Grande Bretagne11 octobre 20120Farewell

Ironmongers Hall

Une fois n’est pas coutume, c’est en anglais qu’est écrit cet article de “transhumances”. Il s’agit d’un résumé de mon intervention a la « farewell party » organisée le 4 octobre dans le cadre magnifique du Ironmongers Hall de la City de Londres (l’antique siège de la corporation des ferronniers, devenus ensuite métallurgistes), en présence d’environ 80 personnes.

 When I was asked a few weeks ago which kind of farewell party I would fancy, I answered that I would like to meet a few people who have been particularly close to me over the past five years in the UK. I said that I wished that they would come from the various circles I have been involved in.

 Several of you have a special relation with Coface. Bridget founded the company’s operation in the UK nearly 20 years ago; Joe and Grant were part of the very first team. Coface UK senior managers are here tonight, as well as colleagues who have retired or are now working for other companies. Trade credit insurance defines itself as an industry, fiercely competitive but also kept together by a strong community spirit: some of you are our brokers, others our competitors. Other attendees are our auditors, lawyers, PR agency. And I would like to extend a special greeting to representatives of the French community – as you know London is the fifth French city by the number of population: Embassy, French Chamber of Commerce, Foreign Trade Advisers.

 Together, we faced in 2008 and 2009 the stress of a tremendous financial crisis. Every morning brought new claims, out of proportion with the insurance premiums. We survived, but we had to work hard to improve our understanding of risks, reduce costs and improve efficiency, and we came out of the ordeal as a team. Casually, this was exactly my mission at Coface UK when I arrived in 2007: to organise the branch so as it could be sustainably profitable. I think that the mission has been accomplished. Frédéric, my successor, will undoubtedly continue in the same direction. He will also bring new ideas, based on his deep financial culture and experience, and this will allow Coface to develop in a credit insurance market which has grown more and more sophisticated in the shadow of the Lloyds.

 I have been happy in the UK. Brigitte and I have extensively travelled from Kent to Scotland and from Midlands to Wales. We went to theatre, concerts and exhibitions. We admired this mix of humour, attention to others and perfect organisation which made the Olympics and Paralympics so unique events. To make a long story short: I love this people. And I would like to pay a tribute to Brigitte. She accepted to follow me in Milan, then to Madrid, then to Watford – and now to Bordeaux!

 You will have observed that this speech did not start with a joke. In line with the British spirit, let us go for a closing joke. The story involves, naturally, insurance people. An old man, on the verge of retirement after innumerable years at Coface, wanted to purchase a life insurance policy. A first salesman proposed him a policy “from the cradle to the grave”. A second one offered a better cover: “from the womb to the tomb”. The pre-retiree was about to sign for this second proposal when a third insurance salesman came with a contract he could not refuse: “from erection to resurrection!”

 I would like to thank you for these exciting five years. We shall keep in touch. All the best!

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