What Kind of Company Are We?

What Kind of Company Are We?

Working with The Swatch Group under Nicolas Hayek, Sr. was a real treat.  Founder of the Group and a true business celebrity in much of Europe, he was always an amazingly insightful man.

During a global executive meeting, I asked the question: “What kind of company are we?”

Working with The Swatch Group under Nicolas Hayek, Sr. was a real treat.  Founder of the Group and a true business celebrity in much of Europe (ethnically Lebanese/American, he was naturalized Swiss and held the Legion d’Honneur from France), he was always an amazingly insightful man.

During a global executive meeting, I asked the question: “What kind of company are we?”

After 15 years in NYC agencies working with Unilever, P&G, Sara Lee, GSK and other major consumer brands, I was certain his answer would be that The Swatch Group was a consumer products company.  Given its 20 watch brands and manufacturing prowess in the category, it stood to reason.

His response shocked me.  He said, “We’re a bank!”

I reasoned that he said so just because we are a Swiss company and outside of pharma and chocolate, what else “could” we be?  But upon further reflection, it dawned on me that banks produce investment vehicles.  He saw the products his brands created the same way.  Offering consumers a means to invest in their own statement of personal expression.

Moreover, the Group’s various manufacturing companies provided the backbone to much of the Swiss watch industry.  In a way, The Swatch Group provided capital – not in a financial sense - but by way of movements, parts, hands, cases, and straps that comprise nearly every Swiss watch.

In those ways, The Swatch Group was like a bank.

I never forgot Mr. Hayek’s answer to that question.  It answered a whole lot more than just that question!