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ISSUE #62 – Interview with Serge Antonini, Senior Vice President, South East Asia – Pacific, Bureau Veritas

 

Since 1828, the Bureau Veritas Group has consistently built recognised expertise, helping clients comply with standards and regulations relating to quality, health and safety, environment and social responsibility. The group’s network of regional and local offices manages client relationship and delivers a comprehensive range of services including inspection, testing, auditing, certification, ship classification and related technical assistance, training and outsourcing.

 

Can you tell us about your career at Bureau Veritas?

My career in Bureau Veritas started early 2004 when it created the position of Global Market Leader, Oil & Gas Upstream. I was in charge of defining the strategy of the group and I helped some key countries develop their industrial activities within this market. This position allowed me to quickly familiarise myself with the large Bureau Veritas network.

My position led me to China, a country that fascinated me so much that I couldn’t leave. In January 2005, in Shanghai, I was appointed to develop the Industry and Facility Division through North East Asia. This was probably the best period of my professional life.

In early 2009, I was appointed VP Africa for the Commodities and Industry (CIF) Division, and also supported our Government and International Trade Divisions (GSIT) as the activities of these different divisions are closely linked across the African continent.

In early 2014, I joined Singapore where I live now, and am in charge of the Commodity & Industry Division for South East Asia and Pacific, employing 3,700 staff members. I am the Country Representative for the Bureau Veritas Group in Singapore.

Could you briefly describe Bureau Veritas’ strategy in Singapore?

Singapore is one of the 20 countries across the world considered key for Bureau Veritas, and so all our divisions are represented in the city-state.

Singapore has a regulated environment with well defined norms and standards in place and this helps to ensure the high-quality environment present. It is also a hub for ASEAN for several segments and as such, our clients are both local and regional, allowing us to roll out services within the zone quite efficiently.

Singapore is a regional epicentre for marine and offshore activities, encompassing conversions and new builds. With the regional resources including R&D, we coexist alongside our clients and industrial partners and become part of the ecosystem, thus affording greater affinity and synergies.

For commodities, within our main Oil & Petrochemical laboratory in Toh Tuck, we keep our focus on the quality of services and strong ties with local customers and regional offices of oil majors. We continue to expand our portfolio of services (VeriFuel for marine bunkering, for example) and to market outsourced services across multiple market segments (transformed oil testing, OCM, environmental testing). Singapore will remain our ASEAN coordination hub for all services, in particular, trade minerals, agrifood, and oil inspection and testing.

Similarly, we are developing all aspects in the testing of consumer products in our lab in Tampines, which can thus be used as a hub for products produced and manufactured in ASEAN.

We intend to maintain our leadership in Oil & Gas, construction, systems certification activities, at the same time grow in power and utilities, rail, chemical, sustainable services (green building, RSPO, forestry) and diversify into testing activities: food, material testing, software, robots. Singapore is also key for us to detect and nurture local talent, maintain licences to operate while protecting objectivity.

Singapore is one of the 20 countries across the world considered key for Bureau Veritas, and so all our divisions are represented in the city-state.

What are the challenges of the APAC/SEA region for Bureau veritas?

More than anywhere else, megatrends are transforming societies here, bringing new needs in environmental protection. These emerging perspectives provide Bureau Veritas with new development opportunities, very much in line with our Strategic P2020 plan. The role that Bureau Veritas plays in APAC as a solution provider will generate confidence among economic players. Our CSR commitments to stakeholders aim at building our sustainable future growth.

Singapore is an open economy that promotes dynamism and transparency. This enables Bureau Veritas opportunities to gain new clients and new markets. Of course, on the other hand, this means that there is great competition in these markets here.

Nonetheless, there are some parts of the region, in a few countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, where government policies may be unpredictable and inconsistent. In Thailand, for instance, the geopolitical situation may also affect trade business.

Could you tell us more about Bureau Veritas’ latest engagements with big data and analytics?

Digitalisation is ushering in profound changes for businesses at an unprecedented pace and BV Group intends to accelerate its role in this new digital economy through four key avenues (as part of the BV Strategic P2020 plan):

  • Digitalisation of its TIC business (“digitally-augmented TIC”), with the aim of providing more personalised, swift and smart services to its clients (remote inspections, real-time information on regulations, 3D modelling of inspected objects, conditional alerts on inspections);
  • Adapting its offer to new digital components, products and services in order to ensure that its new client services are underpinned by trust (“Digital Trust”);
  • Making available digital data platforms (“Data Gate Keeping”) to exchange, cooperate on and monetise multi-faceted information in a secure, unbiased manner, thereby helping this new digital economy to take hold;
  • Analysing its own data standards (“Data intelligence”) in order to enhance its value proposition for its clients as well as optimise efficiency.
From your perspective, what are some key data trends businesses should be concerned with?

The greater use of computerised automation (e.g. algorithm trading) means that the safeguarding of the integrity of the underlying computer source code is critical. This is a very significant challenge in the context of the Internet of Things where we are talking about devices interacting with one another. Imagine the potential physical harm and organisational chaos that could happen if the programme logic for one or more automated processes/machines were accidentally or maliciously altered.

IT research and advisory firm Gartner  estimates that, by 2018, more than 3 million workers will be supervised by robots. According to them, companies will develop machines smart enough to measure, supervise worker performance and learn through experience. While we are still grasping the full implications of such a development, we can be sure that this will definitely revolutionise the way businesses are managed and controlled organisationally. The key question that we will be confronted with is the nature of regulations to be applied in order to keep this robots–human interface compatible with current HSE standards.

In the Internet of Things, sensors will be so prevalent that we will be able to collect data and make  it available on just about anything companies want (e.g. customers purchasing patterns).  Collection of data is just one part of the equation but the key issue will be safeguarding and analysing it in a coherent and correct way.

As a strong supporter of the French Chamber, how would you describe its role today for French companies in Singapore?

The French Chamber in Singapore has a very dynamic presence here, organising very diverse forums that involve companies and potential regional partners for French companies: for companies registered in Singapore, companies not registered here.

It is also great that the French Chamber has good relations with local authorities (EDB, A-Star, etc.)

I would say that there are many topics, Singapore smart city trends for instance, that have been well introduced by the Chamber through workshops and forums, which really give French companies the opportunity to better understand the way Singaporean authorities want to develop their city-state, through dialogue with these authorities themselves. This helps French companies better understand how our French technology can match the needs here.

What is your motto?

To still “Feel the need for the Speed” in a changing world, despite future global challenges that make our business environment more and more uncertain.

 

 

 

Interview published in the FOCUS Magazine “Driven by Data” – Issue #1 2017

 

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