Italy is an incubator of not only products, but also of scientific and advisory excellence.
As the Italian Trade center, we are proud to be able to give support to the internationalization of businesses that promote talent, innovation, and competency. Today, we share the success of a business that has always been known to look into the future and to guide the evolution of the complex and fascinating sector of psychotherapy.
In fact, Giunti Psychometrics holds a position of honor among those Italian businesses that have reached a level of international prestige. They have long been known as pioneers in their areas of focus. Active in the field of psychological assessments for more than 70 years, Giunti Pschometrics provides psychodiagnostic tests and instruments to more than 40,000 clients around the world. Their goal is to encourage the well-being and positive developments of both people and organizations.
We recently had the opportunity to meet with Jose Sales Grade, CEO of Giunti Psychometrics and to ask him some questions on the past but above all also on the present and future of the company.
What is Giunti Psychometrics and What Does it Do?
Giunti Psychometrics was founded in Florence in 1950 and it always been focused on the promotion of instruments for psychometric evaluation. What does this mean? It means the ability to evaluate people from the point of view of psychology and psychiatry. The use of psychometrics can be used in numerous applications and has been used in many sectors ranging from clinical to the military.
Concrete examples include the fact that the Italian army examines approximately 70,000 new recruits each year using our valuation instruments. Other examples include clinical settings such as the furnishing our psychometric test materials to ASL and other private and semi-private health institutions for their use in evaluating deficits in intelligence attributed to autism, depression, and other types of psychological or psychiatric areas. We are talking about decades of experience in making these instruments available to a wide range of institutions.
In the area of professional focus, we help businesses identify talent or pursue internal reorganization and reallocation of certain people based on the use of the instruments we provide.
In addition, in the educational sector, we offer scientific materials that offer students an objective method to select their scholastic and professional routes. On top of this, we also have a division that is focused specifically on evaluation of students for universities. Our materials assist in the selection for admission of students to some of the most prestigious Italian universities including Bocconi, Cattolica and LUISS.
In addition, this year acquired another business that is the Italian leader in the area of professional training for psychologists. We see this as an area for strong expansion in which we are already present. With this acquisition, we will become the leader of the sector and also one of the largest players in all of Europe.
What Makes Giunti Pshchometrics different from all the other businesses that work in this area?
That which distinguishes us for our competitors is the scientific validation methods and materials that we offer as both products and services. Some of our scientific instruments and testing materials are the result of years of work and consist of multiple layers: creating instruments from nothing or adapting a test into its use in another country, we also administer large scale studies (thousands and thousands) and collect and statistically analyze those results. It is all of these things that allow one to understand how the tests function and if we are measuring the right standards. On the top of this, we then create the norms and standards that regulate the use of these results.
I will give you two examples of activities which we are not pursuing now simply because there is no scientific basis for doing them. One is the PNL, the other is grafology. Careful, we don’t want to place any doubt on whether these work or not; we can only say that we haven’t included these methodologies in our offers because they don’t have scientific basis. Again, I won’t say that these are not valid but only that they are not evidence-based practices founded on scientific studies. We use large samples that can be statistically demonstrated to be effective.
What can we expect to be the future evolution of these psychometric instruments? Should we think for example of the use of artificial intelligence?
We are already using artificial intelligence, in this case neural networks. These help in various ways to improve the performance of our psychometric instruments. The first way that comes to mind and the most immediate that we have used for a long time is the use of artificial intelligence to evaluate if the response to a test or psychometric questionnaire are given in a sincere manner, or if there is an effort to manipulate the answers. This is particularly important in the field of the military where it is essential to understand that the person responding is doing so sincerely. The use of artificial intelligence helps us to filter the honest candidates and understand who is serious and sincere in their responses.
Another thing that comes to mind is the system of scientific psychometric evaluation across virtual reality. We are using this type of technology for adapting the field of evaluation to a specific area. The is a big space to develop, and there is an opportunity to apply this type of technology in our sector.
So, have there already been evaluations carried out using augmented reality?
For many years there have been things known as situational tests in which instead of responding to verbal questions, the test subject is placed in a context. For example, we have a test to evaluate people in the service professions that anticipates response by creating a context in which the candidate has to select an option about how to react to the situation. This type of test already exists on paper and online. We can also migrate this type of contextual test to a metaverse or virtual reality. We have already initiated the efforts to do this and I expect that this is something that we will see very soon.
You are the leader in Italy but over time you have invested in international expansion. What have been your target countries? How have you pursued the strategy of internationalization?
In Italy, we are the historical leader from both accumulated experience and our presence in the market. We are undoubtedly the point of reference for the industry. We have tried to leverage this experience in Italy to be able to replicate our position in other countries.
We began in Hungary 18 years ago and from there we expaned elsewhere into Eastern Europe. This is a market that was unexplored for psychometrics. We have selected these areas because the first player to enter a market has the chance to attain a strong position and to attain exclusive licenses for the most important instruments in the world. With this focus, we have succeeded in exporting our Italian successes into other countries including Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Russia. In each of these markets we have a created a subsidiary which is a small local version of what we do here. They are a little smaller but they are very successful.
After entering Eastern Europe, we bought a business in Spain and from this point forward, we used Spain as the platform to enter the Latin American markets. From here, we have opened affiliates in Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, and we have also bought a business in Chile. At this time, Latin America has become a very important market.
In the period of the last 18 years, we have grown from a business of 20 employees to one of 260 based all around the world. Last year, we bought a virtual reality business in Spain and now we are the owner of 2-3 other businesses in this territory. This year we have absorbed another business that is focused on the professional education for psychologists. In Italy there are more than 100,000 professionals and they have the need and obligation to continuously upgrade and certify.
Why have you have an international strategy focused on acquisitions rather than opening affiliates?
In the countries where there were not businesses to buy we started from zero. This was the case of how we did it in all of Eastern Europe. In other cases where we were able to find businesses that do things similarly to us, we have pursued acquisitions. In fact, we are already evaluating other acquisitions for this year. In fact, I think that we will make a pair of acquisitions of businesses of 60-80 people – just to give you a sense of the scale.
In this process of international expansions, the Italian Trade Center has helped us to open and better know the Brazilian market which is strategic for us because of its size. In Brazil, after this phase of learning the market we are already speaking with potential acquisition targets.
More recently in Europe, we have explored German speaking countries and we will continue to investigate these opportunities because we would like to have a presence in the market. The language defines the market for us because when we produce instruments, above all, they are verbal and the instrument has to be adapted in other countries based on the language. If you consider that in Europe the potential use of the German language is about 100 million people across 3 countries each with a large spending capacity, this is a big market potential for us.
We continue every day to explore new markets and to evaluate opportunities.