Top 100 Executives 2020: Bernard Charlès, CEO, Dassault Systèmes
A career Dassault Systèmes employee, Bernard Charlès now heads a software giant with turnover in excess of $4.8 billion.
Having climbed to the summit of the computer-aided design software sector, Dassault Systèmes is not resting on its laurels. The Paris-headquartered software house is targeting lucrative new markets, such as life sciences.
Leading the firm in this quest is the Brittany born 63-year-old. A mechanical engineering and administration graduate, Charlès joined Dassault Systèmes in 1983 as a trainee, two years after the firm was spun off from parent company Dassault Aviation. Thirty-four years later, in 2017, he became the highest paid CAC 40 boss, with a salary of 24.6 million euros.
Throughout his quarter century in charge Charlès’ ceaseless appetite for innovation has seen Dassault Systèmes thrive, and to ensure growth continues, he has, of late, diversified the emblematic French company’s activities and expanded its client base. Long known for its association with companies in the aerospace and transport sectors, these days Dassault Systèmes is increasingly active in the medical research domain, a fact confirmed by its acquisition of US tech firm Medidata in 2019 for $5.8 billion – the most expensive purchase in its history.
Known for its computer-aided design software such as Catia and Solidworks, not to mention the industry-leading 3DExperience platform, Dassault Systèmes provides the design software of choice for many of the aerospace and automobile industries’ biggest names – software that plays an integral part in conceiving tomorrow’s planes trains and automobiles. Its current priority, however, is to come up with a viable ‘digital twin’ of the human body. “Today, we are on the cusp of being able to apply the design know how acquired working on machines to actual living beings,” explained Charlès during the presentation of the company’s annual results in February.
"In the long term, Dassault Systèmes expects to make as much from supplying software to hospitals and pharmaceutical labs, as it currently does from the aero and auto sectors combined"
Results which, unsurprisingly, matched market expectations, confirming the bankability of this 17,000-strong firm and its dynamic CEO. The figures speak for themselves. In 2019 Dassault Systèmes’ turnover passed the 4 billion euro mark, up a record 16% in a year. At 3.65 euros, profit per share exceeded the 3.5 euro target set by the group five years previous.
In April, the publisher was forced to revise downwards its expectations for 2020, in light of the ongoing Covid 19 emergency. This after recording another increase in earnings per share in the first quarter. Current projections put non-IFRS turnover for 2020 at between $5.3 and $5.4 billion, a slight drop from pre-covid estimates of $5.8 billion.
“Across our traditional fields of activity, we increase profits 75% of the time, but in fact we see the potential to triple profits in he manufacturing sector going forward. However, we are not looking to replicate this performance in the healthcare sector, as we are only just starting out in this market,” commented Charlès in February, before the hard hitting effects of the coronavirus took hold in industries the industrial software solutions provider traditionally works with.
Diversification, therefore, has proven to be an excellent idea. The potential gains to be had in the life sciences sector are such that, in the long term, Dassault Systèmes expects to make as much from supplying software to hospitals and pharmaceutical labs, as it currently does from the aero and auto sectors combined. The switch to digital has the potential to revolutionize medical care and research and Bernard Charlès aims to make sure that Dassault Systèmes takes full advantage.
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