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GM Group Bullish On Regional Expansion
BY LIDA ESTELA RUAÑO
January 11, 2001
Guatemala, Colombia and Nicaragua are three countries being analyzed by GM Group as possible target sites to open operations this year. GM Group is also considering expansion plans for Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela, where the local information technology (IT) company already has offices.
Guillermo Martinez, chairman and founder of GM Group, which was sold in 1999 to Popular Inc. said, "Opening services requires considerable investment. We arent planning to open any new offices simply to offer services. We may opt to just expand existing operations in the three countries mentioned."
Last year, the company opened operations in Costa Rica, Dominica, and Trinidad/Tobago.
Spurred chiefly by Banco Populars transfer of all of its automatic teller machine operations (ATH by its Spanish acronym) to GM Group, last years revenue topped $100 million, doubling the previous years revenue. And for this year, a 15% increase is anticipated
The ATH transfer also increased employment by 200, bringing the total number of GM Group employees to 550. Most work at company headquarters in Rio Piedras; a smaller number work in a Santurce office. The company also has an office in Miami. Total employment outside of Puerto Rico is 150. Foreign operations generate 50 local jobs because all account processing is done locally.
By summers end, the company will have completed installation of its $2 million Vision-Plus information system which will offer clients up to 9,000 programs. Martinez said the state of the art equipment will provide more guarantees against hackers or thieves trying to penetrate clients systems. Among other things, it will permit banks to immediately approve a credit increase for clients, based on behavioral trends. Conversely the system automatically alerts the bank if it sees a strange pattern of purchases by a client, even if the customer is within the credit card limit.
Another important company focus this year will be expansion of Internet services. Walter J. Cervoni, senior executive vice president and chief information officer, said small and medium sized businesses will be targeted for the Internet services. "Theres such demand for IT personnel that its difficult to recruit them and smaller companies would find it very difficult to compete in attracting them. Additionally they may not wish to invest in costly infrastructure," Cervoni said. GM Group could offer clients a single service, such as opening a web page or establishing a server. It could also offer continuous services, such as fire walls, which prevent hackers from penetrating a system or measurement tools, to determine how many persons and for how long visited a clients web site. The company is already offering some of these services to clients and expects to boost its clientele in the coming months.
"All business aspects will evolve towards the Internet. This is not to say that everyone will flock to the Internet and that there wont be regular stores. Therell always be stores, but more transactions will be done every day through the Internet," Martinez said. In some cases, such as bank transactions being serviced by GM Group for financial institutions in Dominica and Trinidad/Tobago, their access to GM Groups local facilities is done through the Internet.
"The high cost of telephone lines leaving their countries makes it cheaper for these banks to communicate with us through the Internet. The Internet could be the means of access to our facilities for other foreign customers," said Julio Pascual, GM Group president.
This year GM Group also will be emphasizing the selling and servicing of telephone equipment. "We can sell, install and design the IT network a company needs as well as service it," Martinez said. He added that the high tech equipment used allows GM Group to solve most of their clients IT breakdowns from GM Group headquarters. "Most equipment sends us signals regarding damages as they occur. These messages are received by phone or beeper directly from the machines themselves," Martinez said.
GM Group, which has operated on the island for the past 31 years, has 15 years experience abroad. In addition to those already mentioned, GM Group has ongoing operations in Ecuador, El Salvador and Honduras. Most of the customers in these countries are banks. Popular Inc. has ATH machines in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic and all are serviced from GM Group headquarters.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.