At the very beginning of the interview with fDi, a senior executive points to Nani Beccalli-Falco, CEO of General Electric (GE) Europe and North Asia as well as GE Germany, and jokes: “That’s the big boss. We are the ones who work.” Mr Beccalli-Falco laughingly admits: “I am not the one who does the work, I am the one who does the thinking”.

And there must be a lot of thinking involved. Mr Beccalli-Falco is in charge of overseeing enterprises that spread from Portugal to Japan, employ more than 84,000 people, and generate revenues of €23.85bn in Europe alone, in industries that range from energy grids to healthcare systems.

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Cleansing process

For a company as big as GE, the current economic situation has both its advantages and drawbacks. Markets and activities that were long considered pillars for the company are ailing, while emerging markets are undergoing speedy recoveries and their governments are willing to go far to attract a business giant such as GE.

Mr Beccalli-Falco admits that crisis can be painful, but prefers to look at the bigger picture. “Crisis is the moment of reflection. [It] allows you to introduce changes that otherwise you [might] not have the courage to make. People who get out of the crisis in a strong shape are stronger than before,” he says. He adds that what really matters in times of crisis is the ability to rethink strategy and reorganise. A leader who can spontaneously implement changes is also important.

Crisis is the moment of reflection. [It] allows you to introduce changes that otherwise you [might] not have the courage to make. People who get out of the crisis in a strong shape are stronger than before

Sometimes, however, the stimulus for change comes from an unexpected, more local source. Mr Beccalli-Falco recounts a time when he was visiting a GE plant in Alabama in the US and was told, somewhat bluntly, that the plant was not operating efficiently. Mr Beccalli-Falco, who is keen to stress that getting more feedback from staff is very important to him, spoke with the employee and "it turned out that he was right... We conducted the necessary changes."

New approach

Mr Beccalli-Falco’s approach of rethinking strategy also applies to finding new sites for FDI projects. “The times of investing because the cost [of conducting business] is low are finished,” he says, adding that the size of the market and the supply of talent are what really makes a difference and it is these factors that are taken into account when making investment decisions.

When asked about the best places for foreign investment, Mr Beccalli-Falco points to eastern Europe, the Balkans and Germany, as this part of the world is growing steadily and promises a good return on investment.

New projects launched by GE will be based on both greenfield investments and acquisitions. Mr Beccalli-Falco says that GE has a good record of turning state-owned behemoths into modern, profitable enterprises. And as many countries struggle to keep their balance sheets in order, and turn to privatisation to achieve this, this creates potentially lucrative opportunities for companies such as GE, which, according to Mr Beccalli-Falco, is “always looking to acquire something”.