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Will Mexico's new female president turn the tide for businesses?

The election of Claudia Sheinbaum as Mexico’s first female president has sent shockwaves through the global business community.

Sheinbaum’s landslide victory on a platform of continuity with her predecessor’s policies has raised concerns and questions about the future of the country’s economic landscape.

As the dust settles, executives and financial leaders are closely scrutinising the president-elect’s agenda, seeking to understand the implications for their operations and investments in Mexico.

Claudia Sheinbaum, a 61-year-old climate scientist and former mayor of Mexico City, has emerged as a formidable political force. Her victory marks a significant milestone in Mexico’s history, shattering the glass ceiling that has long confined the country’s highest office to male leadership. Sheinbaum’s Jewish heritage and her family’s roots in Bulgaria and Lithuania add an intriguing layer to her personal narrative.

Prior to her foray into politics, Sheinbaum enjoyed a successful career in the scientific community, specialising in energy engineering and climate change research. Her expertise in these fields has been widely recognised, and she has leveraged this knowledge to position herself as a pragmatic, technocratic leader.

Politically, Sheinbaum aligns herself with the left-leaning Morena party, founded by her predecessor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

While she has promised to continue the broad strokes of his populist agenda, including expanded social welfare programs, Sheinbaum is widely seen as a more moderate and less ideological figure than her mentor.

Economic Outlook and Business Concerns

The election of Sheinbaum disrupted Mexico’s financial markets, with the peso and stock exchange experiencing significant volatility in the immediate aftermath of her victory. This reaction reflects the uncertainty and concerns that have gripped the business community, as they grapple with the potential implications of her presidency.

One of the primary points of contention is Sheinbaum’s stance on the energy sector. Her predecessor has been a vocal critic of private and foreign investment in this industry, and has sought to strengthen the role of the state-owned oil company, Pemex. Sheinbaum has indicated that she will continue this policy direction, which has raised alarm bells among investors and energy companies operating in Mexico.

Additionally, Sheinbaum has expressed a desire to address the country’s water scarcity issues, proposing a ban on new industrial sites in water-stressed regions. This move, while aimed at addressing environmental concerns, has sparked fears among businesses that rely on access to reliable water resources to sustain their operations.

Reconciling Divisions and Restoring Investor Confidence

One of Sheinbaum’s most pressing challenges will be to address the deep political divisions that have characterised Mexico’s recent history. López Obrador has been a polarising figure, with his confrontational approach towards the media, opposition parties, and the country’s business elite.

Sheinbaum has acknowledged the need to heal these divisions and has pledged to be a president for all Mexicans, regardless of their political affiliations or economic status. However, the path towards reconciliation will not be an easy one, as the scars of the past six years have left a lasting impact on the country’s social and political fabric.

Restoring investor confidence will also be a crucial task for Sheinbaum’s administration. The market volatility and concerns expressed by the business community in the wake of her victory underscore the fragility of the economic environment. Sheinbaum will need to navigate this delicate balance, reassuring investors while also delivering on her campaign promises to address social inequalities and strengthen the country’s resilience.

Another pressing issue that will demand Sheinbaum’s attention is the persistent problem of cartel violence and organised crime. López Obrador has been criticized for his “hugs, not bullets” approach, which has failed to curb the power and influence of Mexico’s criminal syndicates.

Sheinbaum has acknowledged the gravity of this challenge, pledging to take a more proactive stance in combating the cartels. However, the details of her proposed security strategy remain unclear, and businesses will be closely watching to see if she can deliver on her promises to improve the country’s safety and security environment.

Former president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Strengthening Ties with the United States

The relationship between Mexico and the United States has been a complex and often contentious one, particularly under the leadership of López Obrador. Sheinbaum has signalled a desire to reset this dynamic, emphasizing the importance of a “relationship of friendship, mutual respect and equality” between the two nations.

This shift in tone could have significant implications for businesses operating across the US-Mexico border, as it may pave the way for smoother cross-border trade and investment. However, Sheinbaum has also vowed to “always defend the Mexicans who are on the other side of the border,” a stance that could create tensions with the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

Navigating Constitutional Reforms and Institutional Changes

A key area of concern for the business community is Sheinbaum’s stance on constitutional reforms and institutional changes. Her predecessor has been vocal about his desire to restructure Mexico’s democratic institutions, including the elimination of independent oversight agencies and stricter limits on private investment.

Sheinbaum has indicated that she will continue to pursue some of these reforms, raising fears among investors and international observers about the potential weakening of Mexico’s democratic safeguards. Businesses will be closely monitoring the scope and pace of these changes, as they could have significant implications for the country’s economic and regulatory environment.

Sheinbaum’s election comes at a critical juncture for Mexico’s global competitiveness. As the country grapples with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising inflation, and ongoing security challenges, her administration will be tasked with charting a path towards economic growth and prosperity.

Businesses will be closely watching to see if Sheinbaum can strike the right balance between social welfare initiatives and pro-business policies. Her ability to attract foreign investment, foster innovation, and streamline regulatory processes could be pivotal in enhancing Mexico’s attractiveness as a destination for global enterprises.

Implications for CFOs and Financial Decision-Makers

The election of Claudia Sheinbaum as Mexico’s first female president has significant implications for chief financial officers (CFOs) and other financial decision-makers operating in the country. As they navigate the evolving business landscape, CFOs will need to closely monitor the following key areas:

  1. Regulatory and Policy Changes: CFOs must stay abreast of Sheinbaum’s proposed reforms, particularly those related to the energy sector, water management, and the broader regulatory environment. Anticipating and adapting to these changes will be crucial for maintaining operational efficiency and compliance.
  2. Macroeconomic Stability: The volatility in the peso and stock exchange following Sheinbaum’s victory highlights the need for CFOs to closely monitor the country’s macroeconomic indicators and their potential impact on financial performance and investment strategies.
  3. Security and Risk Management: With the persistent challenge of cartel violence, CFOs must carefully assess and mitigate the operational and financial risks associated with doing business in Mexico, ensuring the safety of their employees and the continuity of their operations.
  4. Talent Attraction and Retention: Sheinbaum’s historic election may create new opportunities for CFOs to attract and retain top talent, particularly among the growing pool of aspiring female leaders. Developing inclusive and progressive HR policies will be crucial in this regard.
  5. Sustainability and Environmental Compliance: As Sheinbaum’s environmental agenda takes shape, CFOs must ensure that their companies are prepared to adapt to new regulations and invest in sustainable business practices to maintain their competitive edge.


While Sheinbaum has pledged to continue the broad strokes of her predecessor’s populist agenda, her more moderate and technocratic approach has left many businesses and investors uncertain about the implications for their operations and investments.

As Sheinbaum takes office, she will face the daunting task of reconciling the country’s deep political divisions, restoring investor confidence, and addressing the persistent challenges of cartel violence and environmental sustainability. Her ability to strike a balance between social welfare initiatives and pro-business policies will be a critical factor in determining the investment climate under her administration.

For CFOs and financial decision-makers, the Sheinbaum presidency will require a keen eye on regulatory and policy changes, macroeconomic stability, security and risk management, talent attraction and retention, and sustainability compliance.

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