The digital CAC 40: where are the major French groups?

by bold-lichterman

Very many companies assume that digital transformation involves setting up a website, a mobile application or accounts on social networks and as a result, their companies will be digitized. According to a survey conducted by Deloitte and MIT and conducted among 4,800 executives and business leaders in more than 127 countries, digital transformation is not based on the adoption of a new technology and its mastery but rather within as part of a strategy that aims to revolutionize the way these firms operate. This transformation must be the result of a clear and identified digital strategy, which forms part of the long-term financial and commercial strategy and which will enable it to reach digital “maturity”. This change can be summed up in the digitization of the company’s activity. Of “all” its activity and not just the “digitization” of sales, marketing and communication channels; to which we too often reduce the digital transformation.

On October 5, the consulting firm Kurt Salmon as well as the Uptilab agency published the annual results on the progress of the digital transformation of listed companies in the CAC 40. The results are rather very average, even mediocre. The overall lack of digital culture within large French groups prevents them from being part of an evolving and efficient continuity. CAC 40 executives and managers are still struggling to grasp the challenges in order to apply it to long-term strategy. A barely passable mention for large French groups.


However, the awareness of the need to put this digital transformation into action is well existing. This movement has above all been catalyzed by a fear of large groups of losing considerable market shares to new companies which compete with them with a very largely digitized product and service offering. Which is a real disappointment because a possible transformation of these large groups will not ultimately be driven by a deep desire for change and adaptation to the digital world of the 21st century.

To determine this ranking, the rating agencies analyze not only technical accessibility criteria such as the possibility of browsing the website on different mobile devices, the loading speed… but also the digital presence of the brand: referencing, presence on social networks, traffic, mobile applications, quality of the user experience.

Within this framework, AXA achieved an exceptional rise, to the top of the ranking of French groups listed CAC 40 by climbing from its twentieth place, not even scoring the average. In order to succeed in this digital transformation bet, AXA is allocating a budget of 450 million euros to this strategy (950 million over the period 2013/2015), of which 60 million for France. A team of 130 direct collaborators have been tasked with making this bet a success and the result is more than telling. Frédéric Tardy, Marketing and Distribution Director of the AXA Group, defines this change as follows: “digital transformation is first and foremost a cultural transformation of the company. Before we were on the Internet, now we are on the Internet. It is a radical change ”. Whether it is a question of the distribution of Big data, the Internet, the use of new platforms, social networks, AXA has mobilized strongly on all fronts. Raising senior executives’ awareness of the importance of digital transformation has been essential, especially in the area of ​​insurance.

In comparison with Great Britain, France is clearly behind when it comes to the digitization of its insurance operations, with Great Britain scoring more than 75% of its insurance and reinsurance activity on its digital platforms, which it make it possible to carry out dematerialized exchanges with all of its suppliers. Despite real progress in taking digital issues into account, nearly two-thirds of CAC 40 companies are struggling to move from theory to practice. Each company must find for itself how to take advantage of digital technology according to its own economic model and the challenges that arise. From now on, the “chief digital officers” (CDO), whose mission is to define and implement the digitization of the company’s activities, are more and more numerous in the organization charts of the CAC 40. Thus, 73% of CAC 40 companies have a CDO. Like Lubomira Rochet, ex Microsoft, hired by L’Oréal, or Yves Tirode, who moved from Orange to the SNCF where, with their background in high-tech and telecommunications, trying to introduce new uses in these mega-infrastructures.

Lack of digital and digital culture

This is the major criticism made to the large French groups. Unlike the Anglo-Saxon and Japanese markets, where CDOs see themselves working with a clear directive line that extends over a period allocated to the success of pre-set objectives, their French counterparts are rather in a situation of transition, without a concrete goal. . Young executives, under 35, who could implement a digital strategy that will transform the approach of their company and allow a digitalization of the core business of these firms are not yet in charge of their departments. They find themselves blocked by managers, who despite a brilliant career and many successes, keep a more traditional approach to work.

The big challenge for large French companies is to put in place a real strategy to merge their company’s activity and to remodel it so as not to perish in an era that favors the virtual, the security of operations, speed and efficiency of digital processors. The homogeneity and lack of domination of one of the sectors presented in the ranking indicate a potential risk of the emergence of unexpected, fundamentally digitalized competitors who could absorb these large groups. A terrifying prospect which would perhaps finally push the French leaders to put themselves in a position of digital challenger.

Soukaïna-SELLAMIMarketing and sales assistant at ELYKSIR, a consulting firm for managers, Soukaïna SELLAMI contributed to the creation of the “Dirigeants Propulsion Program!” whose vocation is to propel their group. Three strong axes: strategy, financing and realization by mobilizing a multidisciplinary team with very high added value and a powerful international network.