Adrien Thominet (49), former CEO of the Paris-based ECS Group, one of the world’s largest integrated cargo GSSAs, has stepped up the career ladder, becoming Executive Chairman. He took over the role on 1st August already, succeeding Bertrand Schmoll (58). Meanwhile, Mr. Schmoll has taken on the position as Senior Advisor. This includes responsibilities for finances and acquisitions.
Further appointments for filling leadership positions are expected to follow.
Prior to the personnel shift at the top deck, the shareholders had consented the step for securing leadership continuity and keeping managerial expertise on board.
Frenchman at heart, but global citizen
The Paris-born manager has been with the ECS Group for more than 25 years, becoming its COO in 2011 and then CEO in 2017. Prior to this, he graduated in business economics, worked in New York as Commercial Director for FICOFI, a luxury brand promoting French wines, followed by a commitment in Tokyo where he represented UniFrance Film and managed the Yokohama Film Festival.
After this activity as cultural creator in the Far East, he returned to France to switch from the art scene to the more tangible air freight industry.
“I am honored to have been appointed Executive Chairman of the ECS Group,” Mr. Thominet states in a release. He goes on to say: “Today, more than ever, the air cargo industry is at a crossroads, and our ambition as the leading worldwide GSSA, is to provide the optimum support to our customers in this changing environment. We are therefore committed to continuously improving and developing innovative, sustainable, high value-added solutions and services to best serve them.”
GSSAs are facing radical transformation
ECS refers to the underlying approach as an “Augmented GSA Concept.” Augmented, because in future there will be progressively less need for traditional GSA activities to sell freight to their mandate airlines. This because advancing digitalization enables carriers increasingly to act by themselves, taking marketing and sales tasks in their own hands. Given this tendency, GSAs must transform themselves or they risk biting the dust sooner or later.
ECS Group’s solution to weather the transformation process is a service package stretching from A to Z which it offers airlines. “The only task we are unable to accomplish is flying, but the ‘rest’ we can take care of,” the self-asserted executive states. This includes the monitoring of shipments from origin to destination, ground handling activities, staff allocation efforts, providing efficiency analysis, managing container movements and the timely availability of boxes or pallets, looking after the traditional mail business and much more. “You name it, we do it!” he exclaims. This wide range of “à la carte” offerings, subsumed under the terms “Augmented GSA Concept” or “Total Cargo Management (TCM) scheme”, resembles a basket full of juicy fruits, and airlines can voluntarily pick the produce they best like the taste of.
Digitalizing is a matter of do or die
Obviously, a successful approach proved by figures. Today, the ECS Group partners with 150+ carriers of all sizes across the globe and provides capacity support to around 10,000 freight forwarders. The Group has seen exponential development on all continents, and now numbers more than 1,200 staff across 167 subsidiaries in 50 countries within APAC, Europe, North America, and Latin America. In 2020, 1.1 million tons of cargo were flown on behalf of the GSSA. The figures achieved are also result of a consistent digitization strategy, which Mr. Thominet aims to intensify.
New markets on the radar
CFG: And where does ECS identify new or additional market opportunities?
AT: “Primarily in China, where we strive to become the leading GSSA. But also in Japan and South Korea, which we are monitoring very closely. The pole position we have already achieved in Southeast Asia.”
CFG: Is Latin America an issue?
AT: “It sure is, shown by the fact that we run offices in 8 different countries. Only last week we started collaborating with DHL in Chile, where the first aircraft filled with freight acquired by us took off.”
CFG: To round the market issue off: what’s with Africa?
AT: “In negotiations, we have a certain starting advantage because of the language similarities with airlines and forwarders from French-speaking countries such as Senegal, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Cameroon, or Morocco, for instance. Which does not mean that we are given anything there for free. The Sub-Sahara region is still a niche market but with plenty of growth potential shown by Togo or Senegal for instance. That said, we’ll keep our eyes wide open.”
Buying competitors is the better growth strategy
Asked whether ECS intends to grow primarily organically or through acquisitions, Adrien Thominet’s answer is as follows:
“We prefer acquisitions because they allow us to quickly gain market power. However, where this is not possible due to adverse circumstances, we establish our own subsidiaries following a careful analysis of the given business environment.”
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