If you believe in stereotypes, it won’t be surprising to hear that German-born Thomas Buberl has focused on improving efficiency since becoming the head of insurance group AXA, making him one of the very few foreigners at the helm of a major French company.
Mr. Buberl was named the insurer’s chief executive officer in September 2016. Needless to say, not everyone in Paris agreed with the decision and questioned whether a German could actually run such a large French company. Mr. Buberl, the argument went, didn’t have the necessary networks, political contacts or relationships with other business leaders in the French capital.
His predecessor, Henri de Castries, known to be a Europhile, was appalled by those initial reactions, which he saw as an expression of nationalism that was completely outdated. Mr. Buberl, after all, had proven himself as head of AXA’s operations in Germany, where he rigorously restructured the company’s business. “At AXA, it’s talent that counts, not your passport,” Mr. Castries said at the time.