CEO Daily: Wednesday, December 16


I spent an hour yesterday afternoon with Pierre Nanterme, the Frenchman who runs global consulting giant Accenture. For those who haven’t noticed, Accenture has been on a tear recently, growing much faster than its competitors and performing well enough to earn Nanterme a spot (No. 32) on Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year list. Accenture was also on our Best Companies to Work For list (No. 98), our World’s Most Admired list (No. 49), and the Global 500 (no. 374), making it one of the year’s Blue Ribbon Companies.

How has he done it? Nanterme says Accenture was earlier than its competition to “acknowledge that something big was happening” in digital technology, and aggressively pursued acquisitions to take advantage of that revolution. (Yesterday, it announced the acquisition of Beacon Consulting Group in Boston.) The company now employs 375,000 people in 120 countries. Nanterme sees three big waves of change: the digitalization of the consumer, which started first; the digitalization of the enterprise; and more recently, the digitalization of operations – also known as the “Internet of things” and the “industrial Internet” – which he sees as the biggest of three, and still very much in its infancy.

Accenture has worked to keep ahead of its clients in digitalizing its own company, creating a truly connected global business without a physical headquarters – Nanterme is based in France, his CFO is based in Atlanta, and his chief marketing officer, Roxanne Taylor, is in New York. He recently spoke to a gathering of 500 employees in Chicago as a hologram, from Paris. (“I hate to travel,” he confesses.)

I asked Nanterme why, given the revolution in business technology, productivity statistics continue to look so dismal. He said he thought part of it is a measurement problem. But he also said the business models to support fully digitalized businesses are still to be built. “We are in an period of transition, with the old and the new together,” he said. As a result, “We don’t yet get all the benefits.”

Nanterme believes most companies, under pressure from shareholders, aren’t investing enough in their digital futures. “Short-termism” is an understandable response to an unstable world, he said. But larger investments will be needed to take advantage of the long-term possibilities.

Speaking of an unstable world, the GOP candidates held another debate last night, focused on foreign policy. A lively performance all around, but it’s not clear that it did much to resolve a very unsettled race.


More news below.


Top News

Cruz, Rubio clash at GOP debate

Freshman Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz clashed repeatedly over national security and immigration policy in a lively Republican presidential debate on Tuesday night – exchanges that defined a substance-heavy event. There were other standout moments, notably former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sharply criticizing current frontrunner Donald Trump. None of the candidates that are polling low were able to achieve game-changing performances, so it remains to be seen if the debate will alter polling in any significant way. And with only seven weeks until voting begins in Iowa, some candidates are running short on time. Fortune

Democrats seek Valeant testimony

Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives panel are planning to call Valeant Pharmaceuticals CEO Michael Pearson to testify early next year about steep price increases for some of the firm's drugs. The hearing is part of an ongoing probe into sky rocketing drug prices, a topic that has generated a lot of media attention at Fortune and other publications of late. Valeant, as well as Martin Shkreli-led Turing Pharmaceuticals, have been under U.S. government scrutiny over their practice of buying off-patent drugs and then drastically increasing the prices of those treatments Reuters

Activists put spotlight on Mondelez

Mondelez CEO Irene Rosenfeld has found herself pestered by two major activist investors – Nelson Peltz and William Ackman – each offering suggestions ranging from global strategy to shelf space for the company's snacks. She estimates that addressing their concerns consumes one-quarter of her time. "I'm frustrated with investors' fascination with activists," Rosenfeld told The Wall Street Journal. "I'm successfully running Mondelez for all shareholders—without the activists' help." As she tries to increase sales, there is also pressure to boost the stock price and margins quickly. Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Fed expected to raise rates

On Wednesday, the U.S. central bank's Federal Open Market Committee is expected to raise rates when it concludes its final meeting of the year – the first increase since 2006. But as Fortune points out, the Fed's interest rate in the long-run is projected to settle at just about 3.5%, or roughly half its average rate from 1970 through 2007. That's not encouraging news for Americans who are living off the returns from their savings, and there is a good shot that the Fed's rate doesn't even get that high, as the Fed has consistently overestimated how high it may raise rates. Fortune

Around the Water Cooler

The new Queen of electric cars

Padmasree Warrior, the former chief technology and strategy officer at Cisco Systems, is the new U.S. CEO and global chief development officer at Chinese electric car startup NextEV. The move is a big change for Warrior, who spent her entire career at two well-established global giants: seven years at Cisco and 23 years at Motorola. Her challenge? Build a car company that can one-up Tesla in terms of "user experience." Fortune

Apple, IBM alliance hits milestone

A partnership between Apple and IBM to create and sell mobile apps to businesses hit a new milestone: the two firms have now built over 100 business apps, meeting a goal they set when first working together last year. By working together, Apple is hoping to leverage its consumer know-how with IBM's deep dies to corporate IT departments. They released 48 apps in December alone, covering sectors like the auto, chemical, retail, and healthcare industries. Fortune

The Sam's Club CEO 'controversy'

Rosalind Brewer, the CEO of Walmart-owned Sam's Club, unleashed a tweetstorm of calls to boycott the retailer after she discussed diversity on CNN. Brewer, an African American woman, talked about the importance of diversity within her company but also her hope to work with suppliers that also present diverse teams. Some on Twitter reacted unfavorably to her comments. The backlash got so big that Walmart CEO Doug McMillon issued a statement on her behalf, saying "Roz was simply trying to reiterate that we believe diverse and inclusive teams make for a stronger business." Fortune

5 things to know today

Oil Patch Woe and Fed Decision Looms--5 Things to Know Today. Today's story can be found here.

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