French abroad FAE): your mandate covered the period 2019/2022. What were the highlights?
Renaud Bentégeat (RB): When I began my term as president of the French ICC network abroad, in June 2019, we could not imagine what the whole world would be like a few months later and the impact that a health crisis would have on all of ours. activities. Undoubtedly, this situation that has eclipsed all the others will mark these three years. Our network, which finances itself, has been particularly affected by this crisis, in all its bases, in all its activities.
However, it is in these times of crisis and hardship that the true natures and qualities of each person are revealed. CCI France International, leader of the network, has been able to react in the right way to transform this crisis into an opportunity and the CCI FIs have been combative. They were there for their members, moving to digital, increasing the activity of the sector committees. Some, among the most fragile, have encountered serious difficulties and sometimes fell asleep, but this represents only a very small minority. Most of them resisted and confirmed the central place they occupy in our Franco-local business communities. They created bonds, solidarity and allowed us to face difficulties together. They have adapted their activities and services and strengthened their role as facilitator, intermediary and trusted partner, which remote companies particularly need, to be reassured about the choice of a partner, to decode behaviors or different organizations, to adapt to a local law or cultural context.
The beginning of my mandate was a period of great challenges and great hopes for the network, in particular due to our integration into the Team France Export (TFE), through 6 chambers which took over the activity of Business France in the concessions of public services, and 3 Others that have been awarded public service contracts, a form of subcontracting of Business France. At the same time, 61 rooms were referenced by the TFE for services complementary to those of the state body. This was a huge step forward for our network and recognition by the French public authorities. Unfortunately, the health crisis has put an end to their internationalization projects for many companies. The potentially generative activity of the TFE was delayed for a year or more.
The great satisfaction we can have today is that, despite this context, most of the rooms that have entered into contracts with the state show particularly good levels of activity and customer satisfaction. Our goals were often exceeded in the last financial year.
FAE: On which axes can the FI KIC network continue its development?
RB: Despite the difficulties we may have encountered, I am extremely confident in the role our chambers can play in a new business environment. Businesses need more and more interactions and connections. The key to success today lies in the digital transformation of organizations, and our network has focused its efforts in this direction over the past two to three years.
Our network has not been left behind in this area, as all of our rooms have been working with shared digital tools for years (website, CRM, digital marketing tools, mobile application, etc.). But the health crisis and its impacts have prompted us to accelerate and invest more in this sector. And many chambers have adopted our tools during this time.
During the health crisis, our network was pushed to the limit. I would say, to take a sports photo, our muscles didn’t grow much during that time, but they got harder. All our employees, and our central organization in Paris is no exception, have been strongly challenged, but we are approaching the future with enthusiasm and confidence, with adequate activities and services, adequate business models, renewed tools. I believe we have been able to turn this crisis into an opportunity and our role is thus strengthened.
FAE: At the end of your mission, what prospects do you see in the medium term, for you and for the network?
RB: From the end of June I will become honorary president of this organization, with the possibility of still providing all the necessary support to my successor. I will therefore continue to invest myself in developing and strengthening this formidable network to which I am very attached. I see that our network continues its professionalization and structuring efforts. We have made great progress in this area in recent years, but we still need to strengthen our support for the smaller chambers.
I see that CCI FIs play a more important role with Team France Export, completing the geographic coverage of public services, whose tendency will inevitably be to focus efforts on fewer high potential markets for French companies.
Our network carries the colors of France aloft, participates in the development of the Francophonie and plays a decisive role in the collective effort to accentuate the French presence internationally.