How Can Europe Compete with U.S., China Rivals? Get Over Its Aversion to Big M&A

November 18, 2019, 4:17 PM UTC
Karien Van Gennip, CEO of the French branch of Dutch bank ING, speaks at the Fortune Global Forum in Paris.
004rFortune Global ForumrNovember 18th, 2019 rParis, Francerr11:45rFIRING UP EUROPE’S INNOVATION ENGINErLUNCH PROGRAMrOnce the global powerhouse of innovation, Europe has lost its edge: today, it is outpaced in most growth areas by the United States and China. In an interactive session, we will explore how the continent can regain its competitive edge, not by playing catch-up, but by changing the game to build on its strengths. From accelerating digital technologies and AI adoption to leveraging the new rules of data and user access to investing in talent, our expert panel will discuss what it will take to push Europe and its businesses forward.rHosted by McKinsey & Company rWelcome and Overview: Pal Erik Sjatil, Managing Partner, Europe, McKinsey & CompanyrHarold Goddijn, Chief Executive Officer, TomTomrKlemens Hjartar, Senior Partner, Global Co-leader, McKinsey TechnologyrKarien van Gennip, Chief Executive Officer, ING Bank FrancerModerator: Rik Kirkland, Senior Managing Editor, McKinsey & Company
Stuart Isett for Fortune

European competition authorities must allow further consolidation in industries such as finance and banking to create pan-European champions capable of matching the scale of U.S. and Chinese rivals, Karien van Gennip, the chief executive officer of the French branch of Dutch bank ING, said Monday.

“The European Commission says no to big mergers and that has to change,”
Van Gennip, who is also a former Dutch secretary of state for economic affairs, said. “They don’t see the European market as a whole.”

Speaking at the Fortune Global Forum in Paris, Van Gennip said it was a major impediment to business that each European country operates with its own individual set of regulation and licensing requirements, even though they are all based on the same European Union standard.

She made her remarks during a discussion about accelerating innovation in Europe, in which the panelists mentioned obstacles to consolidation as just one of several issues challenging the continent as it seeks to equal developments in the U.S. and China.

In Europe, the penetration of basic digital services—such as websites and mobile apps and use of digital productivity tools such as Slack—is only two-thirds what it is in the U.S., according to Eric Hazan, a senior partner at consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

He said until Europe improves basic digital implementation, it will be hard for its businesses to catch up with the U.S. and China in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and 5G telecommunications.
Europe currently represents just 10% of the global investment in A.I., he said.

Harold Goddijn, CEO of mapping software company TomTom, echoed this view. “If the basic software stack isn’t there, you can’t do A.I.,” he said, noting that for too many European firms, the fundamental digital infrastructure isn’t present.

Van Gennip said companies need to be flexible and willing to adjust their business models rapidly in response to new technologically-enabled players. “You must be willing to disrupt yourself,” Van Gennip said. “Change is the new normal and you have to be able to adapt.”

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