German multinational GFT CEO, Ulrich Dietz: “Catalonia is one of our preferred places to invest”
The founder and CEO of technology company GFT announced that they will create 500 new jobs in Catalonia in the coming years. In an exclusive interview with the CNA, Ulrich Dietz, stated that he has “aggressive plans to increase the staff” in Greater Barcelona and Lleida. GFT specialises in developing technological solutions for the banking and insurance sectors, with a turnover of €231 million in 2012. With several offices in Germany, the company is based in Stuttgart and is present in Brazil, France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, US and UK. A quarter of GFT employees throughout the world are based in Catalonia. Most of them work in Greater Barcelona, which is the company’s “hub” for the European market. Dietz explained that he has plans to develop Lleida’s facilities, which currently employ 40 people, “significantly”.
Stuttgart (ACN).-The CEO of technology company GFT, Ulrich Dietz, announced that the company will create 500 new jobs in Catalonia in the coming years. In an exclusive interview with the CNA, Dietz stated that the company he founded has “aggressive plans to increase the staff” in Greater Barcelona and Lleida. GFT specialises in developing technological solutions for the banking and insurance sectors, with a turnover of €231 million in 2012. With several offices in Germany, the company is based in Stuttgart and is present in Brazil, France, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, US and UK. Currently, GFT employs 464 people in Sant Cugat del Vallès (Greater Barcelona) and 40 more in Lleida, so GFT is planning to double its staff figures in Catalonia and reach 1,000 employees. In fact, currently a quarter of GFT employees throughout the world are based in Catalonia and Dietz describes the Barcelona centre as the company’s “hub” for the European market. In addition, the German multinational’s CEO explained he has plans to develop Lleida’s facilities “significantly” within the next “two or three years”. From Catalonia, GFT serves the German and British markets, as well as others.
“We feel very comfortable” in Barcelona, said Ulrich Dietz in the interview with the CNA in his office in Stuttgart. “Catalonia is one of our preferred places to invest”, he added. “We have many technological projects there, especially for the financial sector, and many smart people, both in Barcelona and in Lleida” he stated. The company arrived in the Catalan capital a decade ago, when it bought a local company. Now, 464 people work in the Greater Barcelona centre. GFT set up its offices in Lleida’s Scientific and Agri-Food Technology Park (PCiTAL) around a year ago.
GFT CEO praises the Lleida centre and announces its expansion
Dietz praised the new centre in Lleida, which currently employs 40 people, and announced its expansion. “Lleida is a new location where we have a technology centre to develop the applications sector for the Spanish market. It goes very well, we have a lot of support from regional authorities and I believe we will significantly strengthen it within the next two or three years”, he stated.
To double its presence in Catalonia
In addition, Dietz explained that “if the economy is stable, within the next 10 years, I am certain we will double our presence” in Catalonia and in the rest of Spain. GFT also has offices in Zaragoza, València and Madrid. However, its largest centre is Barcelona’s. “We have aggressive plans to increase our staff in Catalonia”, he added, explaining that GFT Catalan staff could easily reach 1,000 employees. Currently, GFT employs 504 people in Catalonia. The company has clients such as Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Axa, Allianz, Caixabank, Banc Sabadell or BSH. In 2012, GFT posted a turnover of €230.69 million.
Barcelona, “the Silicon Valley of Europe”
For the German Executive, Barcelona and its metropolitan area have “a very good opportunity to sell themselves as the Silicon Valley of Europe” because there are “smart people, very good universities, nice temperatures and quite good infrastructures”. However, Dietz – who was named the ‘entrepreneur of the year’ in Germany in 2011 – warns Catalan politicians that, if they want to make the economy grow, “they have to recognise their assets and strengthen them more, and in a quicker way”. “Barcelona is the place that creative and young people choose, and we feel very comfortable there”, he added. GFT’s CEO defined their Barcelona centre as their “hub” for the European market.
Adapt to a changing and fast-moving industry
Besides, Dietz pointed out that the Mobile World Congress – the world’s main event for the mobile technology and cell phone industry that takes place each year in Barcelona – is a good “starting point”, but greater efforts are needed. “This type of market changes and moves very quickly” and public authorities have to be able to react because “other cities and countries are trying to do the same”. “Barcelona has to be flexible and adapt to the Internet industry”, he emphasised. In addition, he recommended creating in Catalonia “a culture fostering entrepreneurship in the long-term”. This successful businessman also recommended using empty and under-used spaces “to host start-up companies” or “to present new technologies”. “There are a lot of buildings and many possibilities to use the current infrastructure in a smart way”, Dietz said. The GFT CEO also stressed that companies and businesspeople want “cheap spaces”.
Good co-operation with Catalan universities but greater English skills needed
The GFT CEO valued the positive relationship that the company has with Catalan universities. He particularly praised the University of Lleida. This co-operation enables the German multinational to get “fresh people” and “new ideas”. Dietz praised the “flexibility” and creativity of Spanish workers, but foreign language skills should be improved, particularly the speaking of English, he said. “In the new technologies sector this is essential”, he pointed out.