Rafael Paniagua

CEO of Industrial Giant ABB in Brazil



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Rafael Paniagua is an experienced leader as Chief Executive Officer and President in the Power, Automation, and Manufacturing industries. Over a 25-year period, Rafael has built and grown successful companies and business units and led global operations on multiple continents. Rafael believes strongly in developing people through coaching and mentoring. Main strengths: customer-oriented, result-driven, teamwork, people development, change management, and intercultural profile.

Business Highlights:

  • Rafael began his career as an Industrial Engineer at ABB, a global leader in power and automation technologies with a presence in 100+ countries. After completing an extensive and successful career at ABB for over 25 years, he joined CEO Coaching international as a Partner Coach in 2020.
  • Rafael has developed solid expertise in renewable energy development, energy efficiency, e-mobility, power generation, transmission, distribution, automation, process industries, manufacturing, and robotic businesses.
  • He is passionate about deep technologies and is a partner and advisor with some venture capital firms in start-ups in areas such as digital health, nanotechnology, talent investment, and people development.
  • He has experience in M&A through global corporate acquisitions and divestments. Currently, he is an advisor and industry expert for Manufacturing, Energy, and Infrastructure.
  • As a President and CEO of ABB Brazil for seven years, he repositioned the Brazilian and Latin American operations focusing on high-growth segments, led dramatic change in the customer base, and achieved strong growth despite a very tough market.
  • Rafael has led several global businesses as Group Vice President (2+ BUSD, 5,000+ employees, 14 factories, and operating in 30+ countries). He achieved the highest historical profitability of the business (doubling profitability in 3 years) by shifting the organizational culture and building a real global footprint with a strong presence in high-growth emerging markets.


  • Master Science Industrial Engineering at Universidad de Sevilla, Spain. The Faculty of Engineering. Industrial, Management & Business Engineering Department.
  • Accounting & Marketing Management. Mechanical Engineering – The University of Sheffield (UK). School of Management (MBA)
  • Member of the Board of Director Program. IESE Business School Universidad de Navarra.
  • Executive Program. YPO Young Presidents Organization. Presidents´ Program HBS – Harvard Business School.
  • Senior Management Program (PADE)- IESE Business School Universidad de Navarra.
  • Senior Leadership Program. IMD – Lausanne – Switzerland.

Personal Highlights:

  • Happily married to his wife Curra since 1995 and is a proud father to a son, Rafael, and a daughter, Maria, as well as a bichon frise named Milú.
  • Served as President of Instituto ABB – Criança – Futuro Esperança (Children’s education in Brazil).
  • YPO member of Brazil and Spain chapters.
  • An active member serving as Vice President and Member of the Board of Directors of the Manufacturer and Infrastructure Associations and Chambers of Commerce of Europe in Latino America.
  • He is fluent in Spanish, English, and Portuguese.
  • One of Rafael’s passions outside of work is raising Spanish Horses. He also enjoys sailing, walking in nature, and spending time with family and friends.

Featured Podcast:

Listen to Rafael Paniagua’s podcast episode – 4 Keys to Successfully Expand Your Business Internationally