2016 was a challenging year for Coface. We had to cope with a sharp rise in risks in emerging countries and the transfer of our historical business managing French public guarantees to the French state. This prompted us to extensively review our strategy and organisation and we abandoned the goals we had set for 2016 when Coface was floated in 2014.
Despite these difficulties, upon my arrival as CEO in February, I was impressed by the Group’s considerable assets: a great brand, a solid reputation, an extensive international footprint, committed customers and partners, and teams boasting deep expertise all over the world. I was soon convinced that Coface could leverage these assets to adjust to an increasingly complex, volatile and risky economic and political environment.
To assess accurately the company and its challenges for the years ahead, I launched a vast in-depth consultation exercise shortly after taking up my role as CEO. I met many of our customers and partners in over 15 countries and more than half of the Group’s employees.
In September 2016, on the strength of this analysis, we launched Fit to Win, our new and ambitious, but realistic, three-year strategic plan which is thus the fruit of this extensive consultation. Fit to Win aims to make Coface the most agile global credit insurance partner in the industry, while working towards a more efficient capital model.
The plan’s success hinges on the involvement of our 4,300 employees and partners worldwide, and four key values: customer focus, expertise, collaboration, and courage & accountability. Fit to Win is also underpinned by a proactive policy to invest in our information and risk management tools, in digitisation and process efficiency, as well as a market-differentiated growth strategy. In parallel, we have significantly strengthened our management team in order to lead change with confidence and determination.
Implementation of Fit to Win is now well underway and 2016 saw significant progress on the main priorities of the plan. We have strengthened our risk management and the quality of our information in emerging markets, improved our operational efficiency and customer service, implemented selective, differentiated growth strategies based on the characteristics of the markets in which we operate, and reduced our capital intensity. The full effects of the actions undertaken will materialize gradually, as work progresses.
2016 therefore marks the beginning of Coface’s necessary transformation to prepare for the future. In the last quarter of the year, overall we achieved our objectives, whether in terms of operating income, or the finalisation of the sale of the French public guarantees business.
In 2017, we will continue to implement our strategic plan with rigour, while adjusting to changes in the economic and risk environments. This is a transition year, as we set Coface on the right course for the three years ahead in order to achieve our value creation goals.
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