A case of discrimination against non-American managers …
A Regional job, and an Initial Economic Struggle.
It was difficult to understand that, after a promotion, we were in a more difficult economic situation than before the ‘promotion.’
During the second quarter of 1993, something happened in the company, as J.M., who by then was still my direct boss, left C and went to L M, and B.P, who was his second in command, and responsible at Regional L.A. level for A&H (Accident and Health), or the successful SPD (Special Product Division), under B.T., was promoted and was now in charge of all lines (Fire, Technical Lines, Auto, Casualty and Marine, besides A&H) for the Latin American Region.
B. wanted me to replace him, as A&H Regional Manager, reporting to him and to B.T., in a new office in Miami that B. was opening.
Although I knew that I would lose all expatriate benefits (The expat system was designed by and for Americans), I didn’t pass on the opportunity and accepted the new position, as living and working out of Miami attracted me a lot and, of course, reporting to B. and to B.T, was of my liking as well.
However, the first year in Miami was hard for me and also for my wife Isabel. Harder in fact, that I expected, as I thought that the company’s Human Resources Department had taken care of all possible difficulties, my direct family’s members or I would experience in the new country.
How naive I was!
You see, in Colombia, I was a very respected person, as President of a USA multinational.
In Miami though, I was a no one, incapable of even opening a bank account.
In effect, not having a credit history, it was simply like I never existed
It was useless trying to explain that I couldn’t have a credit score, as I’d never before lived in the USA.
To no effect, I tried to obtain credit in department stores, through gasoline cards, used and new car dealers and… nothing!.
I couldn’t get credit anywhere!
In the end, I had to resort to my bank in Colombia, Banco de Credito, as they knew me and its bank in Miami, the Helm Bank, opened a current account on my name, gave me a VISA credit card, and granted me credit to buy a new car (eventually, years later, grateful for their help then, I also financed the purchase of a home in 2002, through them).
Once we had a credit score a year later, we were flooded with credit offers of all kinds, but at the beginning, we could not even get a gasoline card!
My wife Isabel also suffered, used as she was at our home in Colombia, at having domestic personnel for all the home’s chores.
In Miami, she had to do it all herself: cooking, washing the clothes, ironing,
cleaning the house, etc., as the high cost of hiring domestic help in Miami was outside our reach.
It had been a promotion of tittle only!
And…of more work!
Being a Spaniard, in the U.S.A. I was as much of a foreigner, as I was in Colombia, yet I did not have any expat benefits. Why?
Nevertheless, it was going well for me at the job.
Between resignations and some firings, I had a good team at the countries (I was responsible for Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and for a unit we had in Miami — call center included — that we called LU, dedicated almost entirely to attend Amex card-holders, as we sold people’s insurance through the credit card).
In 1994 we were selected amongst the three more successful Managers worldwide of C International, and received from the hands of the company’s President, E.H., the President’s trophy and a photograph (That I still keep), thanks to having produced in the Region, a Profit of some $ 12 million USA dollars.
In my multiple trips visiting the country operations I was responsible for, I traveled frequently to Brazil, a country that was opening its economy to the world under the Presidency of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and in my line of insurance, A&H, seemed to offer unlimited possibilities.
One of our clients, a sales organization related to the vast Japanese colony of Sao Paulo, for instance, was able to sell $ 1 million USA dollars… a month ! of the profitable product Cash Hospital Income Plan (CHIP), which increasingly called for my presence there.
In fact, the production numbers for Brazil made pale Latin-America’s numbers.
So much so that, in 1995, the company decided to send me to Brazil, as Country Manager and President of C Insurance Company of Brazil S. A.