Tell me a little bit about your background.
After completing high school with the Jesuits, I joined the Naval Academy, where I studied Naval Engineering. Belonging to a family of globally well-known attorneys and realizing the importance of knowing the law in order to enforce it, I became an attorney. Then, I understood the importance of business and law, and I got an MBA and LL.M. -Master’s in Law- from Harvard University. Academy and studying are some of my passions. I am a Knight (Sir) of the Catholic Military Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem under the authority and protection of the Holy See. I am a master scuba diver and enjoy hiking-trekking and the great outdoors. I have lived in several regions, where I had the good fortune of trekking most of the top mountains in Europe (Mulhacen, Montblanc, Peaks of Europe), Africa (Kilimanjaro, Toubkal) and South America (Aconcagua). I’ve walked the Road of Santiago (Spain) in two different opportunities; I am Colombian-Spanish provenance and my wife, Alysson, is Irish-American, born and raised in Boston. We have two beautiful daughters, Alexandra and Charlotte, who are the perfect embodiment of raising a family with multicultural backgrounds and languages. Having a brilliant career with a beautiful family, it is part of the “American Dream” that comes true. I love the U.S.A., and we are doing great, in the greatest country of the world.
I’ve been involved in the corporate world for over 20 years, working in both legal and business roles with multinational companies in Latin America, Europe and North America. In 2014, I joined SICPA and since the very first moment, I realized the importance of ENABLING TRUST for governments by providing secure, robust and comprehensive solutions for their issues that affect national security. My academic background and professional skills have been valuable assets to contribute in the identification of opportunities and appropriate solutions.
Tell me about SICPA. What does your company do?
Founded in Switzerland in 1927, SICPA has been protecting banknotes globally since the 1940’s and is the global leader in product authentication, identification, and secure traceability solutions and services. SICPA’s products and services integrate material and digital security, enabling our clients worldwide, governments, and brand owners alike, to create an environment where markets are secure and people can be confident in their products. With an active presence in more than 180 countries, SICPA solutions deliver value to most of the world’s population by protecting currencies, identity credentials, government tax revenues, and the legitimacy of products from many different fields.
In North America, SICPA’s headquarters are in Virginia. SICPA also has operations in Illinois, Texas, and New Mexico. SICPA provides tax stamps and supports tobacco tax programs for 46 of the United States. Also, SICPA provides cannabis control solutions for California and Canada. The company also provides comprehensive digital platform for managing and electronic filing, payment, audit and reporting of excise taxes for tobacco, liquor, and fuels. SICPA Excise Tax Solutions (SETS) are currently being deployed in Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Oregon. SICPA has successfully partner with state government to provide revenue protection for excise taxes. In Latin America, SICPA's presence and experience for deploying tobacco control systems and track and trace include five successful projects at a national level for Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, and the Dominican Republic. In addition, SICPA has permanent offices in Mexico and Argentina. From a global perspective, SICPA provides fuel marking systems and track & trace solutions and services for the governments of Albania, Georgia, Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Morocco, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, India, Philippines, Turkey, Russia, and Malaysia, just to name a few. The list is larger, but I am just mentioning what I have on top of my head. In addition, SICPA contributes to institutions such as the European Central Bank, the US Federal Reserve, the World Customs Organization, and the World Bank, among others.
How do you combine all your skills -Harvard attorney, MBA, military- in your role as VP of National Security for SICPA?
In my current role of executive VP for National Security solutions, having a military background and understanding of both, the legal framework and the business perspective, gives me some of the most valuable skills in today’s business world and especially for my role at SICPA. These skills are leadership, decision-making, effective communication, negotiation, and resilience. Understanding clients’ needs and the challenges for fighting illicit activities is key to provide national security solutions. Illicit trade is a global threat, with worldwide transnational crime organizations impacting the stability of governments. These illicit activities are putting at risk the public safety and the confidence needed for the global economy in the exchange of goods and services, free trade, interchange of information and data, and financial transactions.
SICPA’s main competency is providing unique solutions that help governments and citizens to protect themselves from these threats and fight against them. As a matter of fact, drug cartels exchange their illicit drugs for guns and explosives, fuel and chemical precursors are diverted to the illicit drug laboratories, illegal mining is under the control of terrorist organizations that control underground markets, and counterfeit products are destroying brand reputations and putting life at risk. Illicit activities are destroying everything in their path; global economy, environment, countries, brands, and human life. People don’t realize that everything that is purchased from informal or illegal markets, counterfeit, or illicit products, such as aviation parts, cellphones batteries, pharmaceutical products, download a movie, a song, a book, a fake watch, you name it, no matter how harmless it could look, that money is supporting criminal activities around the world. All these activities impact the national security worldwide at all levels, governments, companies and individuals.
Our unique physical markers, track and trace solutions, blockchain, and digital platforms help governments fight illicit trade, tax evasion, fuel smuggling, contraband of explosives, weapons, ammunitions, cannabis, chemical precursors, pharmaceutical products, and human trafficking, to mention some of the most relevant ongoing activities.
Tell me more about “SICPA track and trace platforms - SICPATRACE”. How does this work, and why is it important to national security?
SICPATRACE is a unique platform that is composed of material security, hardware, and software, including digital security that provides secure serialization and identification of each sensitive product that can be easily integrated to any legacy system. It includes a blockchain solution to provide information to government authorities, consumers, and distribution chain operators, in order to protect and secure the legitimacy of the product, the health of consumers, and fiscal revenues, helping authorities to deter the illegal activities related to the illicit trade of goods. SICPATRACE platform enables governments to secure products in production lines at ports of entry, facilitating the government’s capture of accurate information for collecting tax revenues and enabling consumers to validate the authenticity and legal origin of each marked product. By implementing our platform, governments can increase their inspection capabilities to verify products in the market and identify illegal products. SICPA solutions help governments collect the right taxes and prevent the smuggling and counterfeiting of goods, protecting consumers and leveling the playing field for economic operators in the market.
Given the critical importance of national security, how do you keep your technology developments secure?
SICPA technology is a proprietary solution and exclusively custom made for each one of our customers. We have some of the best technological minds developing our solutions. We have a very strong R&D team responsible for creating and developing new technologies in order to provide top of the line solutions. We must improve and innovate every single day to be competitive. Today better than yesterday, tomorrow better than today. We must keep moving to stay ahead of counterfeiters, adapting our solutions faster than criminals evolve trying to defeat governments, companies and individuals wherever they can. We truly live by our mission statement: “Every day, governments, companies and millions of people rely on us to protect the integrity and value of their currency, personal identity, products and brands.”
I’d like to end this interview with a personal question. What do you think makes you unique, Augusto?
I don’t consider myself “unique,” I am just a resilient, passionate, focused professional, with a background in different activities that gave me special skills to always keep going forward no matter what, no matter how difficult the situation is, or could be. I will never stop until the mission is accomplished. Saint Ignatius of Loyola said, “Let us work as if success depended upon ourselves alone, but with the heartfelt conviction that we are doing nothing, and God everything.” I truly live by his statement.
On the other hand, I always find happiness and positivity in everything – personal and professional – in life. Maintaining always a sense of humor and gratitude to God, gives me extra energy to stay focused and work harder, handling any situation or challenge and walk the extra mile. As Robert Frost wrote on his poem, The Road Not Taken, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” That is probably the secret of my success.
Executive Vice President National Security — SICPA North America