Xavier Gaillard – President, Atlantic Technologies – France
The CEO of Atlantic Technologies, a leading provider of technical assistance, was pleased to unveil a partnership with SNEF. This new milestone in the company’s development is aimed at further penetrating the oil and gas industry.
Atlantic Technologies deals with human resources which is quite eloquent regarding your positioning at the crossroads of energy and manpower. How did the idea of this company emerge?
I had been working for various employers such as Assystem or Akka Technologies in France and overseas. During a business trip to Algeria, I happened to meet quite a few expats, mainly from the UK, working in the Oil & Gas sector. We talked about their line of business and how they often struggled to find suitable sourcing solutions. I identified a gap in the market and the need to provide efficient sourcing and HR services. This is how the idea of setting up Atlantic Technologies came to mind. In 2006, I returned to France and registered the name of the company. I realized that it would be quite challenging for somebody with little experience in the sector and small funds to start a business in this area. It was during this time I was introduced to the former owner of MPH and we established a partnership. This enabled me to develop business, have access to know-how and MPH’s resources.
In 2009, we ended the partnership as they decided to sell the company despite its relative success. Atlantic Technologies had become a company within its own right and I continued to develop the company in my own way, convinced there was room for a new player in this area of business. Five years later, the company boasts a turnover of € 8 million (approximately $ 8.51 million). We now have 80 people working for us in France and subsidiaries in the UAE, Algeria and Congo.
What specific needs did your company try to respond to?
My goal was not to compete with the major players of the sector but rather to focus on being more responsive than other competitors. I strove to provide a full range of services, the right people, the correct working permits and so forth. My only limitation was not always having sufficient financial resources to meet my clients’ needs all over the world.
In 2015, I’m building a partnership with SNEF, the first French independent leader in Electrical and Instrumentation engineering and construction field. SNEF has a worldwide footprint and especially in the O&G activity. This collaboration will open border for my development and credibility.
How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors on the market? In other words, why do your clients seek your services in particular?
Our main strength I think is our responsiveness and reactivity to the market. Our motto is: the sooner the better. I am a quite a competitive player and am constantly thinking of ways to differentiate the company from competitors. For example one of my next goals is to use local content in each region where my clients have a presence.
You provide “customized solutions” to your customers. What does that entail?
We tailor our solutions to meet our client’s needs. At Atlantic Technologies, every contract is different. The sector of technical assistance used to be very competitive in the UK. The French market is slightly less competitive but things are changing because major UK players are entering the French market through subsidiaries.
What is the general profile of your clients?
We deal with more than twenty different clients every month. They are all significant players in the oil and gas industry. For example Total, Technip and Saipem who have been Atlantic’s clients since 2009. We cover the whole spectrum of the EPC field. It goes from FEED and engineering (process, safety…) to commissioning. We work from A to Z, at every stage.
What are your different fields of expertise?
Our customers belong to the oil & gas sector. Our contracts in exploration are on a smaller scale as we tend to cover the demands across EPC area which consists of a large part of our business. As a company we remain open-minded, covering different fields and don’t wish to set any boundaries. Veolia for instance has sought our services for a water treatment mission. We also have a partnership with Alstom or Vinci.
What are the repercussions of the difficulties faced by the oil and gas majors on your activity?
Believe it or not, I see this as a great opportunity for my business. Missions still have to be carried out, but they no longer imply hiring people on a full time basis. This is where Atlantic Technologies comes to play. Our capacity to adapt quickly to the market constitutes an additional asset.
I believe that working in the oil & gas industry is very challenging.
In contrast to Scandinavian companies who benefit from a positive image in their country, there is still progress to be made in France. In France, this sector is sometimes perceived as a moneymaking machine and the long term gains and positive infrastructure are not valued in the same way. You need to have strong will power and ambition to succeed in this industry.
How exactly do you keep close to the “action”? Do you work from France or do you run an office in every country?
If you only work from France, a Technical Assistance Company won’t stand out to big players. But if you are able to tell your our clients that you have offices in UAE, Algeria, Congo, Nigeria it puts you in a much stronger position. Thanks to our partnership with SNEF, we are now in 25 countries. This is a key factor and helps us stand out from the competition as a lot of them are only able to operate in France. I have understood that my clients need manpower to follow projects all over the world. They also require more and more local content and flexibility. If you provide them with these tools and services, this can help secure becoming a long-term sub contractor.
What about the internationalizing process of Atlantic Technologies?
From day one we structured Atlantic Technologies to enable our employees to fulfil the requirements of our clients on an international scale. This has become even more the case since SNEF and ATLANTIC TECHNOLOGIES have joined forces.
Would you say there is a French touch regarding technical assistance and oil & gas services in general?
The French market is quite a particular market and heavy on bureaucracy. Complicated administrative procedures can sometimes be off putting for our foreign clients however we strive for simplicity when dealing with these issues.
I am not sure there is a French touch as such but I like to think we have managed to smooth and simplify our services as much as possible within the marketplace.
How do you see Atlantic Technologies develop, in let’s say five years’ time?
I would like to continue to grow and expand our business to be able to have a truly global reach of clients. I am also very keen to keep the long-term partnerships we have already have with in our clients in place. We have achieved a lot in the last 5 years and I believe there is a lot more on the horizon.