Latin America show signs of looking overseas for the international business leaders it needs

MBA career opportunities within Latin America are becoming more plentiful and the region has bucked the trend during the recent downturn, according to the QS Salary and Recruitment Trends 2009 Report, the world's most exhaustive research on the opinions of the world's leading MBA recruiters. The report, which canvassed the opinions of 743 MBA-recruiting companies - including Dell, Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble and Bank of America - from 34 countries allows an international breakdown of recruitment and salary trends both in international and regional terms.

In the past, Latin America has been a relatively inactive region for MBA recruitment, with most Latin American MBAs choosing to study and work abroad in Europe or North America, but this is changing. Brazil, in particular is a vibrant economy offering many opportunities for MBAs in banking, energy, natural resources and consulting.

Because of the need for internationally-minded leaders, Latin American companies are now reaching out to US, Spanish and other European schools to pick up the talented nationals choosing to study overseas. Vanessa Matemoros of INBio in Costa Rica says For specific positions like managers... we prefer MBAs. (However) interpersonal skills count a lot, and not just the MBA qualification. Alejandra Herrera of Asturer, Mexico, agrees. She looks for MBAs who have great potential to grow in to leaders within the organisation.

There is definite movement in the market confirms the Director at Instituto de Empresa's career management centre. Many European banks now own the major Latin American banks and they actively recruit MBAs, as do consultancies and major industrial companies. The biggest such recruiters are BBVA and Banco Santander, which have emerged as regional banking leaders in Latin America, though HSBC is not far behind. In particular, the Mexican market is very strong, but there appears to be a region-wide improvement.


Salary remains a big issue. Yogesh Chavda of Procter & Gamble Venezuela sees MBA recruiting as an opportunity to gain people with the right level of maturity, but is often thwarted because [salary] expectations are too high. At present there remains a big differential between MBA salaries paid by international companies and those offered by local employers.

In the past, Latin America faced a series of currency devaluations that negatively impacted on the reporting of MBA salaries in US dollars. But as currencies strengthen in Mexico, Columbia and Brazil, their dollar values are now catching up with other regions.

There does, however, remain quite a large disparity between multinational MBA salaries compared to local company MBA salaries.  Multinationals are offering between $70-90,000 for new MBA hires retuning to the region. However, local companies are offering between $40-60,000 with an average of $51,000 this year.

Salary levels in Latin America have risen and fallen regularly since 1996 but over the last five years, average MBA salaries, within each country, have increased steadily. However volatility is a feature of the region. A recent article in the Economist  observes: Income per person in the region has fallen on five separate occasions since 1980. What is different this time is that Latin Americans are faring no worse than the rest of the world. And there are reasons to believe that their recession may be relatively short and mild. That may not be cause for celebration but it is a crumb of comfort.