, overseeing supplier performance and cost savings strategies.
Ericka holds a degree in hotel management and a diploma in marketing and merchandising strategies from the Universidad de las Americas in Puebla, Mexico. She has lived in Mexico, Venezuela and U.S. She is a native of Costa Rica, where she lives and works, and is fluent in English and Spanish.