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“If the best airport in the world chooses you, you are also the best”

06 • 05 • 2019

The foreign exchange company from Salamanca opens 41 branches at the new Istanbul Airport

Isidoro Alanís, at the Global Exchange headquarters in Salamanca / MANUEL LAYA


Salamanca. Global Exchange, the international foreign exchange company from Salamanca, has recently developed one of its most important projects in its 23 years of history, after winning the concession of the foreign exchange service at the brand-new Istanbul International Airport, in which it has invested almost 40 million euros.

What is so extraordinary about the new Istanbul Airport?

I can give you some figures to put its significance within the world’s airport landscape into context. 11,000 million euros have been invested in its construction and, for example, the investment made for all infrastructures in both terminals of T4 in Madrid was about 6,000 million euros. Right now, Istanbul’s airport is the best, the most modern, the most beautiful… and everything works perfectly. Moreover, the transition after the closing of Ataturk to the new airport has been exemplary, which speaks volumes about Turkey as a country and about its future.

What does it mean to Global Exchange starting your operations there?

If we scale this to Global Exchange, it is quite evident that we are there because we surpassed our competitor’s offer, including the first company in the world in this sector, and this is for a reason.  We do not have the exclusivity because there are some banks there that offer the exchange service, but we have a much stronger representation because, out of the 48 bureaux de change of the airport, 41 are ours. When the best, the most modern, the most beautiful airport chooses you and wants you to offer your services there, this means, undoubtedly, that you are also the best. And we are very proud of this.

What volume of investment has this project required?

Very soon, when everything is fully developed, 400 people are going to work in those branches, and this has meant the biggest investment project in the 23 years of history of the company, which about 40 million euros. There will be 41 branches because we need to give service to a huge airport. During the week in which we organized the opening, I walked 19 kilometers per day just by visiting the different locations because we had not been authorized yet to use the electric carts to move around.

Is everything already running?

Right now, there are about 280 people working there, next Monday another 80 will start and, the following week, the rest of them. You need to take into account that, in order to train those 280, we had to send another 58 people from other subsidiaries to Istanbul, to advise the staff of the first 25 branches already open.

What weight does this new subsidiary in Turkey have within Global Exchange’s structure?

The weight of the Istanbul subsidiary is going to be very big. We are very happy of how this start has been, and the transformation process has overcome our expectations. I think that next year, when everything is smooth and running, it will be 25 or 30% of the whole group. As an example, the weight of our activity in Spain is 10%.

But will the headquarters of the company remain in Spain and, more precisely, in Salamanca?

The headquarters will remain here because we are very comfortable in Salamanca. Moving to Madrid increases headquarters’ costs by 40%, even though we need to travel to the capital often. Being in a small city generates more productivity, starting by the quality of life of the employees, and also because of the price of the rents… All in all, we need to change our mentality about this matter, because sometimes what we find in small cities is that we find it harder to retain talent.

Up to this moment, did you have any representation in Turkey?

Until now, we already had presence in Antalya’s airport, in the Mediterranean area, where we started a year ago and where we have done pretty well so far. We also have another contract signed with a third Turkish airport, but we need to solve a few issues first. However, we hope that it will be up and running in a few months.

Why making such an investment in Turkey?

The decision of landing in Turkey with such an ambitious project comes, first of all, because they open a new airport and we entered the tender and we won it. Then, Turkey is of the countries that has surprised me most positively of all those that I have visited, and they are quite a few. The efficiency of the people, their happiness, how friendly they are, 60% of young people and, above all, they are great professionals, very motivated… Turkey is a country with great potential.

What are your projects for the future?

For the moment, we have been granted a new concession, but it is not officially signed yet and I do not want to spill the beans, but it is an important one.

How is Global Exchange distributed around the world?

Up to this day, we have 320 branches around the world; when the new employees join us in Istanbul we will reach 2,500 employees in 22 different countries and, if everything goes well, we will have some more in the coming months. We have around 400 employees in Spain. This year we will be at around 1,400 million euros in currency exchange; around 150 million in revenue, from 20 to 25 million in EBITDA…, I believe in figures that are already important. And 100% of our capital is from Salamanca, from Fuentes de Oñoro.

When the company was founded in 1996, did you ever think that it would ever get such an importance?

When you start something, you never imagine an evolution like the one we have had, because it is marked by certain circumstances. In our case, the growth has been marked by our internationalization process in consequence of the introduction of euro. This left us with no customers and we were obliged to start and internationalization process that is a no return line. Then you set up strategic plans to continue growing, which in our case are for five years and that set the pace for us. The current one ends up in 2021, but we are doing so well that, probably, in 2020 we will have attained all the objectives set up for this period.

What role do airports play in your business?

We were not present in airports before the introduction of the euro. We were at the border with Portugal, where we started, in some cities such as Salamanca or Toledo and in touristic destinations such as Mijas and Ronda. 98% of our Customers started using euros and we were left without customers. After such a radical change, we focused on airports and now 98% of our customers operate in them, but we are also present in some hotels in touristic destinations as Dominican Republic or Mexico. And in Spain we also we customers through the website or through ING, because we manage their currency exchange services.

What is the origin of the company’s capital?

In each country, the subsidiaries are independent companies with legislation from the central bank of each country, because they regulate our activity. But the parent company, Eurodivisas, is a shareholder of all of them with 99% of the shares, even 100% if we can. All the money comes back to Spain. That is why we do not understand why the current Government speaks about internationalization and, at the same time, they want to apply a 5% tax to the repatriation of the money.

How do you organize and manage a company spread across half the world?

Many of the managers of the subsidiaries are Spanish. If the management training centers are here, it is logical that they are Spanish. What we do in the headquarters is to strive to give the best service in all of our subsidiaries around the world. The procedures and the working method is the same everywhere and in all sectors. Here in Salamanca we are around 130 people working, 60% of them being from the technology department. For us, technological developments are basic, we make them all at home, and we provide service to all subsidiaries from here. Each subsidiary has a different administration depending on the country’s legislation, but the procedures have to be the same and we set them here. Somebody can be in Spain, go to Australia or Hong Kong and then to Uruguay and his way of working will not change a bit. That is why we send so much trainers at the beginning of each project. And the official language is Spanish, even though most of us speak English and we work in six different languages in which all procedures and systems are written.

More information

María José López Pérez comunicacion@grupoglobalexchange.com

Tel. 923 28 13 18