Fred Crawley talks to the software house’s president Emmanuel Gillet about its global growth ambitions and committedly international corporate philosophy.

As it celebrates its 25th anniversary and joins Leaseurope, asset and motor finance software provider Cassiopae is generating a fair amount of attention.

In ten years the company has grown from a local French business with turnover of €3m (£2.42m) to a global operation expecting nearly €33m in revenue during 2012 and employing more than 300 staff. What’s more, chief executive Emmanuel Gillet says thecompany’s growth is "not at its plateau stage by any means".

The past five years have seen Cassiopae engage in a rapid campaign of international expansion and acquisition, with moves into Asia and Brazil this year, and the purchase of French service provider InfoParc and UK-based Field Solutions during 2011.

These new operations join a network including an EMEA support centre in Tunisia, a US subsidiary based in Boston, and a brand new business in India intended to provide support to the Asia region and beyond.

In Europe, Cassiopae runs business in Southern Europe through its French headquarters in Paris, Germany through an office in that country, and Central and Eastern Europe through an office in Warsaw.

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Cassiopae’s systems are in use in 32 countries. And while the company is looking at several markets for further expansion – for example, Saudi Arabia from its Tunisia centre – its immediate plans are focused on further development in China and Brazil.

The company entered China through a sales partnership with Terex Financial Services, and is now engaging with another of its international customers in the market, as well as discussing Chinese expansion with other existing clients.

"The sweet landing spot in China is with our established customers," Gillet comments.

The company has a similar mentality in Brazil, where it is working with partners that have expanded into the market via a representative based in Sao Paulo.

The geographical weak spot for Cassiopae is Australia and New Zealand, a region which Gillet says has been "a natural point of expansion for competitors", while his company has not yet developed a presence there.

"We’re not ignoring it by any means", he comments, but explains that any entry strategy would require the ability to fit right into the business culture of the market, and would not be a case of simply throwing resources at the region.

"To be global is more than just sticking pins in a map" Gillet adds.

Areas for expansion

Other areas of expansion for Cassiopae are sectoral. From a historical focus on commercial real estate funders and pure equipment finance, its customer base has expanded to a point where it encompasses roughly 20% real estate business, 10% fleet and 10% consumer motor finance, with the balance made up of equipment finance providers.

Of these, consumer motor finance is the most intense target area for future growth. Cassiopae has recently begun working with the consumer motor finance arm of a major French bank in Germany, as well as with one of the captive finance houses working in Europe, and is now seeking more clients in the field.

Altogether, Gillet expects his business to grow organically at a rate of between 15 and 20% annually, with further acquisitions made to gain geographical and cultural footprint where necessary.

This acquisition policy – based on Gillet’s assertion that market entry should be more than just a ‘pin in a map’ – was the rationale behind the Field Solutions deal last year. Cassiopae wanted to build presence in the UK through an established team with a large existing customer book, for which Field was an ideal target.

When it was acquired, Field Solutions had more than 150 asset finance and banking clients in the UK, with the majority using the company’s pricing tool.

Managing director Alun Booth says that since the acquisition, the focus has been on promoting the group name alongside the existing Field brand, and introducing customers to Cassiopae’s applications covering origination through to payment, and contract and portfolio management.

This approach met with quick success, with rapidly growing bank and asset finance lender Aldermore – an existing Field pricing customer – taking on Cassiopae’s version 4 front-end system.

‘Thinking global’

Cassiopae’s management approach is internationalist; to illustrate this, Gillet describes the business as a "French company that has adopted English as its language", with internal communications conducted in English. The French market, he says, was largely tapped by Cassiopae in the early 2000s. Thereafter, he says, the aim has been to "make the product multilingual and global, emphasising "an acceptance of the wider world".

As with so many global companies, a substantial part of the business’s technical support will soon be supplied 24/7 through the company’s assets in India.

Gillet returns repeatedly to his theme of "global thinking and local execution" and talks of the paramount need to establish "local trust, and therefore, local expertise".

"The global approach is central to the designing of all our product and processes," he adds. "For example," he adds, "to do business in a Muslim country you must be able to do business on a Sunday. Equally, on Sunday, it’s already Monday in East Asia."

In conclusion, Gillet describes how he divides his time. "I spend about 60% of my time away from Paris," he says. "In June, I visited Asia twice, the States twice, as well as travelling to Brazil and India. Altogether, I’ve taken 110 flights so far this year."

And it seems certain that Cassiopae’s leader will have plenty more checking in ahead of him, as his ambitions for growth lead him more deeply into far-flung markets.