"Both France and Norway have the ability to navigate efficiently through the current uncertainty..."

Both France and Norway have leading local and international champions, a growing number of innovative companies in Healthtech, Energy transition, Agritech to name some, a well-educated workforce and a good social system. Both France and Norway have the ability to navigate efficiently through the current uncertainty, even though it will remain very painful for a while. Continued cooperation at state level, company level and in the cultural and educational arena is a key asset for both countries. 

Claudine Smith, President of the CCE and Vice-President of the CCFN

The Chamber opens its doors to Mrs Claudine Smith, CEO of BNP Paribas Norway, President of the Norwegian section of the French Foreign Trade Advisors and Vice-President of the French-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce.

 

Interview

Mrs Smith, could you please introduce yourself to our readers? 

Claudine Smith: With pleasure. I like to present myself as a testimony of diversity, being born and having studied in France, having worked in the USA, France and in Norway for the last 35 years. My husband is Norwegian and we have two grown-up daughters. My professional experience is very diverse too, having started in the IT industry, then moving to one of the oldest Norwegian industrial groups and for the last 27 years in the banking industry. I have a wide management background, mainly in very operative front positions.

I am very happy to now lead BNP Paribas in Norway and this for several reasons. We enjoy a close relationship with a large number of companies in Norway, many of them with close ties to France and members of the CCFN, but also subsidiaries of large French and international groups. Norway and the whole Nordic region are selected as a key region for the BNP Paribas group and we are pleased to continue supporting many investments in Norway both in traditional and innovative industries. Otherwise I play golf (not that well I admit), enjoy social and cultural life, and all the fantastic things Norway has to offer during the four seasons with lots of skiing around our family cottage.  A part of my “heart” remains in South-West France, south of Toulouse and in the Basque region.

 

Could you please share with us your forecasts regarding the economic outlook in Norway and France in 2021? 

Claudine Smith: With all the uncertainties that the world faces currently mainly due to the Covid-19 sanitary crisis, but also geopolitical issues, I will be humble and give no forecast. I believe however, and hope, that as soon as a reliable Covid-19 vaccine is available for the different countries, we will have a new economic rebound, ending the crisis with a W shape hopefully. I also trust that we will have further anchored our belief that we all need to adapt, focus even more on the transformation of our society to address our ESG challenges and in line with the Paris agreement.  Both France and Norway have leading local and international champions, a growing number of innovative companies in Healthtech, Energy transition, Agritech to name some, a well-educated workforce and a good social system. Both France and Norway have the ability to navigate efficiently through the current uncertainty, even though it will remain very painful for a while. Continued cooperation at state level, company level and in the cultural and educational arena is a key asset for both countries. 

 

You are in close contact with top managers of French and Norwegian large corporates, what are the main trends that you are observing that will reshape the way we are doing business in France and Norway?

Claudine Smith: I would pick two as mentioned above and they go hand in hand: technology shift and focus on sustainability.

 

Which sectors seem to be the most promising for French-Norwegian industrial cooperation?

Claudine Smith: The CCFN has been working on two central ones,  the energy transition and the ocean industry at large, and they will also remain central going forward.

 

Which advice would you give to a French company willing to develop business in Norway in 2021?

Claudine Smith: Well I think it is a pretty simple recipe i.e. 1) spend time on understanding the country’s specificities while trying to avoid cultural bias 2) plan and pivot when needed, 3) communicate, 4) deliver and 5) follow-up closely.  These are circular steps. Accept that Things Take Time (TTT)s and that Stop and Go is seldom a good tactic.   

 

Reciprocally, to a Norwegian company that would like to develop business in France?

Claudine Smith: Same as above, easy to state but not to live up to I admit,  and for both questions, it is a great idea to join the community of the French Norwegian Chamber of Commerce in either Paris or Oslo to share experiences and learn from peers.  You will be more than welcome!

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