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Serge Kampf

Destiny of a
visionary founder who
thirsts for freedom

Founder of a Group that became a world leader in its field, Serge Kampf was not only a daring and visionary entrepreneur. He also had a deep moral conviction and strong belief in values. These values were reminiscent of another one of his passions: rugby.
“I WAS TORN BETWEEN three
CAREERS:
TRAM DRIVER, FIGHTER PILOT,
AND JOURNALIST”

In the end, he became an entrepreneur. Over the span of a few decades, Serge Kampf transformed a young startup of six people working out of a two-room office in Grenoble, France, into a global leader.

In many ways, Serge Kampf is an exception among the leaders of large IT services companies. Not a graduate of a French Grande École like most of his counterparts, he proved himself an unparalleled creator and entrepreneur driven by an insatiable desire for performance. An organizer by nature and a rigorous manager, he understood earlier and better than others that technology is nothing without the people behind it. Over the course of nearly 50 years, he applied himself with persistence to develop this visionary idea, never becoming distracted by the latest trends and fads. A lover of words, he considered it an honor to personally write the Letter from the President that opened up the Group’s Annual Report each year. Aware of the importance of branding, he designed Capgemini’s logo in 1967, the famous Ace of Spades in which all Group employees still see themselves today.

It all started in Grenoble

Serge Kampf was born in Grenoble in 1934, the only son of a career soldier who was killed in Alsace in 1945. His father, with whom he unfortunately had little time, had once run a successful local business.
Did Capgemini’s founder inherit his father’s enterprising spirit, passion for client relations, and keen attention to detail? These three defining qualities certainly went on to shape the future of Capgemini. During his years at boarding school, where his mother often had to leave him on weekends, he developed another highly valuable habit: working on Saturdays and Sundays.

His work in Telecom administration bored him. Then one of his acquaintances told him of a whole new sector that was just emerging and in need of people: IT.

At a crossroads

In the mid-1950s, after receiving his high school diploma and enjoying a few months of carefree living, Serge Kampf successfully passed the entry exams for French Telecom administration. He then completed a double honors degree in Law and Economics. He learned three major lessons from this coursework: the Law taught him rigor, Economics imparted openness to the world, and Telecommunications gave him technical knowledge. These lessons affected him deeply.

He then became a Telecom Inspector assigned to an underground telephone exchange, monitoring long distance communications between France and North Africa. He quickly grew tired of the mission. Then one of his acquaintances told him about a new sector that was just emerging and in need of people: IT.

Visionary and full of determination, Serge Kampf applied to the two IT powerhouses at the time, the French firm Bull and IBM. Both companies made him offers, but he went with Bull, which offered him a position in his hometown. It was the summer of 1960 and, believe it or not, Serge Kampf had never really seen a computer in his life. He spent six years at Bull, first as a commercial engineer, then as branch manager, and finally as regional manager. He got to know the IT profession, quickly becoming the best salesman in the company. He resigned in 1967. At 33, he was annoyed by what he thought were mistakes of his general management, who had removed material he had just sold to clients from the company catalogue. Serge Kampf found himself at a crossroads.

«
I started my own business to be free.
»serge kampf

Sogeti sees the light of day

“I started my own business to be free and to be my own boss,” he often used to say. This is what pushed him to create Sogeti, an IT services company, on October 1, 1967. The business was not the first on the market. Many competitors already existed, some of which were quite large. And yet little Sogeti, which later became the Capgemini Group, was the first French IT services company and the first European company of its kind, later making its mark as one of the world’s industry leaders.

Key Sogeti executives: José Bourboulon, Robert Thoral, Serge Kampf and Jean-Baptiste Renondin at a meeting in Corsica (1972).

“Napoléon Kampf”

Serge Kampf’s groundbreaking vision, his ability to anticipate market demands and his global ambitions account for much of this success. But his abilities to facilitate and federate were also key. He was able to lead people while motivating them around common values. “Napoléon Kampf” and “Charlemagne Kamp” are some of the nicknames the English- speaking press would call Serge Kampf, a rare entrepreneur set apart by his strategic skills, speed of execution, charisma and discretion. Dividing his time between Grenoble and Paris, he was a private man—a “countryman” as some would say—who was rarely seen at mundane events, only occasionally attending the social gatherings of other CEOs.

Succession

Serge Kampf fully dedicated himself to the company he created up until 2012, the year in which he announced his departure from Capgemini’s presidency. He recommended to the Board of Directors that Paul Hermelin, who joined the Group in 1993 and had served as its CEO since 2002, should succeed him as Chairman and CEO. Serge Kampf remained deeply involved in the Group’s life and strategic direction as Vice- President of the Board of Directors until his death at age 81 in Grenoble—the place where it had all begun 49 years ago.

VISION &
AUDACITY

“When I created Sogeti in October 1967, you couldn’t find even 10 people who would support me, but at least 100 to discourage me, saying, ‘It's too late—the market is already cornered,’” recounted Serge Kampf. When he launched Sogeti, the competition was already strong.

Serge Kampf brought with him something new to the IT services industry: a rareentrepreneurial spirit, the desire to build, grow and become a champion. He also brought groundbreaking ideas that would shape Capgemini’s journey and ultimately make it a world leader.

“He is not only an exquisite technician, but also a visionary,” wrote Gabriel Farkas in 1977, editor of the former French newspaper France Soir, highlighting the entrepreneur’s true uniqueness—his unshakable outlook. In the early 1970s, he became the first to link IT and organizational consulting, “two seemingly incompatible activities, which we believe on the contrary are very complementary,” he argued. He was also the first in Europe to embrace outsourcing, a concept that would later spread among all the Group’s competitors.

Client culture

Serge Kampf envisioned a strategy that seemed unusual at the time: meeting clients’ diverse needs by offering them the full range of IT services. The client was of utmost importance to this approach. “We have always placed the client at the heart of our business. Our core principle is to take the time to listen,” said Serge Kampf. Thanks to its truly unique decentralized structure, the Group was able to maintain close bonds with its customers. This client focus represented a clear departure from the engineering norms at the time where the project was king.

More and more daring…

Serge Kampf built the Capgemini Group by striking a fine balance between being bold and being rational. He selected boldness as one of the Group’s key values, and defined it as “the desire to take risks and to take charge, but also periodically reviewing decisions and circumstances, which should be addressed with caution and clear- sightedness.”

The entrepreneur never stopped being bold. In 1973, he led the first takeover France had ever witnessed in the industry. He would often recreate the Group’s organizational structure from scratch to adapt to a new environment. He orchestrated multiple acquisitions in Europe and the United States, doubling the size of the company by merging with Ernst & Young Consulting. The Group then boldly expanded into India and Brazil. Serge Kampf’s audacity is what made Capgemini what it is today: a world leader present in around 40 countries and counting more than 100 different nationalities.

« Serge understood before anyone else that paying attention to clients’ needs more important than technology. »

HENRI STURTZ
FORMER DEPUTY CEO OF CAPGEMINI

«Serge knew, above all, how to make choices and motivate his teams and managers, right down to the smallest branch.»

PIERRE AUDOIN
FORMER CHAIRMAN AND CEO OF IT CONSULTING COMPANY PAC

ETHICS & VALUES

Serge Kampf had created his company to be free, and he did everything to maintain this freedom. He saw independence from political, financial, and industrial powers, particularly that of computer manufacturers, as “a necessary condition in the consulting business” and one of the Group’s core values. “Some might even call it an obsession,” he added.

Only once in its history, and for good reason, Capgemini took the risk of surrendering its financial independence. In 1991, Daimler Benz was offered a capital investment opportunity in the Group. But the merger didn’t go through and the partners went their separate ways in 1997. Capgemini was far too attached to its freedom—another one of the Group’s core values.

The seven values, or the spirit of Capgemini

Serge Kampf imparted his sense of ethics, which were defined in the Group’s seven key values: Honesty (integrity and complete refusal of any unfair practices); Boldness (the desire to take risks with caution and clear-sightedness); Trust (the willingness to empower employees); Freedom (independence of spirit and respect for others); Solidarity (teamwork, f r iendship and loyalty); Modesty (simplicity, discretion, common sense); and Fun (working together to see a project through to the end). These values represent the spirit of Capgemini. For 50 years, they have defined ways of being, working, and behaving for all employees. Serge Kampf carefully ensured that these values were respected at all times. They are Capgemini’s DNA, always inspiring and leading the Group forward. “These values safeguard our shared sense of adventure when difficult times call everything into question,” Serge Kampf emphasized. Today, Capgemini is recognized worldwide for its exemplary practices. In 2016 and for the fifth year running, the company received the American title of One of the World’s Most Ethical Companies.

Through it all, Serge Kampf never lost sight of the importance of people. He saw the men and women of Capgemini as the Group’s most precious asset. His deepest pride was “bringing together people from very different backgrounds, showing them respect, and connecting them to our values and projects.” This love for people inspired him to establish Capgemini University in 1991, and then to provide it with a real campus, which opened in Les Fontaines, Chantilly (France) in 2003. For him, Les Fontaines was more than just a meeting place for talented people. He considered it a genuine melting pot for shared culture and values.

« Serge was a daring visionary who never compromised on his values. That made him an extraordinary person and a unique leader. »

PHIL LASKAWY
CAPGEMINI DIRECTOR SINCE 2002 AND CHAIRMAN AND CEO OF ERNST & YOUNG FROM 1994 TO 2001

«Serge was a leader, coach and entrepreneur. He was not always in the best of moods, but he was a great friend. He was generous and truly cared for others. »

HENRI LACHMANN
FORMER CHAIRMAN OF SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC

« One of the Group’s key ingredients for success was Serge Kampf’s involvement. He brought his enthusiasm, a listening ear, and a strong ability win people over.* »

VALÉRY GISCARD D’ESTAING
PRESIDENT OF FRANCE FROM 1974 TO 1981



* SOURCE: PREFACE OF THE CAP GEMINI SAGA BY TRISTAN GASTON-BRETON (ED. POINT DE MIRE)

The love
of rugby

Capgemini’s Paris headquarters decorated for the 2007 Rugby World Cup, sponsored by the Group.

Serge Kampf loved rugby, a sport he played briefly in his youth. He also gave generously to the sport and offered both his time and his friendship.

As a young regional manager at Bull in the early 1960s, he got permission from management to invite his best clients to big rugby tournaments. He also invited close friends to join him, at his own expense, in attending rugby matches all over the world.

At the heart of his passion for the oval ball were rugby’s core values. Serge Kampf loved reminding people how much the sport’s values were linked to those guiding Capgemini since 1967. He pointed out this connection in two main ways. The first was that he saw rugby as a team sport where solidarity is a must—a sport, he said, “in which you can’t accomplish anything without the rest of your teammates, where the player who scores a try doesn’t think he’s king of the world because he knows it’s the result of teamwork, a shared drive and a common strategy.” The other connection was that he thought of rugby as a combative sport. “One of the essential values to the company’s success is this fighting spirit—the desire to battle it out, engage, take risks and to win!” he said.

Benefactor of French clubs

So many values from rugby resonate throughout the Group’s history: solidarity, synergy, team work , personal relationships, competitive spirit, and a whole lot of daring. We are also reminded of the importance Serge Kampf placed on modesty— backed by his own undeniable sense of decency—that led him to attend some matches as if he were a regular supporter. He was sometimes embarrassed by the recognition, such as when Biarritz Olympique named one of their stands after him, or when rugby fans would come thank him for helping save their club. In his own discrete way, Serge Kampf offered financial help to numerous French clubs such as those in Biarritz, Grenoble and Bourgoin. This is how he earned the nicknames “Top 14 Benefactor” and “Grand Treasurer” of rugby.

«
Rugby is a team sport in which you can’t accomplish anything without the rest of your teammates.
»serge kampf

A sponsor of the French Barbarians, he never stopped working to develop ex- rugby players professionally, some of whom later made their way to Capgemini. Strong links were forged between the Group he founded and the rugby world. Official sponsor of the Rugby World Cup in France in 2007, Capgemini has also partnered with Biarritz Olympique since 1992. Sogeti has supported the Grenoble rugby club since 2002.

« For us, he was the sixteenth player on the French rugby team. He was our friend. »

SERGE BLANCO
FORMER PLAYER ON THE FRENCH RUGBY TEAM

« Rugby was like a third family for Serge apart from his own family and Capgemini. He was a leader who watched over the sport with love and kindness. »

JEAN-PIERRE RIVES
FORMER RUGBY PLAYER

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