CFO Hotseat: Sandra Servières at Orange Business

CFO Hotseat: Sandra Servières at Orange Business

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Servières discusses business growth and digital transformation

Leveraging a major transformation programme in a new organisation to improve the profit margin post a pandemic is no mean feat. But Sandra Servières believes in difficult times courage is key.

“You must be able to take decisions for the benefit of the company’s financial performance even if they are unpopular, or if it means taking a risk.

“Trust and transparency are incredibly important. You must always have in mind the company’s situation, the challenges, strengths, and areas for improvement, and share this view transparently with the teams.

“Strategic thinking is also key: being able to align financial goals with overall business objectives and develop long-term financial strategies to drive growth and profitability.”

Servières joined Orange in 2005, to set up financial control for global service before leaving finance in 2016 to ‘get closer to customers’ challenges’. In November 2022, she returned to finance as CFO of Orange Business, the enterprise division of the Orange Group, with 30,000 employees across 65 countries.

Her role consists of overseeing and improving all financial aspects of the organisation; including strategic initiatives and transformation programme modelling, business case validation, financial planning, forecasting, risk management and financial reporting.

Servières’ team provide insights and analysis to support decision-making and maximise value generated by the business.

On 15th February this year, Orange published its annual financial results for 2023. This marks the first year of the three year ‘Lead the Future’ plan, which was intended to bring Orange Business back to profitable growth in 2025. Servières says the 2023 results ‘achieved all our objectives’. “The results demonstrate our ability to better anticipate our business and above all it reflects the first positive impact of our transformation plan. Our revenues reached €7,927 million with a growth of 0.2%.”

Orange Business celebrated growth in IT and integration services of 6.3% (+€19 million), driven by the double-digit growth of Orange cyberdefense (+10.9%), the strong performance of digital and data (+7.2%) and increased mobile revenues up 2.6% (+€26 million) which offset the structural decline of -6.7% in fixed voice and data.

As she approaches the two-year mark in the role, Servières is focusing on the future and says there is still much to be done. We are not at the end of our efforts, we have managed to reduce our year-on-year EBiDTAaL decline in line with the expectations of the market. And we are on track to achieve EBIDTAaL growth by 2025.”

Servières believes that the acceleration of digitalisation presents significant business opportunities, albeit with some pain points which must be overcome.

“We have the chance to operate in a market which is growing, because it’s a market that’s transforming. Customers are learning that in some cases the internet and public cloud are good enough and the decrease in fixed voice has accelerated; but this is putting our traditionally high margin legacy business under huge pressure. On the other hand, acceleration of digitalisation is a huge business opportunity.

“We now need to transform our core business, combining connectivity, cloud and cyber in next generation digital infrastructure and communication solutions. We need to adapt our operating model to improve our operational efficiency to be both competitive and profitable in the long term. And, in the face of increasing cyberthreats and uncertain geopolitical context, our customers are always looking for more security and resilience, so we have a key role to play as we are one of the very few reliable global players able to operate critical digital infrastructures.”

Servières believes AI will be a market disrupter with both risks and huge business opportunities. It will be a key driver of operational efficiency improvement and thus critical to ensure sustainable competition. “It will totally disrupt the way we learn and ensure skill development in all areas of the company, finance included.”

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