The World Behind the Words

Tyco International has its sights set on emerging markets around the globe. Its vice president and general counsel of growth markets may speak multiple languages, but his cultural sensitivity is the business’s passport to success.

Francisco Hernández-Castillo, Vice President and General Counsel of growth markets at Tyco International

If there is one constant at Tyco International, it’s growth. The organization began in 1960 as an investment firm, and before the end of the 1970s, it hit $500 million in sales. By the early 2000s, Tyco had absorbed more than 1,000 other companies before separating into six companies between 2007 and 2012. Today, Tyco is the world’s leader in fire protection and security systems with more than $10 billion in revenue and nearly 60,000 employees around the globe. But Tyco’s not done—far from it.

Over the past decade, Tyco has turned its attention to the world’s emerging markets, where the company is placing talented leaders like Francisco Hernández-Castillo. As vice president and general counsel of growth markets, Hernández-Castillo manages a team of 24 lawyers and paralegals dedicated to supporting the security systems company’s efforts to accelerate growth in the world’s emerging markets by exploring new regions. New markets account for 15 percent of Tyco’s total revenues, and represent the true growth engine for the company. Tyco operates in more than 100 countries with approximately half of its revenue coming from outside North America. The highly complex and volatile environments of the emerging markets require solid leadership when managing risk and talent, which is why Hernández-Castillo’s job is so important.

As a child in Venezuela, Hernández-Castillo learned hard work from his mother and inherited a passion for exploration from his father, who had studied in the United States. “He was always pushing me to get out of my comfort zone and look for unique opportunities,” he recalls. You could say Hernández-Castillo took that advice seriously.

Hernández-Castillo, a self-made man, earned law degrees from four different countries. He studied in France, Italy, Venezuela, and the United States and speaks five languages fluently. Those formative experiences, along with working as an international consultant at the World Bank, gave Hernández-Castillo the tools he needed to stand out as a capable international lawyer.

That’s when Tyco came calling, looking for the perfect person to fill its need for corporate and compliance counsel in Latin America. Hernández-Castillo joined the company to build a complete law department in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as implement a compliance system in the growing, multibillion-dollar operation. He recruited and developed top talent and put into operation culturally sensitive practices for working in Latin and Caribbean countries. Today, Hernández-Castillo is seeing the fruits of his labor as Tyco takes its place as a global player in several key parts of the world.


It’s no secret that Brazil is an economic hot spot. Driven by an energy trifecta of oil and natural gas, solar and wind, and biofuel, the county is seeing its biggest boom in more than two decades. It’s a major tourist destination that held the World Cup this past summer and is next in line to host the Summer Olympics. The opportunity for Tyco to grow in Brazil is tremendous, and the company is pushing for sustained growth to create long-term value in this market.
Hernández-Castillo and his team are investing to create the fundamentals and infrastructure to allow a full expansion into the region, fostering a culture of ethics and compliance. While the opportunities seem endless, companies like Tyco must proceed with caution. Brazil presents several challenges and risks ranging from talent management, corruption, bribery and crime, to complex taxation and exclusionary regulations. Hernández-Castillo hopes to navigate these obstacles through solid leadership, processes, education, and training. He works with internal clients and external partners to bring everyone up to speed on regulations and compliance.


Hernández-Castillo says India is interesting to a company like Tyco because its security products are a perfect fit for a market dedicated to improving its infrastructure. “We see it as a land of opportunity because so much needs to be built,” he explains. The very large and diverse population is still growing. As it does, focus has shifted to improving its systems. The infrastructure needs to be designed, built, and organized. Again, corruption is an important issue, but Tyco’s legal teams are building awareness. Hernández-Castillo hopes that in the coming years, regional governments in India will do more to expedite the way business is conducted by changing fundamentals in their strict regulatory programs to allow business to prosper.

The Middle East

Growth also looks promising for Tyco in the Middle East, where stocks, trades, and local markets are rising and experts predict continued financial improvements. “We’re creating a business model in the Middle East that requires consideration of local realities. We must adapt to cultural nuances without compromising our commitment to ethical values and compliance.” In each new market, he relies on his broad international experience and his talented team. Without understanding how nationals conduct business and the particulars of their legal system, no company can truly thrive in foreign territories. Mastering these issues can mean closing or losing a deal, settling a matter or prolonging it.

After nine years with Tyco, Hernández-Castillo is realizing just how much his background has helped. “The experiences I’ve had around the world haven’t just given me language, they’ve helped me understand different approaches to life and business,” he says, adding that he is able to understand the most critical dynamics that happen in each market. He can then approach, lead, manage, and resolve any issue in a sensitive way. “When you speak a different language, it’s not just about words,” he says. “It’s about understanding the world behind those words.” It is by understanding those worlds that a person—and a company—can seize each unique business opportunity.