Speed beats size: Jim Hagemann Snabe on the future of global enterprises

In a fast-paced global economy, progress means continually reinventing and adapting. In an exclusive pre-interview, Jim Hagemann Snabe, a visionary leader behind giants like Siemens, Maersk and SAP, shares his insight on the future. He explains how companies can tackle modern challenges, seize new growth opportunities and prepare for a sustainable, circular economy. In September, Snabe will speak at the International Retail Summit at the GDI.
30 May, 2024 by
Speed beats size: Jim Hagemann Snabe on the future of global enterprises
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

GDI: Mr Snabe, you’re leading or have led some strong and heavy global players, like SAP, Siemens, Maersk or Deutsche Bank. What are the main challenges global companies face today?​

Jim Hagemann Snabe: The ability to reinvent themselves. Historically, size created competitive advantage. In today’s world, speed beats size. Speed in terms of being able to identify and scale new opportunities to constantly reinvent the company and stay relevant.

We often hear terms like “de-risking” or “nearshoring.” We are told that our supply chains have to be resilient – just in case. So is the world becoming a less convenient, less friendly place?

I hope not. Global trade is an enabler of economic opportunities and collaboration. De-risking supply chains is not about less global trade. If we do it right, it is about more global trade, with more countries involved. If done right, it could lead to a more friendly place.

It looks like all the high-growth markets in the world are found far away from our central European home bases. Where do you think Europe has a potential to grow?

It is only natural that growth is now happening in regions with many people moving into the middle class. However, I believe that central Europe has a big opportunity to find growth opportunities in the decarbonisation of critical value chains. We have the necessary technologies. We need more speed and scale.

We are seeing in the news how geopolitics is changing. We have to find out for ourselves how our company has to change. Do you have any hints on how to adapt in uncertain times?

The geopolitical environment has become very challenging and is likely to become even more challenging in the coming years. However, I am impressed by how fast companies are able to adjust to the new situation. My recommendation is to develop new business relationships in midsize and small countries. This reduces the risk and increases flexibility. It increases the complexity of doing business, but with modern technology it is possible.

When you come to the International Retail Summit in Rüschlikon, an audience of retailers will listen to you. They have learned to sell with a smile, giving their clients a good feeling in exchange for their money. What do they have to re-learn to be future-ready?

I believe that we are heading towards a future in which products are not purchased and wasted. Instead, we will see more circular value chains, in which products are sold as a service and materials are re-used. This offers a new business opportunity for retailers to build long-term customer relationships and participate in circular value chains. In such a future, customers don’t just buy with a smile. They keep smiling.

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