The Call For Leaders interview series reached its third phase, with the established 3Q format having received a revamp for 2021. The original Call For Leaders 3Q and its sequel, Call For Leaders – Back in Business, have seen us talking to quite a diverse roster of business leaders in Romania, representing top companies and various industries. In this episode, we sat down with Manuel Fernandez Amezaga, the CEO of Sodexo Romania, a role he holds since November 2020.
After a difficult 2020 year, how do you think business optimism will be influenced in 2021?
Business environment changed the paradigm of functioning after 2020 under the huge impact of the pandemic. Besides of the 100 years fast forward digitalization (which no one ever thought would be possible here in Romania), all learned in the hard way what “resilience” means, how important is to adapt fast to changes and how to cope with the incertitude. The optimism of the business environment will be for sure influenced by the right measures to support SMEs and businesses in Romania in the post-crisis period to stay competitive in the market, to have access to innovation and latest technologies and to learn those skills they need to evolve appropriately. Romania has a huge capacity to recover, I am amazed by the high level of expertise of the employees and by the impressive creativity and engagement I see here.
How will your company be involved in the development of your industry, and also in the recovery of other sectors which were affected by the pandemic?
I am proud that all over the world Sodexo plays a role in supporting the recovery of sectors affected by pandemic as HORECA, tourism, SMEs, acting as a catalyst through its instruments – dedicated vouchers that are infusing resources where needed. In many countries in the world, Governments are using vouchers to facilitate the implementation of social policies and meet the needs of employers, employees and public authorities. I can give you some examples: all over the world meal vouchers are now a reliable support for HORECA and holiday vouchers are the oxygen for the tourism sector severely affected by the COVID lockdown – there are countries as Belgium were SMEs were supported through direct subventions through vouchers to pay contractor, or France and Belgium where a dedicated voucher for HORECA was created.
I am supporting the industry here in Romania though my expertise in digitalization. The vouchers industry need to keep up the pace with the innovation in payments sector, as I see the world trends regarding payments – no one actually needs plastic anymore, cards are issued virtually and pay with the phone, with the ring, with the face … and all these are becoming a normality in many countries in the world.
How will you approach innovation and new investments in 2021?
Innovation is a constant trace of our culture in Sodexo, and as I mentioned with many occasions the team that we have in Sodexo Romania is one of the best I have worked with in my carrier, so I am optimistic that we will continue to offer the best services to our clients and keep our consumers (employees using vouchers & cards users) happy by offering them access to latest innovations in matter of payments, as we accustomed them in the last years.
I am proud also that we partnered with the Government in implementing one of the biggest initiatives in social assistance in Romania – social vouchers for hot meal, a program that is reaching rural areas, supporting the elder people with hot meals, offered on cards (the average age of the beneficiaries in the program is 82 years old). Innovation is happening, even if is difficult to see and appreciate the tremendous impact that will occur, for example the social cards for hot meal program – convincing elder people to use the cards, convincing local restaurants to install POS and accepting electronic payments, increasing the number of local businesses in rural areas that offers hot meals.