When I first came across the EUROFIMA name I thought it was a
film company. Not a good guess. EUROFIMA's formal name is the
European Company for the Financing of Railroad Rolling Stock.
What does it do? Founded in 1956, it's a joint-stock company
that finances railway equipment through borrowings or equity
capital and encourages joint purchases. Its members, who are
also its customers, are European Railways. Railways of Germany
and France each own 24.9 % of shares with 21 other railways owning
various shares of the remaining pie. Revenues last year were
Headquarters for EUROFIMA are found in a delightful four-story,
18th century building in Basel's magnificent old town area. A
driveway takes one inside to a large courtyard and other offices
including a museum. I buzz the buzzer and after being buzzed
in I make my way up the winding wooden staircase to the second
floor reception area.
It's a neat old building and a fun visit thanks to Gabriele Chariatte.
Her business card hasn't a title and Chariatte won't admit to
having one. I persist. She says there's back office operations
and then there's where she works as, "Head of middle office"
EUROFIMA has been headquartered in Basel since the 1970's and
in this building since 1990. Twenty-five people work here. There's
no cafeteria but, employees have use of a kitchen plus, the soda
and coffee are free. The kitchen/break area is something worth
seeing since it's on the top floor amidst an open wood beam ceiling.
Parking is pretty much non-existent with a few spots in the courtyard
area. Smoking in offices is optional and there's covered parking
for those who commute by bike. There's no company art collection
but I give Chariatte the two thumbs up for successfully passing
the test I sprung on her. Upon walking into the building there's
a glass display case and in this case are a collection of 18
train conductor hats from various railroads. Each hat carries
the initials of a railway. For instance: DB stands for Deutsche
Bahn--the German railway, SFR for the Swiss Federal Railways,
and so on. Chariatte correctly identified all 18. We're talking
about railways such as the Turkish State Railways, Norwegian
State Railways, Slovenian Railways and Bulgarian State Railways.
It's three minutes to the nearest freeway, and 15 minutes to
Basel Airport. Any unusual employee perks? It should come at
no big surprise that employees enjoy discounts on train travel
in the 23 member railways.
Now if there's a downside to this visit it's the horrendously
ugly and dated velvet green carpeting found throughout the building.
It could be since this is a protected/historic building that
they can't change it. It's a very hot day today but you won't
find air conditioning here either thanks again to stringent rules
concerning historic structures.
CEO Andre Bovet occupies a second floor middle office adjacent
to the reception area. In one corner of his office stands a huge
antique 10-foot tall ornate ceramic heater (it doesn't work).
There's a desktop computer, a Reuters terminal, one rose (real),
four family pictures and 17 tombstones. His view? Houses directly
across the street.
The boardroom contains two real plants, a boardroom table that
is basically several tables put together (seating 30) and pictures
of five former CEO's hanging on a wall.
One question Chariatte couldn't answer, how do you come up with
EUROFIMA from European Company for the Financing of Railroad
Rolling Stock? Where does the "MA" at the end of EUROFIMA