Living in São Paulo, Brazil, for the past two and a half years, Swiss executive Dominik Maurer is the CFO of T-Systems Brazil, a part of the Deutsche Telekom Group. Interviewed by Vanessa Donke of Icatu Hartford, he explains why his company chose Icatu Hartford, Swiss Life Network Partner in Brazil, to run its local benefits programme.
As CFO of T-Systems do Brasil, when did you start at Deutsche Telekom and why did you choose to work in Brazil?
Dominik Maurer: I began my career with Deutsche Telekom in 2001, and spent three years with the company in Switzerland before I was invited to work in Brazil. The CFO to whom I reported was finalising the balance sheet of the Brazilian company when he resigned, and I was called in to finish the job. I came to Brazil just to help out, but they asked if I would like to stay and I accepted.

In what other countries have you worked?
My functions in the financial area have meant that I have always had to travel quite a lot. In addition to Switzerland, I have lived in Germany and now Brazil. But I have also worked in many other countries such as India, Thailand, Singapore, Italy, France, Hungary, the Czech Republic and others. I’ve acquired a lot of experience during these trips and learnt how to do business in cultures totally different from those in Europe.

What is the biggest difference between doing business in Brazil and doing business in Switzerland?
To close a deal here in Brazil, having a good relationship is a major factor. In Switzerland, business is based on figures. There is also far less bureaucracy in Europe in general. It is harder to close deals in Brazil than in Switzerland because – in addition to the red tape - there are far more government levies. Taxes are also higher in Brazil, with many more rules, which can change very frequently.

What characteristics do you consider to be most important for a successful CFO?
The main characteristics of a successful CFO are to be honest and well attuned to the market. You also need to be able to say “no” ten times a day and “yes” only twice! This is because when people contact the CFO, it is usually to ask for funds, and when they know that the CFO says “no” frequently, their ideas are presented far more cogently, tailored to real needs, and highlighting their strong points realistically, in order to boost the possibility of receiving a “yes”.

What characteristics in your employees do you most admire?
I see that everyone here is very highly motivated, open and flexible. For example, if we have to work over the weekend, it’s no problem! But there is a lack of planning. Brazilians are not good at drawing up plans and following them. The difference is that if the boss says something, everyone pauses to pay attention, because they are used to immediate responses. Not so in Switzerland! The boss requests something and you ask what the timeframe is for the job. In Europe, urgent precedes important only during a war!

What were the most important factors when choosing our Network Partner Icatu Hartford for your local benefit programme?
We chose Icatu Hartford, which is the Swiss Life Network’s representative in Brazil, because it offered us the best proposal, presenting a plan that was more flexible than those of the other bidders. We realised that we would not be just another customer to Icatu Hartford. We wanted special protection, personalised and focused on our own objectives and interests. Icatu Hartford offered us all this.

We also wanted to choose our pension fund manager, and we wanted Icatu Hartford to manage the fund with our own employees. We had this flexibility. When we received the proposal, we saw that it was clearly and closely aligned with our own objectives. We realised immediately the extent to which Icatu Hartford was different.

Are you satisfied with their products and services?
I cannot say as yet, because we are still having problems with the Volkswagen Pension Fund, which is an old fund that we acquired when we purchased the company last year.

What do you expect from a local benefits provider?
It should offer flexibility, and treat me as its Nº 1 customer, free to do something different. This is why we have life assurance with Icatu Hartford in Brazil and Swiss Life Network all over the world. The contract was signed with Deutsche Telekom at the global level, with very high benefits. This is a solution that we really like.

Tell us a bit about your life and how you feel about living in Brazil.
I am Swiss, 38 years old, married to Deborah, with no children as yet. We have been in Brazil for almost three years, and I really enjoy living here, especially the sunshine, the natural beauty of the landscape, and the lively people. I also like the food, especially churrasco barbecue! I feel quite comfortable, but it was harder for Deborah to adapt at the start. Of course it was quite natural to fear an unknown country with safety problems, far away from family and work. Today, she fits in well, and already speaks Portuguese better than I do. When our contract extension came up, we were happy to decide to stay on in Brazil.

* Opinions expressed here reflect the personal view of the person interviewed.

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