EUROFIMA



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 $1.2 billion.

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" operations.

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 come from?