Chief Executive Officer
TO STAND OUT"
Chief Executive Officer
PIONEERING SPIRIT TO STAND OUT
From the economic environment to regulations and client expectations, everything is changing. How do you view the challenges facing Societe Generale group?
In recent years, we’ve faced and overcome a succession of crises and adjusted our practices and our banking model to suit the new framework established by our regulators. At the same time, even when our economic environment has been unfavourable, as it has been in France for example, we’ve managed to maintain our business momentum, develop our clientele and gain market share, as shown by the strong performance of all of our core businesses in 2016. We’re now on track to continue with our strategy of growth through differentiation, and we’re entering a new phase in this process. We want to stand out from the other European banks and become a benchmark in our areas of business, in a world that will need strong banking players like never before, whatever the political and institutional environment. We want to stand out through our ability to have a greater impact on our clients, to innovate faster and better than others, and to fulfil our mission of serving our clients and the countries where we operate with utmost responsibility. To accelerate this momentum, we will adopt an organisational structure in 2017 that is simpler, more agile and centred on the needs of our clients. For a company to survive, remain attractive to its clients and motivate its staff, it needs to grow, transform and move forward. That’s what we’re doing. To ensure we stand out on a day-to-day basis, we are building on our entrepreneurial culture, which is part of our DNA.
How do you apply this entrepreneurial spirit on a day-to-day basis?
First and foremost, by maintaining one constant priority: the client. I never forget that we are a service company. Enhancing the quality of our services — and the satisfaction that our clients derive from them — is our common goal. When the entire company is united in its client focus, you bring down barriers and create a movement that surpasses the constraints of the organisation.
As part of this approach, how do you address innovation?
First of all, by establishing the principle that innovation is vital to our client-centred transformation. Focusing on our clients means we must instinctively ask ourselves how we can innovate to better serve them. However, for innovation to translate effectively and quickly into new services and new solutions for our clients, it must be embraced by the core businesses and staff members and become directly integrated with our activities. It has to come from everyone in the company. That’s why we’re in the process of developing new ways of working together. We’re not only doing this in the spaces specifically dedicated to innovation, such as The Dunes, our new site located just east of Paris that uses the fully collaborative methods that represent the way we will work tomorrow. We’re also applying agility in our operating methods by removing barriers and setting up small, cross-functional and responsive teams that develop collective intelligence for our clients’ benefit.
We follow the same approach of proximity and openness with our innovation partners. In Africa, for example, we’ve forged a network of links with local startup. We’re developing projects with them that can be very simple in principle but offer significant improvements for our clients. In six African countries, we’re launching an alternative banking solution using mobile technology. Without the need for an Internet connection or a bank account, users will be able to make payments and deposit or withdraw cash through a network of retail partners who will be recruited and trained by drawing on our extensive local presence. This is another example where, by studying clients’ needs, we’re creating new services and new business models for the Bank. In France, where 40% of the population uses multiple banks, Boursorama, a pioneer and leader in online banking, has shared their account aggregation solution, developed through their acquisition of Fiducéo, across the Group’s retail banking network.
Turning to another area, when we wanted to float our subsidiary ALD, which specialises in fleet vehicle management, on the stock exchange we provided the means for the company to accelerate its dynamism in terms of development and innovation in emerging mobility services, thereby helping to create value for its clients, the company and the Group. All of this comes down to the same entrepreneurial energy.
How do you reconcile this need for agility with the constraints and responsibilities of being a bank?
The answer lies primarily in culture. Whether our staff are at a branch in Russia, the Czech Republic or France, or engaged in a market operation in Singapore or New York, we all share a number of values that create the company’s sense of unity and coherence. We apply these values through individual actions and daily practices, employing what we call our Leadership Model. In other words, our management model is focused on one objective, aided of course by our Human Resources policy: to develop, encourage and promote attitudes among our staff that tangibly illustrate our values of Team Spirit, Innovation, Responsibility and Commitment. This behavioural aspect is at least as essential to the success of our business as all of the procedures and rules of compliance that we’ve reinforced in response to the legitimate requirements of our regulators. In addition, as a major bank we have a duty to ask ourselves how we can be responsible entrepreneurs, not only to meet the compliance requirements that apply to our business lines but also more generally with respect to the economy, the environment and the society in which we play an important role. We’re addressing this responsibility in a number of ways, such as our decisions to fight climate change, stop new dedicated coal financing and double our renewable energy financing by 2020. Our strong civic commitment — both at Group level and by our staff — is grounded in the same responsible approach that we all share.
Fundamentally, is entrepreneurial spirit in itself a differentiating factor?
I fully believe it is. Societe Generale was created to finance the growth of companies. I believe it is essential for us to cultivate the pioneering spirit that we’ve always shared with our entrepreneurial clients. It’s a state of mind that’s driving us to go faster and further as we develop our unique position. It’s especially important given that we live in a world where tolerance of non-compliance has fallen to zero, and where the risk is that everyone is afraid of going outside their comfort zone and taking initiative for fear of a sanction. Consequently, there’s a strategic advantage in maintaining an entrepreneurial and responsible approach, where we take controlled risks for our clients, and where we inspire talented people to become bankers and be part of our company’s team effort.