Interview with André Zander, former HRD of ELYO and head of Nord Espaces

André Zander, Director of Human Resources DHR at ELYO and Director of Nord Espaces


Hello André. You have been using the services of SAGE for many years. Can you tell us more?

Indeed, I discovered SAGE SA at the end of the 90s, when I was HR Director of ELYO, a service company in the field of energy production and distribution with more than 17,000 employees, present in more than 25 countries around the world.


I had, among other things, to manage the expatriate contractors of many of them, both in so-called “developed” countries such as the United States or Australia, and in emerging countries such as Senegal or Indonesia. When I took up my position, the company was already using SAGE. I was quite reticent at first about this collaboration, knowing the complexity of certain expatriation cases, but as we progressed I was able to observe the quality of the interlocutors, and I was quickly convinced, beyond their rigour and ethics, by the efficiency of their expertise in terms of expatriation management.


This confidence has never faltered in 20 years, despite crisis situations that we have sometimes had to manage (urgent sanitary repatriation, political tension in certain parts of the world, etc.).

How would you describe SAGE SA?

I would say that with their DUAL approach, addressing companies as well as individuals, SAGE SA is a skilled artisan of international human resources. We call on their services, just as we call on legal experts, to optimise the management of our pool of expatriate employees and outsource a complex aspect that requires a great deal of expertise that is difficult to acquire in-house.


Some countries, such as Brazil, China and Morocco, have very different labour legislation from Europe, making expatriation very complex. When we send an employee to the other end of the earth, we don’t have the right to not make them totally secure, both to ensure their entitlements are maintained but also to guarantee their protection in terms of salary, pension or health.


I would add that SAGE SA is agile. Their services are tailor made and à la carte, so I can avail myself of some or all of them. They can be adapted to suit the needs of the company as well as to the particular situation of each individual. I really identify the people at SAGE SA as a team of passionate experts who convince by their professionalism and their loyalty over time.

Concretely, why did HELYO turn to SAGE SA?

The first reason is that a lack of internal expertise had to be overcome so as not to put employees and the company at risk. This should not be regarded as a subjective observation, but expatriation, to be carried out properly in more than 25 destinations, requires a great deal of expertise. Real experts are rare, and it is not their calling to join a single HR department. Would one man be enough, in any case? It takes a great deal of knowledge in terms of local legislation, taxation, social law, health, or pension affiliation to manage a pool of expatriate employees. Each country is different multiplied by each contractor is different…


Sage SA offers a model of international umbrella company from Switzerland (where international labour law is particularly effective) which makes it possible to solve the vast majority of complex expatriation cases, and beyond that to facilitate and accelerate classic expatriations. SAGE’s expertise allows us to manage very specific cases depending on the country and the political climate and enables the HRD to maintain the basic rights of employees over the long term.

How do you explain the longevity of your collaboration with SAGE?

Thinking about complex cases requires a lot of confidence. The many cases that have been conducted have built up this trust over time on a transparent basis, and without the slightest hitch. I say this without intending to be superficial. In 20 years, not one late payment, not one failure slip-up in coverage…


Then there are the concrete examples where SAGE intervened with a great sense of responsibility to resolve urgent situations.


I am thinking in particular of a Polynesian employee, expatriated with his wife to TOGO. His wife was pregnant and had developed a pathology that put her child’s life in imminent danger in a country with a fragile health care system. In a few hours, SAGE landed a medical plane in Lomé for a life-saving repatriation to France. We would not have been able to do so ourselves without taking undue risks.

Which countries were your expatriate employees working in?

Some of the countries included: Polynesia, Morocco, Pacific Zone, Malaysia, China, Senegal, Togo, Brazil, Chile, United States, Canada, Great Britain, Poland and Spain…


What type of company would you recommend SAGE to?

The answer could be vast, but from the outset I will advise innovative SMEs with an international industrial vocation, wishing to develop abroad, to use SAGE’s expertise to facilitate their establishment in countries that generate complex expatriation scenarios. The agro-food industry in Brazil, the pharmaceutical industry in Asia for example.


Thank you very much André, for this very enriching feedback. See you soon