Alexis Lecanuet (SK 1993), Managing Director for the Middle East & Turkey at Accenture

16 October 2019

Experience in advising and transforming large corporations.

You’ve been with Accenture for 23 years. How did it all start?

After graduating from SKEMA, I first spent a year at the head of Confédération Nationale des Junior Entreprises (the French Confederation of Junior Enterprises) before heading to Hungary to do national service as a trainee in a business environment (the French VSNE programme), working for the water board in the nascent telecoms branch. I met the love of my life there, but I’d still not found the industry in which to make a career. At the time, there were interesting prospects in mass-market retail. In 1996 I joined Accenture by specialising in that sector and I climbed up the career ladder, becoming Managing Director Retail for Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East some 20 years later.

Why did you choose to move to Dubai in 2015?

I was travelling through the United Arab Emirates on a regular basis, as they were part of the geographical zone I covered.  The zone holds a great deal of appeal for families (my daughters were between 4 and 14 years old at the time) and, for Accenture, it has great potential for development given the possibilities for market growth and the thirst for innovation. When my superiors offered me a transfer to Dubai, my wife and I made the decision in 30 minutes! After a year over there, I took over the regional “consumer goods” portfolio (transport, retail, tourism, pharmaceuticals), before being put in charge of all Accenture business in the region in 2018. Professionally-speaking it’s so interesting, even though it’s not exactly plain sailing. As for the quality of life, it’s extraordinary: we live outdoors for eight months of the year and I have a lot more family time than I did in Paris. We are creating formative memories for our family of six.

What are the priority industries for Accenture in the Middle East?

My job is to give Accenture a firm foothold in the Middle East, by supporting the transformation of the major industries ─ energy, public utilities, tourism, banking, retail and telecommunications ─ and assisting them with their digitalisation. Just like elsewhere in the world, our clients are few but they are the biggest in the region. To maximise our impact we participate in developing a qualified local workforce with the right skills for the new professions that are emerging. Until now, our regional model relied mainly on expatriates. We are gradually creating more positions with high added value for nationals in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates and we are encouraging gender diversity in our headcount and in management.

What challenges do you face day to day?

How to make more room for women and offer attractive positions to young locals is one of them. To this end, we are consolidating partnerships with universities, the major recruiters in the region and major events such as Expo 2020 Dubai. Another challenge is to improve our clients’ effectiveness through synergies and cost reduction programmes. For the past 15 years, many local companies had a model that focused primarily on growth. This trend is starting to reverse. Increasingly, we are seeing a desire to optimise costs and the effectiveness of operational models, for example via shared services in human resources, finance, purchasing.

You work with 53 nationalities. How do you create work methods that accommodate this multiculturalism while respecting Accenture’s international standards? 

Within the group, we speak proudly about our “culture of cultures”. While our roots are American, our global management is spread throughout the world and we don’t have a global head office. This makes us a diverse and multipolar organisation. When I arrived in Dubai, with over 20 years of experience in the company, I already had that international DNA and I was in charge of instilling it in the Middle East. Especially since our business there was relatively recent and the teams functioned somewhat like a startup. Contributing to connecting our Middle Eastern activities with the rest of the world is a rewarding equation.  What’s more, the forward-looking mentality that characterises the region is exceedingly refreshing when you come from “old” Europe.

How do you see your future?

Our ambition is to have an impact on the transformation of the seven biggest industries in the region and to achieve one billion dollars in revenue for the region. That is my sole mission for the coming years. I see myself willingly staying in the region for the long term.

Contact: Alexis Lecanuet (SK 1993), Managing Director at Accenture

Interview by for SKEMA Alumni