Within the CAC 40, governance is becoming global

    The managing director of French electrical equipment giant Schneider Electric, German Peter Herweck, poses during a photo session at Schneider's headquarters in Rueil-Malmaison, in the Paris region, on May 3, 2023.

    VSthose who think that Schneider is a German company will see a form of continuity there. Thursday, May 4, Peter Herweck, a 56-year-old German engineer, having spent most of his career with the Siemens group, is to take over as general manager of the French industrialist. Enough to swell the cohort of foreign bosses within the CAC 40. Luca De Meo, the general manager of Renault, is Italian; Paul Hudson, that of Sanofi, is British; Angeles Garcia-Poveda, the president of Legrand, is Spanish, that of Société Générale, Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, Italian. Counting dual nationals, thirteen CAC 40 companies have at their top a president or a general manager with a non-French passport.

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    Below, the staffs also gain in diversity. Already, at Capgemini, Danone, Eurofins or Sanofi, the French are in the minority on the executive committee (comex). And the feminization imposed by the legislator promises to further accentuate this internationalization of management. “Investors are demanding companies to acquire international skills both in the executive committees and on the boards of directors. This law of the market is imposed on uncontrolled groups, in all countries”underlines Sylvain Dhenin, partner of the firm of headhunters Heidrick & Struggles. “If we want to attract and retain the best talent in local markets, we must offer them the opportunity to access the highest positions in the company”adds Ross McInnes, the president of Safran, himself a Franco-Australian, born in Calcutta and a graduate of Oxford.

    This wind from the open sea which blows on French capitalism has cured it of consanguinity and self-segregation. With the corollary of the end of private preserves, as evidenced by the induction into Société Générale of Managing Director Slawomir Krupa, a Franco-Polish graduate of Science Po, ending a line of finance inspectors at the head of the bank .

    “In the name of the higher interest of the nation”

    But if ministerial cabinets are no longer the royal road for the French elites, this is not without consequence. “The crisis of the State is reflected in some people by a lesser interest in public affairs and the general interest. This concerns me, because it is essential to maintain a community of destiny between the large groups and the country where they have their roots.underlines Jean-Dominique Senard, the president of Renault.

    This concern appears all the more important since the return in force of national sovereignty, observed everywhere in the world since the Covid-19 pandemic, is largely based, in France, on companies with fragmented capital. “Economic patriotism is the act of making a sacrifice in the name of the higher interest of the nationrecalls Pierre-Marie de Berny, founder of the consulting firm Vélite, which publishes an annual barometer of economic sovereignty. One can wonder if a foreign boss will be keen to serve France, even if nationality is only an index of attachment to a country. » As for a police investigation, a set of clues is necessary to measure the French roots of a CAC 40 company.

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