(Editor’s note: Steve Kaufman and Terry Boyd contributed to this post.)
A funny thing happened on the way to the 21st century: American corporations took over the world.
We’re telling you this, expats and techpats, to illustrate how badly Europe needs to start recruiting talent from America, China and India to stay competitive … especially after Brexit. Because global talent wars will be intensifying for the next decade.
If you still have any reason to doubt that we’re in a U.S. tech-dominated world, consider this startling chart of the world’s largest corporations from Goldman Sachs via BusinessInsider.
In 2005, the three largest companies (ranked by market capitalization) in the world were:
Rounding out the Top Ten (in order) were:
- Bank of America
- Johnson & Johnson
With the exception of banking giant HSBC and energy conglomerate BP – both based in London – the world was dominated by manufacturing, financial services, pharmaceuticals, retailers and digital technology created and headquartered in the United States.
In the 10 years that followed, that list of 10 Largest Companies has changed almost entirely.
- General Electric has tumbled to 8th place on the list.
- Exxon Mobil is now 5th.
- Microsoft remains 3rd.
- Johnson & Johnson is still 9th.
The other six top-ranked companies of 2005 have disappeared from the list.
Instead, in 2015, the top three companies in the world were:
- Alphabet Inc.
All digital technology companies.
The rest of the 2015 Top Ten:
- Berkshire Hathaway
- Exxon Mobil
- General Electric
- Johnson & Johnson
- Wells Fargo
Five of the top 10 spots, including No. 1 Apple are now consumer-facing tech companies. And every company is based in the United States. Not one European company is on the list.
Apple didn’t appear on the list until 2009 (9th place). It moved to 3rd place in 2010, grabbed the top spot in 2011 and has never relinquished it. Alphabet (which includes Google) first appeared on the list in 2010, in the 10th slot, and has been moving steadily upward since.
Amazon and Facebook showed up on the list for the first time in 2015. And, of course, as Amazon has risen, Walmart has fallen.
Falling oil prices have clearly depressed companies such as Exxon Mobile and BP. A subset of the declining oil and gas market is Petrochina, China’s biggest oil producer, which was the Number One company in both 2008 and 2010 (second in 2009). Since then, it fell to third, then fourth – then gone.
And the financial sector has declined as well. Since the 2008 recession kicked in, Wells Fargo is the only bank remaining on the list.
In the interim, Chinese banks have replaced European banks of the lists of the world’s largest banks.
Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, according to Statista. But Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is No. 3, followed by:
- China Construction Bank
- Bank of America
- Agricultural Bank of China
- Bank of China
Our old friend HSBC, which started out as the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, has dropped to No. 9.
So, what does all this mean? It means U.S. firms are the new barbarians at the EU gate, sucking talent out of Europe as fast as it’s created. Google, for instance, is among the Top 3 companies hiring European MBAs, along with giant U.S. accounting and consulting firms. Boston-based McKinsey recently hired 120 MBAs in one fell swoop from INSEAD, according to BusinessBecause, the online MBA network. INSEAD is a global university in that it has campuses in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Ironically, Georges Doriot, the father of modern venture capital (also owned by the U.S.) founded INSEAD in Paris in 1957.
Now, factor in Brexit, which has everyone (including Dispatches) handicapping where multinational firms will land in continental Europe as Britain leaves the EU. The one thing that’s a sure bet is that top graduates from the highest rated British universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics will be diverted away from European tech companies and straight to Silicon Valley.
So you’d think by now the EU would have a comprehensive plan that would include recruiting talent in the U.S., eliminating trade barriers and creating a single European trade market, and changing rigid European work rules to somewhat emulate the unrestrained Silicon Valley startup culture.
Europe’s leaders are loath to even acknowledge U.S. dominance, and their response so far has been to erect digital data regulations meant to thwart American companies, but really only damage nascent efforts to develop their own e-commerce companies, fintech startups and other homegrown consumer-facing tech.
Our advice: Get comfortable with the fact the Americans have already won and follow the opportunities they’re offering in Europe.
Here are the talent recruitment sites for the largest U.S. companies in Europe:
Microsoft (which has just announced it is closing its Finnish cellphone operations)