I feel drawn to the French City of Light, I always have been and will soon be even more so.
I once lived there in the Cité Universitaire when I studied European economics at the Sorbonne. Cité U is a campus in the fourteenth district where more than 40 countries have a student house in a park that can rival the better-known American campuses, equipped with sports facilities, restaurants and old libraries. Most of the Belgians who ever studied in Paris stayed there in the student house of the Biermans-Lapôtre Foundation. Later on, I moved outside the périférie to the campus of INSEAD in Fontainebleau, just west of Notre Dame, nestling in the forests close to Barbizon, where impressionism saw the light of day.
Last year Bekaert sent me into the forest again for several weeks, this time not for a training at INSEAD but at the neighbouring CEDEP, on the same campus. As a sustainable global company, not only does Bekaert aspire to be an innovative steel company worldwide but, at the same time, we are also a company that for more than 40 years has been leading the way in personal leadership development all over the world. It all started in 1971 when Bekaert with five other companies, including L’Oréal and Sandoz (now Novartis), launched the first 18-week General Management Program for its future senior managers, on the same INSEAD campus. Years later, this initial INSEAD spin-off program became the reference for many business schools in the world.
CEDEP, “Centre Européen d’Éducation Permanente”, the foundation that manages the program for its international members, has already revamped this General Management Program several times, the last time in 2014. One of the aims of the updated program is to encourage future senior managers to think more in the long-term, away from the familiar “Wall Street quarter” way of thinking. The program provides tools to work with greater self-confidence in a world which is becoming more and more volatile, more uncertain, more complex and more ambiguous, the VUCA-world.
Each year Bekaert – just like, for example, Tata Steel, Renault, Honeywell and LVMH – sends three or so managers to attend this flagship program. These are often people who in the short or medium term can progress into the Leadership Team of their company or, for certain individuals, up to the absolute top level. Sophie Dutordoir – former CEO of Electrabel – also attended the CEDEP-campus before making it right up to the absolute top position. Electrabel (now the French GDF-Suez) is another Belgian company that is also part of this executive education community that was described by the Financial Times as “One of executive education’s best-kept secrets which employs some of the world’s top business professors, yet it is not a business school; it lists some of the world’s top companies among its members, but it is not a club, and by reputation at least, has a better wine cellar than any business school. “
As from April 1, 2016, Wim Wuyts, Vice-President Tax at Bekaert, will combine his current job with the role of Program Director of the General Management Program at CEDEP (European Center for Permanent Education, Fontainebleau).
At the same time, he will be building up his own International School for Tax Leadership on the Fontainebleau campus and serve his last year as Chairman of the Tax Committee at the Belgian Employers Federation (VBO-FEB).