· ECONOMY&BUSINESS · · T. Maria Cruz · P. ©PMC

Paulo Abrantes

«We have to be realistic, serious and honest with whoever comes to us»

2003 was a landmark year for Paulo Abrantes. It was then that he set up Decisões e Soluções (DS). With Paulo as its managing director, the group can look back over 13 years of financial consultancy services. But, when it comes to his career, Paulo can look back over 30 years. Talking to Villas&Golfe, with regard to his profession, he admits that the «goal has always been to grow, but to do so steadily». He founded DS with the aim of serving and helping people through a project. For Paulo Abrantes the best award he has ever received has been these 13 years of DS’s existence, the more than one hundred agencies spread across the country, the around one thousand employees and the more than 200,000 customers.

How do you become number one, in Portugal, in financial consultancy?
Decisões e Soluções was founded with two fundamental aims: to help its customers and the population in general to pay less for their financing and to reduce their monthly outgoings; and to give work to its employees and to the maximum number of people possible, involved in the company’s operations. The issue of us becoming number one was never an obsession. If you were to ask me if it was down to chance, it wasn’t. It took a lot of work, but work for me and for the entire team, and today I take great pride in it. 

Could you say the man in charge, Paulo Abrantes, is what stands behind all this success?
I have never been very interested in standing out. Every project has someone who comes up with it, who runs it and heads it. Above all else, someone who doesn’t limit themselves to seeing the here and now; rather someone who every day thinks about tomorrow. I don’t feel anything more than proud of the great professionals I have around me.  

Today, 13 years since DS first began, how would you assess its growth?
I believe that with work and determination any goals can be met. This is my motto; this is our motto. If this then leads to permanent growth, and if every year is better than the last, I can’t deny that they are. We have made the most of several opportunities that have come about with changes to the market and we have transformed difficulties into opportunities. We are going to continue growing, innovating and being highly attentive to opportunities as and when they appear. And we’ll be here 13 years from now to see how it all went. 

With negative Euribor rates, spreads at 1.5% and banks lending, has it become easier to sell houses?
It has become easier to apply for a mortgage again, to buy and sell houses. It has become easier to build a property, to do building work. A great deal has changed. The market had to react. Banks, insurance companies and developers had to adapt. People are still here and they need to be kept abreast of what is going on around them. One of our principles is this: making people aware of the situation, helping them get to where they can go…today. Never pushing them into commitments that they cannot meet. We have to be realistic, serious and honest with whoever comes to us.

Property prices are rising. What could go wrong in the long term?                  
This is a good moment; real estate sales are on the rise; banks are lending, with good conditions; and there is considerable foreign investment. Property prices are rising. We are confident about the future, not least because we operate in five areas of major importance for the population: real estate brokerage, building works and construction brokerage, financial consultancy and insurance brokerage. 
«The issue of us becoming number one was never an obsession»
In 2015 credit was extended to the value of four billion Euros. In 2016 the value was six billion. Is this growth tendency set to continue in 2017? 
The many banking institutions operating in our country have ambitious goals for this year, with regard to mortgages. There has already been talk of growth to the tune of 40%, in 2017. People are once again starting to dream. 

What is your view of the real estate and insurance market in Portugal?
My view is a very optimistic one, with growth of about 30% in 2017, in relation to the 17 billion euros achieved in 2016. With regard to the insurance market, there is a portfolio of 12 billion euros to work on. 

DS has various brokerage services. What else can we expect from it?
We want to continue growing our number of agencies, employees and customers to whom we provide our advisory service with 360-degree solutions. We have never been content with what we have, and what we have already achieved. We are attentive to our surroundings, to opportunities, to the country and to the world.

DS has more than 100 agencies. Is there enough room and demand, in Portugal for more DS «houses»?Our goal has always been to grow, but to do so steadily. We are going to continue to grow and we have very ambitious goals for the coming years. 

Does the DS ‘empire’ have any competitors?
We are not an empire (he laughs). We are just the largest Portuguese real estate and financial consultancy network operating in our country. We don’t have any competitors, at least none of any size. We believe competition to be healthy and even positive, despite not being too concerned about what others are up to; we are concerned about our customers and in achieving our goals.
«Our goal has always been to grow, but to do so steadily»
You have also been involved with social responsibility. Is it important for a group like yours to be involved it this kind of activity? 
We have always insisted on supporting those who need it most. DS has always taken its social responsibility very seriously. We have already supported Fundação do Gil, Caritas and Associação Corações Com Coroa, whose president is Catarina Furtado, among others. 

How do you recognise your employees’ efforts? 
Every month, quarter and annually, we recognise and reward out best employees, our best agencies. We give out incentives, prizes, holidays... For example since September last year we have been awarding an extra monthly prize to employees that stand out the most: they have the opportunity to drive and enjoy, for a few days, a unique experience at the wheel of a Ferrari F430 Spider F1

In 2017 you celebrate 30 years of career. What are your hopes for this year?
I hope that DS enjoys its best year ever in 2017. As for me, I feel, having worked for 30 years, that I’m ready to do more and to do it even better.

Maria Cruz
T. Maria Cruz
P. ©PMC