Fernandez (Aristocrat): “We are specialists in developing the latest technology for gaming”

Hector Fernandez, President of the Americas, Aristocrat.

How do you feel after your appointment as leader of the Americas for the company and what contributions do you think you can make from your extensive experience outside the gaming industry?
It gives me joy and excitement that I have been assigned to this position because I had not worked in the gaming industry before. From my experience in large companies such as Procter & Gamble, Amgen and Western Digital, I had to manage the business globally, so I traveled through many regions and learned about different markets, the way of commercially bonding with them in relation to their respective cultures, as well as I understood how to offer advanced products and technologies for customers. A year ago, I moved to Las Vegas as CFO of the Americas for Aristocrat. At the end of June 2019, I assumed the functions of President. There I was able to apply strategies that I had developed in other industries. Currently, I manage Canada, the United States and Latin America, but I am not the only professional who supervises all of those jurisdictions. I have a strong and trained team of collaborators, such as Chris Rowe, whom I appointed as Managing Director for Latin America. He worked for several years in Asia-Pacific, based in Macau. And I consider that there are similarities in the passion of Asians and Latin Americans when it comes to playing. So Chris will surely do a great job in the region. While the company is Australian, the core of corporate leaders is in Las Vegas, U.S. In addition, our regional offices are managed independently, which establishes a robust global network for Aristocrat.

What is your evaluation on the company’s presentation at G2E Las Vegas?
I am very proud of the work we did with our team at G2E, with a giant booth full of products and that had constant customer visits. We not only showed slots, but also our Oasis system, the revolutionary Winner’s World Multi-Game bar top cabinet, the totally awesome Arc Canopy prototype, and so much more. We exhibited a diversity of products based on permanent innovation and investment. We are a company specialized in developing the latest technology for gaming and that feature is the most valued by our customers and the industry in general.

This year, not so many licensed products have been seen during the Las Vegas show. Where does Aristocrat place its R+D investment?
In general, we focus on the market completely, knowing that there are different players with varied interests. Some will want to play licensed products, such as Madonna, Mad Max or Star Trek: The Next Generation, which were in our booth in Las Vegas. Others will choose our brands (Dragon Link, Lightning Link, Buffalo Grand), technological challenges, fruit games or other interactive options. The idea is always to generate a strong emotional bond with the players. We invest almost more than twice money as the competition in R+D to produce attractive, technologically advanced and fun products. Unlike other industries, in gaming, you quickly notice if a product responds well.

What was the income the company got from the markets so far this year? What is your opinion about the way manufacturers look at Latin America?
As for our income, we have growth in LatAm and the United States, while Australia shows stability. Of course, we want to compete around the world in relation to the land-based gaming. I believe that many gaming companies do not yet understand that LatAm cannot be managed as a single block, but that each country has its own characteristics and clients with specific interests. We have to better understand the players in Latin America to determine what games we can develop to succeed in those territories. Regarding the United States, we must also differentiate between, for example, the players from California and those from Boston.

What is the impact of iGaming on your company’s global business?
Aristocrat has traveled its own path in the digital segment. In 2017, we bought companies such as Big Fish Games and Plarium Global because we know that we are in times of convergence and, in fact, land-based gaming titles are also available on our digital platform. There are people who enjoy going to casinos and others prefer to play on mobiles. But the reality of the numbers shows that we are making great progress in that vertical. In fact, in the half-year financial results from May 2019, our digital division expanded 37 percent to US$586 million, delivering earnings of US$175.8 million, a jump of 17 percent. For the full-year results (to be released in November 2019), the company expects further growth in digital gaming. So we are prepared to lead the convergence between land-based and digital gaming. Of course, we always have to understand that we focus on the land-based business, in which we are stronger and more experienced.

How important is the Australian origin of Aristocrat when analyzing the successful mathematics of your games?
Undoubtedly, Australian mathematics has proven its worth in Latin America and the world. Our Australian roots represent a competitive advantage. The Australian player is sophisticated and demanding. In addition, we know that Australians are the biggest punters per capita in the world. Many of the games we launched in Australia have a great performance all over the planet, including Latin America. It is also the other way around, as in the recent case of the already successful Dollar Storm slot. Before Australia, we launched this product first at San Manuel Casino in Highland, California, U.S., and it has quickly captured the interest of players.

What are your goals for the next twelve months?
As for my objectives for the next year, I want to highlight three of them: 1) to listen more to our customers, 2) to be strategic partners of the operators, and not just slot manufacturers, and 3) to establish long and sustainable relationships with them.