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Interview with Isidoro J. Alanís, President of Global Exchange

Isidoro J. Alanis is the founder and President of the foreign currency services multinational, Global Exchange. With a Bachelor´s Degree in Business Administration and Management, he continued his academic training in the USA and Spain. In 1996, in Fuentes de Oñoro (Salamanca), he founded the company Eurodivisas, the parent company of the Global Exchange Group. Twenty years later, Global Exchange leads the industry in Spain and is the third ranking company at an international level, and leader in Latin America, with a presence in 17 countries over four continents and with 1,600 employees.

How important is the brand name for a company that operates in an sector as specific as the currency exchange service?

In a sector like ours the brand name acquires particular significance because we handle one of the most delicate assets for our customers, their money. When it comes to trusting a currency exchange service, the customer is first and foremost looking for trust, security, transparency, efficiency and professionalism, the highest quality, as well as a wide availability in terms of opening hours and accepted currencies. For this reason, it is vital to us that our brand responds to these basic requirements and that it constitutes, moreover, an added value which allows us to exceed the expectations of our clients, because we must not forget that the brand constitutes, at the end of the day, what makes one service stand out from the rest.

In 2001 you became the only Spanish company in the industry to go international. What motivated you to do this? And what milestones in your international expansion process would you highlight?

Global Exchange´s backing of international expansion was a strategic decision taken at a crucial moment for the company. With the introduction of the Euro in 2001, 95% of our market disappeared and we faced a dilemma that would leave an indelible imprint on our future: to opt for closure or to back a difficult process of international expansion, which eventually took off in Latin America. This meant a 180° turn around for the company, for our strategy and for our way of doing business, since we had to move into much more complex, completely different new areas, such as the airport sector.

The excellent results that we returned in the first years of our expansion led us to become, in a very short time, industry leaders at the international airports of Latin America and the Caribbean. After this first major milestone, we took a bet on other markets such as Africa and the Middle East, through our subsidiaries in Morocco and Jordan. At the present time, we are putting the focus on Europe, where in addition to being the most significant foreign exchange company in Spain, we have now opened offices at the International Airport of Geneva, Switzerland, and we will be doing so in the very near future at the Airport of Billund, Denmark.

So backing internationalisation marked out our future, because thanks to this decision we are today the third most important currency exchange company at a global level at international airports and we have 180 exchange offices in 17 countries over 4 continents, in which our workforce of more than 1,600 employees serves 4.2 million customers each year.

What markets are currently showing a greater volume of trade for the company´s international business?

The strongest market for Global Exchange is Latin America, where you will find 12 of our 17 subsidiaries and where we are leaders in the sector of currency exchange at the international airports. We have a strong presence in countries such as Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico, where we have offices both at airports as well as in other points of tourist influx, such as hotels, ports, shopping centres and on the high street.

In addition, Spain is currently one of our most important subsidiaries because it represents 27% of the total volume of business of the group. After our entry into the Euro compelled us to close 95% of our network of offices in Spain, in 2011 we began providing our service in Spanish airports and so we re-established our commercial activity in our country of origin. In just five years we have gone from a single currency exchange office in the city of Salamanca, the only one that remained open after the entry into the Euro, to currently having a network of 29 offices located in the main Spanish airports (Madrid – Barajas Terminals T1, 2, 3 and T4, Barcelona – El Prat T1 and T2, Alicante, Palma de Mallorca and Tenerife South) and we have become the most important currency exchange company in our country.

What does the creation of the online currency reservation service mean for the expansion strategy of the company? In what other ways does Global Exchange take advantage of new technologies?

Adapting our business to digital philosophy is something we consider to be essential. This is a service that comes from our strong commitment to innovation and excellence in customer service, and which provides access to our services and makes it possible to reserve currency comfortably by internet from anywhere in the world. With this service we offer our customers added value and reduce their worries when they are travelling.

Technology is in our DNA. We are constantly reinventing ourselves and for this it is essential to make full use of the endless possibilities offered by technological advances to anticipate the needs of our customers, to adapt to the markets in which we operate and to become more and more competitive. In fact, all our computer programmes are designed and developed internally. We have a department of Technology and Development which is made up of over 50 people, focused exclusively on technological innovation and the creation of our systems.

What are your internationalisation goals for 2016?

Our goal for this year is to open new offices in six countries. We are looking towards both Asia and Europe, where we will continue consolidating our expansion with new openings. This will lead to an increase in the number of offices, taking us from 180 to 230 branches, with more than 5 million customers being served. In turn, our staff numbers will increase by approximately 400 people.

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