Citigroup Inc., Accenture Plc (ACN:US) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM:US) are hiring hundreds of technology workers in Buenos Aires, looking past Argentina’s bond default last month to establish the city as their local tech hub.
Accenture, the Dublin-based consulting firm, is adding 700 people to its roughly 7,000 workers in Argentina, said Sergio Kaufman, the firm’s unit president for the country. Citigroup estimated that area will expand by about 20 percent early next year from the current 430 people if pending projects come to fruition. JPMorgan is also hiring, a person familiar with the plan said, without disclosing the number.
Workers in Argentina, with the highest literacy rate in Latin America, have a resourcefulness that comes from facing cycles of economic boom and bust, said Gabriel Ribisich, Citigroup (C:US)’s Argentina country chief. The nation, South America’s second-biggest economy, also has lower labor costs than Brazil and Chile, he said.
“We have highly skilled workers, engineers and programmers,” Ribisich said. “There’s a lot of talent here and it allows us to export quality services to Citi offices worldwide.”
Argentina’s technology industry brought in a record $900 million last year in software exports, which will jump to $1.4 billion this year, according to Industry Minister Deborah Giorgi. Argentine exports totaled $36.8 billion in the first six months of this year, with agriculture representing the biggest share, about $14.7 billion, according to the Economy Ministry.
While the nation’s economy is slowing and inflation is running at about 40 percent, technology companies are taking advantage of global demand for their products, according to Pablo Larguia, who co-founded the Argentine job-search website Bumeran.com.
“There’s a huge opportunity for Argentina to become a software factory,” said Larguia, who organizes conferences for Latin American entrepreneurs. “Our advantage is our talent. We’re used to change and that forces us to be creative.”
Globant SA, a technology-services provider with headquarters in Buenos Aires whose clients include Google Inc., last month sold $58.5 million of shares in New York, Argentina’s biggest overseas share sale in three years.
The Argentina Development Center, as Citigroup calls its technology hub in the country, creates software for the bank’s business in Latin America, including portfolio and project management, analysis and production support, the New York-based bank said. It services retail and corporate banking, contact centers and automated teller machines, among other bank areas.
Even as it hires in the country, Citigroup is warning investors that risks stemming from the default may bring losses. Should U.S. banking regulators downgrade Argentina following a review of cross-border risks, Citigroup, the third-biggest U.S. bank by assets, could lose about $80 million, it said in a regulatory filing on Aug. 1.
While hiring in Argentina, New York-based JPMorgan is cutting hundreds of technology-support employees in its corporate and investment bank in locations including New York, Tampa, Chicago and Dubai amid a revenue decline, people with knowledge of the move said last month. JPMorgan is the biggest U.S. bank by assets.
Veronica Navarro Espinosa, a spokeswoman for JPMorgan, declined to comment.
Accenture is hiring in Buenos Aires, Rosario, La Plata and Munro, with most of the positions in the capital’s 6,500-person office. Kaufman said he’s hiring engineers, information-technology workers and analysts.
“The country’s highly educated and innovative population means the country will keep growing as a hub for specialized professionals,” Kaufman said.
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