Published on August 09, 2021 – Interview by Anne MOREAUX

The Exco network and the financial investment bank Financière de Courcelles are combining their strengths in order to better support the managers of VSEs, SMEs and ETIs in the regions on issues of corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions. Franck Parker, CEO of Exco, and Matthieu de Baynast, CEO of Financière de Courcelles, explain to us how this unprecedented partnership fits naturally into the dynamic of economic recovery.

Affiches Parisiennes : Why did you forge this partnership and launch this new business consulting offer?

Franck Parker : The origin of this partnership is the meeting between two structures, Financière de Courcelles and Exco, each of which had common ambitions which were ultimately found in the partnership that we forged.

On the Exco side, we had the ambition to position ourselves as an M&A player in the 140 or so locations in our group. For its part, Financière de Courcelles had the ambition to develop its local roots.

Given the undoubtedly recognized technical advantages of the market for Financière de Courcelles, and for an Exco, an excellent knowledge of the entrepreneurial fabric in the region, the combination naturally took place.

Matthieu de Baynast : We are both local and competent interlocutors for companies, and this is the interest of this partnership. These two criteria, added to our neutrality and our independence, will make it possible to better support managers in their corporate finance operations and in particular in their projects of sale, transmission and financing of growth.

A.-P. : How does this alliance intend to play a role in the dissemination of the government stimulus package?

F. P. : In short, the aim of this partnership is to make the world of finance, often concentrated in Paris, accessible and simple to all companies in the various territories in which Exco already operates.

M. de B. : We do have a role to play in explaining and reassuring managers about the new financial instruments that exist, such as the stimulus bond system and equity loans. A lot of money is going to be poured out, but companies still need to properly grasp this opportunity.

A lot of money is going to be poured out but it still takes that companies correctly apprehend this opportunity .

A.-P. : How will this partnership translate into practice? Who will intervene? Duets of experts from Exco and Financière de Courcelles?

M. de B. : We have structured this partnership project so that our teams are involved on both sides, so it is not a subcontracting of Exco where all their mandates would go to Financière de Courcelles. The idea is rather to engage the skills of Exco and add technical support from Financière de Courcelles. The goal is really to build and work together in pursuit of the greatest business satisfaction.

A.-P. : Will the impact of the crisis and this period of recovery make it easier for you to tackle these financial issues with clients?

F. P. : It is clear that the market is very dynamic at the moment. There is a lot of liquidity available, and a certain number of financial and creativity instruments around these levers, some of which are initiated by the State, such as stimulus bonds.

Beyond the professionalization of the financial advisory professions and their accessibility for VSEs, SMEs and ETIs in the territories, our mission is also to spread the word, to make it understood that this market is accessible to all companies in order to to avoid reserving the fate of these stimulus instruments for the largest companies.

A.-P. : Do your two entities remain completely free and independent?

F. P. : Indeed, whether it is Financière de Courcelles or Exco, we keep our independence. We are in a technical partnership with skills transfers. Financière de Courcelles therefore does not refrain from working with other local accounting firms, and vice versa.

This partnership aims to make accessible and simple the world of finance, often concentrated in Paris, to all companies in the different territories.

A.-P. : Is this partnership between an accountancy network and an investment bank unprecedented?

M. de B. : To my knowledge, there are partnerships between banks and financial consulting firms, such as that of the Banque Populaire with Adviso Partners, these are somewhat different partnerships. I believe that there are not yet major partnerships between a network of accountants and an investment bank. This is probably because large consulting firms such as the Big 4 have generally internalized these M&A activities with the risks of inherent conflicts of interest.

A.-P. : Was it a request from the field?

F. P. : This partnership is perfectly in line with our strategy of developing consulting activities, like other organizations in the profession in the top 6. At Exco we have made the bet to accelerate the implementation of these services, consulting , private management and M&A by relying on alliances with recognized professionals. This angle allows us to guarantee the best possible service to our customers, from the very first operations.

A.-P. : What targets are Exco Finance et Transactions experts targeting?

M. de B. : The goal is to work with all companies, even if it is not always easy to reach very small businesses on these subjects. In any case, with this device, we are able to address a large target. With its new line of service Exco Finance and Transactions, Exco will provide all business leaders looking to finance their growth, open their capital or sell their business, as well as those wishing to invest, with proximity ensuring them a global vision of existing solutions. On smaller files, Exco Finance et Transactions will probably be more on the front line than us, even if we will bring our expertise. However, we make exceptions on certain complex deals, on transaction values ​​in particular. Today, we are not at all forbidden to help on smaller transactions. Of the 70,000 client companies of Exco, ranging from very small businesses to listed groups, the support potential is fantastic.

A.-P. : Why do you think mergers and acquisitions opportunities are often overlooked by SMEs?

M. de B. : This is mainly due to a lack of knowledge of the world of finance. It is true that in the regions, investment funds are seen more as pension funds than private equity. This can impress SMEs, and they often need to be reassured and advised according to their needs.

A.-P. : In which sector do you anticipate the greatest demand: financing advice, acquisition projects or disposals?

M. de B. : With us, for the moment it is fairly balanced. Many of our colleagues are very focused on sales deals, while we have a slightly different vision because we believe that company buyouts are important. They also represent value creation and longer term relationships. So today we have as many purchasing mandates as there are sales. Currently, we also have a lot of fundraising for companies that are growing. I think that with Exco we will try to work in the same way, not only on disposals, but also on the creation of value through acquisitions, with means of financing either through equity or through debt. . We are also very sensitive to the international development of companies. With our networks of freelancers and our respective subsidiaries, we have a lot of deals that are done across borders, as recently in South Africa, Germany and Croatia. It is an important issue.

A.-P. : What is the impact of the Covid crisis on the capital needs of companies?

F. P. : The health crisis has undoubtedly had financial impacts. Even if a number of tools and levers have been made available to the economy to get through this delicate period, the consequences are very present. On the human level, a certain number of entrepreneurs who, fortified by these two somewhat complicated years, are undoubtedly more sensitive to the possibility of a sale or a transfer. In addition, concentration phenomena in certain sectors are already starting to take place. We are well aware that what we are going through has an impact on the economic structure of companies, and on sectoral mapping in general. On the other hand, we can affirm with Matthieu that our partnership and our ambition are not based on the opportunity that would result from the crisis. It’s a little deeper than that, it’s a response to a strategic vision on both sides.