Recognized specialist of SMEs and ETIs in France, Fanny Letier wishes with GENEO reconcile investment capital and family capitalism, by developing “entrepreneurial capital” capable of supporting major long-term growth adventures.
Why did you co-found with François Rivolier GENEOyour investment capital tool, based on the sustainable evergreen model?
Fanny Letier: To develop positive finance. You will tell me, what is “positive finance”? It’s actually four ingredients. First, finance that masters time, capable of thinking long term. That’s why we are a 99-year-old private equity firm. Secondly, it is a finance that provides not only financial capital, but also and above all human capital, which growth companies need. Third, it is finance that shares value equitably with all stakeholders. And fourth, it is finance that has a positive societal impact.
Why did you take on this “positive finance” challenge?
FL: Because positive finance is the key to sustainable growth, but also because of our backgrounds crossed with François Rivolier, who is for his part a complete finance professional and a real developer of projects and talents. I am originally a specialist in SMEs and ETIs. I was born in Nord-Pas-de-Calais and my professional vocation has always been to create jobs. I consider that the best way to do this is to allow SMEs and ETIs with potential to reveal this potential and grow.
I started at Bercy, at the Ministry of Finance, where I realized during the financial crisis of 2008 the need to have long-term financiers on the one hand who help get through the crises, and on the other side of entrepreneurs who have more human capital in their companies to implement and have the means to achieve their ambitions. Then, at Bpifranceon the one hand I took over the SME investment funds from 2013 to 2018, making 400 investments in six years in all regions, and on the other hand created the SME and ETI accelerators, i.e. 700 companies which have averaged 25% growth.
You have an atypical profile since you are a senior civil servant turned entrepreneur. Why this choice of entrepreneurship and what is your view three years later?
FL: I am delighted because I can support entrepreneurs all the better because I am an entrepreneur myself and, like them, I have gone through the different phases of creation and the rise to power of a growth adventure, with its ups and downs. her stockings. When we have lived it, there are things that reason even more. It reinforced my vision, because I consider that entrepreneurs are the heroes of our economy, they are the ones who get up every morning to give work to their employees, create jobs and meet the unmet needs of society.
In my career, I successively worked for the general interest at Bercy, then by vocation at Bpifrance where I immersed myself alongside entrepreneurs, and today with GENEO, it is my mission to create entrepreneurial capital, this positive finance that will make more SMEs and ETIs open their capital because they will have confidence and they will find themselves in the DNA of this new form of capital. investment that did not exist until now. With François Rivolier and our team of 14 people, we wanted to satisfy this need by creating a tool that combines time management and provides both financial and human capital.
You say that GENEO has an entrepreneurial DNA at all levels. That’s to say ?
FL: Inspiring confidence when you are both an investment fund and provide advice is not a given. There is a real cultural difference between managers, consultants and funds. To build this bridge between these different worlds, we thought we needed to have a very strong community of entrepreneurs around us. Today brought to us by 170 families or entrepreneurs from France or Europe (Switzerland, Italy, Great Britain and Germany).
And that’s great, because it means that those who have succeeded through entrepreneurship, that is to say entrepreneurs who have built great growth adventures – those that make the eyes shine – have chosen to invest their money in GENEO to reconcile performance and meaning, by saying on the one hand that it is a good investment for their money and on the other hand that they will thus be able to participate in the development of new nuggets.
One third of the salaries in the form of dividends from your shareholders will be donated to companies in difficult neighborhoods or rural areas. Is that also reconciling positive finance, performance and meaning?
FL: Yes, that’s exactly it, because we hope to see a new generation of entrepreneurs emerge by 2025 both in difficult neighborhoods and rural areas, but also to act for the reintegration through employment of people who have difficulties. The 14 team members have already signed their pledges. The endowment fund was created on May 11, 2020, in order to start by financing a car maintenance production school in Lens (EPAL) which has a 100% hiring rate upon leaving. The federation based in Lyon which brings together these production schools in different trades has a plan to create 100 schools in the next three years throughout the territory. And the 170 families who have invested in GENEO decided to support these schools. GENEO therefore also has leverage and ripple effects on philanthropy.
In your statutes are highlighted “parity, diversity, multidisciplinarity”. Are these essential values for you today?
FL: Yes, totally. I share with my associates the conviction that diversity is a factor of performance, so I have always ensured the diversity of the teams, which is expressed in various ways: diversity between men and women with total parity, intergenerational diversity between juniors and seniors , the diversity of career paths and international diversity. As investment capital is not an exact science, it is very important to compare the views of different profiles from each other.
You have just set up a committee of stakeholders aimed at guaranteeing the transparency of GENEO. Explain to us.
FL: When we adopt a raison d’être around a concept of positive finance, it is important to say and above all to show in complete transparency what we are doing, because otherwise, you may be asked: ” What proves that you will do what you say? For this, governance is essential, because it is a way of life, it is where we are accountable for our actions. So I found it interesting to set up a ” stakeholder committee (with our investors, our invested companies, the endowment fund, the experts GENEOemployees, etc.) to have it assessed at least once a year that we have met our objectives on the four pillars of our positive finance.
This committee, in which there is a representative of each of our stakeholders, chaired by Delphine Gény-Stephann, investor with GENEO and former Secretary of State for SMEs to the Minister for the Economy and Finance, will submit an opinion each year to our General Meeting of Investors on the four pillars of our raison d’être. The committee’s first report will be released next June.
In 2021 you published a new book entitled “ Rebound book for SMEs and ETIs “. What is this rebound essentially going through?
FL: Obviously, there is no miracle solution, which is why this guide offers nine keys and many tips. But if I had to remember one essential point for me, it would be ” give meaning to a business project “. It is to wonder what makes the entrepreneur and his teams like to get up in the morning to go to work. And this is where the human dimension takes on its full meaning, from the purpose of the company to such important issues as well-being at work, CSR, green transport, etc. This is the heart of the rebound. Because it is this point that keeps the teams committed, whatever the hazards and crisis situations. You need a course, a very clear guideline.
Without forgetting three very strong business points. First, the employer brand, ie attracting talent. Second, innovation for the customer. Our customers need societal innovations. Third, transformation for positive impact. We are all in BtoB or BtoC and the “C”, for me, more than the customer or the consumer, is the citizen, so even when we work in BtoB, we must have a discourse and a vision of the product that go to the citizen.
A positive societal impact therefore requires positive finance?
FL: Yes, absolutely, but for that, time is necessary. When you are an industrial company, it will take 7, 8 or 10 years for a project to be embodied in products and services. It takes time, sense, financial means, consistency and committed teams. That’s what GENEO Capital Entrepreneur wants to accompany.
Interview by Valérie Loctin