AXA corporate takes the lead on key functions such as capital allocation, top executive management, brand management, values, and defining AXA standards. But they share with subsidiaries and affiliates the running of specialized units (AXA Business Services and AXA Corporate Solutions), support functions (AXA Risk Management, AXA Procurement, AXA Way, and AXA University), and networking. An example of "everything decentralized but" is AXA Way, the company's methodology for achieving operational excellence. The methodology is based on the same reengineering processes used in manufacturing. The process, said Brunet, is a "fact-based method, it is customer oriented, and it allows for employee ownership and empowerment." An AXA Way governing body creates the methodology, while projects are selected and implemented at a local level."
Rather than acquiring firms along the way to achieve measured growth, Barclays Global Investors became global virtually overnight. A single geographic merger in 1995 between Wells Fargo Nikko Investment Advisors and Barclays de Zoete Wedd Investment Management created BGI, a global institutional asset manager with businesses in all major pension fund markets and 10 offices worldwide. According to Lindsay Tomlinson, vice chairman, the early years of the merger saw global management structures sitting directly over the old organizations. "Eventually we began to ask, 'Why be global?'"
The new company shared a common business strategy but not much else. A first step toward unification came by way of travel. "We told the top 30% of the people in our firm that they had to do training in another office. Two days in one place, three days in another," said Tomlinson. Beyond the windfall to British Airways - some $7 million dollars was spent in air travel - the strategy proved more beneficial than anyone had expected. "People got to know each other and began sharing ideas. Afterward, someone in San Francisco would call a colleague in Europe or Asia without hesitation, with the same ease as they would call a colleague down the hall." BGI further institutionalized the unification by creating a global bottom line and global bonus pool, developing global product lines, and adopting common core infrastructure and technology.
"We had been given a 20 percent chance at success," added Tomlinson, who clearly has beaten the odds. But if the company's success was unexpected, so were some of the negatives associated with going global. It has been "incredibly satisfying, but it has its costs," said Tomlinson. No one had quite predicted the tax on employees' personal lives. "When you have people on planes all the time or on conference calls at 2 a.m. you begin to wonder whether we would all have been better off staying in London and making a fine living doing what we did before."
Branding - Global or Local?
Once a company goes global it faces the question of branding. Should we have one face everywhere or should we adapt to the needs and desires of local markets? To globalize or not to globalize a brand is not necessarily a yes/no question, observed Wharton marketing professor David J. Reibstein. Companies must take into account the differences in various parts of the world: customer needs, competitors, market size, and obviously language. This means a standard offering may lead to different positioning depending where you are. He offered the Canon Sure Shot as an example. The camera is marketed as an introduction to digital in the U.S., as a replacement camera in Japan, and is geared to the high tech community in Germany. "Global name, yes," he said. "Global brand, not really."
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