Cycling a few miles from the hustle and bustle of Geneva's city
center brings me to a well-to-do area mixed with offices, apartments
and houses. These though aren't regular houses but large turn-of-the-century
homes on heavily-wooded properties. Many of these "homes"
have been turned into company offices. It's in this area I find
Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC). Never heard of MSC? It's
the world's second largest container company with over $3 billion
in revenues and 20,000 employees. MSC also operates a cruise
line (Mediterranean Cruise Lines).
Built in 2000, the five-story reflective glass head office building
is a low-key affair. No big flashy splashy neon signs here as
there's just a small sign outside the entrance door. Four receptionists
sit behind a long curved desk. I explain who I am and how I sent
a letter of introduction a month earlier to CEO Gianluigi Aponte.
A receptionist says neither Aponte nor his secretary are in today
and none of the receptionists are interested in finding someone
else to meet with me. Disappointed, especially since I had to
ride in the rain to get here, I leave background information
and say I'll be back in a few days.
Returning a few days later I check in with the same four indifferent
receptionists and am told to have a seat. It's a very nice reception/waiting
area and could pass for the check-in area of a plush five-star
hotel. Giving the place the once over I touch the various potted
trees and shrubbery scattered about to see if they're real. Nope,
all fake. The nice-looking flower arrangement on the coffee tablealso
fake. If you had no clue as to what business MSC was in, you
could easily figure it out by looking around. Taking up a lot
of room in one corner of the lobby is a scale model replica (1:100)
of the MSC Diego, one of the company's container ships. In another
part of the lobby stand's a huge ship's compass.
In a few minutes I'm meeting with Ursula Roethlisberger, secretary
to CEO Aponte. Thanks to the friendly Roethlisberger it's a nice
visit and I guess I should be lucky she's even talking to me
as MSC is well-known for not saying much to anybody. Then again,
I don't exactly ask tough or probing questions.
About 320 people work here. It's a good-sized building and owned
by MSC but, it also contains apartments that are rented out.
Why? That's part of the deal to build offices in mixed-use areas
like this. Senior management gets reserved parking spots, smoking
is optional, there's no formal dress code, no corporate aircraft,
it's 20 minutes to Geneva's airport and a 10 minute drive to
the nearest freeway. There are several break rooms but no on-site
company cafeteria. So, where do employees go for lunch. Well,
a few miles away is a company-owned private club for MSC employees
where one can swim, play tennis or grab a meal.
The company was founded in Naples, Italy back in 1970 by CEO
Aponte, who can also be addressed as Captain Aponte. MSC then
moved to Brussels and ultimately Geneva. I ask, "Why did
Mr. Aponte move the company here?"Roethlisberger lists a
variety of reasons including Geneva's central location and the
fact Aponte likes it here.
I don't get to see CEO Aponte's top floor office because "he's
in a meeting". If I did Roethlisberger says I wouldn't find
a computer. He can't have much of a view out his window either
as this is a heavily-wooded area with tall trees.
Company website: www.mscgva.ch