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Revving up analytics in Latin America with QuantumBlack

QuantumBlack’s CEO Jeremy Palmer and cofounder and director Simon Williams, McKinsey’s Pepe Cafferata, a partner and head of QuantumBlack Latin America, and Marina Cigarini, a senior partner, at the opening breakfast event in São Paulo

– Two and a half years ago, we acquired QuantumBlack, a London-based advanced analytics firm that specializes in helping clients find and use small, previously unnoticed details in their data to significantly improve performance and find new areas of growth. QuantumBlack has roots in Formula 1 racing, where data and analytics are second nature. With locations in Europe, North America, India, and Australia, QuantumBlack will be charting a new course this month as we introduce their capabilities to our analytics work in Latin America.

A flurry of launch events, including a breakfast in São Paulo, client forums, and talks marked the occasion. What does this mean for our Latin American clients?

“Our clients in Latin America, like elsewhere in the world, are looking to drive value from data and analytics to transform their businesses, so adding QuantumBlack’s unique approach and capabilities will help them accelerate that journey,” says Pepe Cafferata, a McKinsey partner and head of QuantumBlack Latin America. “There’s just tremendous demand for it now,” he adds.

Heitor Martins, a senior partner, speaking at the opening breakfast event

Pepe, along with other São Paulo-based McKinsey colleagues—like Alexandre Montoro —spent 6 months on rotation at QuantumBlack’s London headquarters this past year. “We integrated ourselves into their teams, living and breathing their protocol that we’re now bringing back with us to our clients here in the region,” says Alexandre.

“We call it the five i’s—short for our five stages of ideation, intelligence, inception, intervention, and independence,” says Simon Williams, cofounder and director of QuantumBlack. The challenge with most organizations is they often have so much data but aren’t using it to its full potential. “We go in and study how to access it, clean it, connect the dots, and draw out insights to improve performance.”

Tracy Francis, a senior partner, at the opening breakfast event

“In the advanced analytics space, which moves so fast, we know tech can become obsolete within 6 to 9 months” states Jeremy Palmer, CEO of QuantumBlack. “Having a repeatable and scalable methodology is just as important—if not more—than all the bells and whistles.”

Capability building for clients is also at the core of QuantumBlack’s approach. Through training, mentorship, and secondments, “our goal is to hand off a model that clients can then run on their own after we’re gone so they can be independent,” says Jeremy. “We’re focused on the long term—on performance gain and cultural change where continuous improvements become part of an organization’s DNA.”

As for the types of projects slated for Latin America, “they’ll be in line with QuantumBlack’s trademark of groundbreaking and complex work,” says Heitor Martins, a senior partner. “Doing transformative work that’s completely new to the world—that’s their bread and butter. When you combine that ability with McKinsey’s expertise to drive change at scale across global organizations, you have an unbeatable combination.”

Revving up analytics in Latin America with QuantumBlack

Some past examples of this include using machine learning to detect more than 85 percent of invoice fraud for a leading bank, accelerating time to market for new drugs through up to 15 percent faster enrolment on clinical trials, and speeding up design and engineering processes by three months for an automotive company.

Like elsewhere in McKinsey Analytics, teams will be made up of McKinsey’s industry and functional experts—along with QuantumBlack’s data scientists, data engineers, technical architects, machine-learning experts, and designers.

Talks about making this kind of move began over a year and a half ago between McKinsey partners that included Marina Cigarini, Heitor, Pepe, Simon, and Jeremy. “We saw this physical ‘coming together’ as a natural evolution for how we’ve been bridging our broad domain expertise with QuantumBlack’s design, data, and advanced-analytics horsepower from the start,” says Heitor.

São Paulo represents a logical next step for QuantumBlack, given McKinsey’s existing analytics hub. “We’ve already hit the ground running with a significant lighthouse project underway,” says Pepe. For the past two months, the joint McKinsey–QuantumBlack team has already been applying this new way of working with a major bank in Latin America. “Between financial, manufacturing, mining, and other industries, there’s just tons of data out there that’s yet to be exploited here,” says Jeremy. “We see so much opportunity. It’s not just about driving performance improvement—it’s about fundamentally changing business models and reinventing how people work.”

Learn more about QuantumBlack here.