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Recession, crisis—no deterrent
A recession would not deter the Inter-American Development bank (IDB) from providing financial support to any of the 29 countries in which the bank has a presence.
Nuria Simo, chief information officer and general manager, department of information technology at IDB, said when countries have financial problems it is institutions like the IDB that are greatly needed. She added that one of the bank’s main objectives is to reduce poverty and fight inequality.
“Precisely when there are problems is when we want to be more active to mitigate the impact that a recession or crisis can have. A recession bothers us like everyone else and that’s when we have to step up,” Simo said in an interview with Business Guardian, last Wednesday, at the IDB’s 17 Alexandra Street, St Clair headquarters.
According to the IDB’s website, the bank defines itself as: “the leading source of development financing for Latin America and the Caribbean. We provide loans, grants, and technical assistance; and we conduct extensive research. We maintain a strong commitment to achieving measurable results and the highest standards of increased integrity, transparency, and accountability. Its current focus areas include three development challenges: social inclusion and inequality, productivity and innovation, and economic integration.”
Asked what are some of the challenges the bank faces, Simo said it is to “stay focused on its mission and to become faster and more efficient as well as to deliver more with less.”
Referring specifically to how the bank gets accountability after assisting a country financially, Simo said the bank has a method to measure the impact of the project.
All parties, she said, come to an agreement about what the output of the project would be as well as other specifics of the project. Projects can range from building a road, to providing funding for infrastructure projects such as airports as well as water and sanitation.
According to its 2016 annual report, the IDB approved a total of 86 sovereign-guaranteed loans for a total financing amount of US$9.3 billion. In terms of country departments, 39 per cent of approved financing was allocated to Central American countries, Mexico, Panama, and Dominican Republic, 34 per cent to Southern countries, 23 per cent to Andean Group countries, and 4.o per cent to Caribbean countries.
With more than three decades of experience in a leadership role across multiple industries including the IDB, Simo said one of the lessons learned is there is always one common denominator: the human being.
“No matter where you go at the end of the day, what you are managing is people and whatever you are doing, you are doing it for people. It doesn’t matter if you are an IT professional, scientist or marketing professional. At the end of the day it is about people.”
Having worked with varying teams through her professional career, Simo said the art of leadership is to find what motivates people. Having diversity in the background or experience in an employee is the main factor that brings value to a team because that’s how critical thinking is developed.
Interaction with different countries across different cultures is not an obstacle, she said because, “I think it is important when you go to a country to make sure you learn the language of that country. When you speak the language, or you understand the language, you understand the culture. The language has lessons that tell you about the culture.”
Simo is a graduate of the Universidad Central de Barcelona, and has a bachelors in economics and business administration. She has held chief information officer positions in Spain, Barcelona, Netherlands, US and the UK.
In her role as mother of two and a leader in her household, as well as her leadership roles in her professional career, Simo said now that her daughters are 35 and 28 respectively being a mom defines her more than all the leadership roles she has played.
“There are stories that prove it is true that different genders have different leadership styles but it does not mean that one or the other has better leadership skills.”
Simo added that women have not been in the professional world for a long time so, “we are catching up. In the past, there were not many role models for women to think they could be at a leadership position.”
What is clear now, she said, is the importance of having role models for young girls so they can see what is possible or available when it comes to holding a leadership position.
Weighing in on her professional experience, Simo said mentoring is important.
“At the IDB we do mentorship not only with women but we do mentorship programmes for men and women at all levels.”