07.05.2018 | ESB Topnews

From ESB student to REWE CEO

Alumni talk: Lionel Souque, CEO of REWE, visited the campus

Lionel Souque, ESB Business School Alumnus und Vorstandsvorsitzender der REWE Group war letzte Woche zu Besuch auf dem Campus.
Lionel Souque, ESB Business School Alumnus und Vorstandsvorsitzender der REWE Group war letzte Woche zu Besuch auf dem Campus. / Lionel Souque, ESB Business School alumnus and CEO of the REWE Group, visited the campus two weeks ago.

By: Lena Jauernig

It was back to the roots two weeks ago for Lionel Souque, CEO of the REWE Group. The ESB Business School alumnus visited Reutlingen University, spoke to students and university staff about his career and provided fascinating insights into the retailing industry. 

The assembly hall was full - the Reutlingen students, eager to see Lionel Souque, had turned out in great numbers on 25 April to listen to the successful alumnus of ESB Business School. 

Lionel Souque graduated with a business administration degree from ESB Business School at Reutlingen University in 1993. In 1996 he joined the REWE Group and over the years has pursued a successful career there. Since 2009 he has been a member of the board of the REWE Group, since July 2017 CEO and thus manager of 345,000 employees and 15,500 supermarkets in Europe. 

“This is the first time I have been back to ESB in 25 years and I am very pleased to be here“, were the native Frenchman’s opening words to the audience. He continued by revealing one of his most precious memories: Reutlingen was where Souque met his future wife, also a former student of ESB. Moreover, he says that studying at ESB Business School is the reason why to this day he has friends all over the world. He always enjoys attending the ESB alumni get-togethers, which take place regularly in cities all over the world.   

Souque went on to provide fascinating insights into retailing, an industry that is marked by intensive competition. He reported on current challenges ranging from digitisation to demographic change. How is REWE responding to such changes? “We need to take change seriously. The right strategy is essential, but implementation and that all the people in the company pull together are also important”, says Souque.   

In the second part of the event, moderator Dr Andrea Despot interviewed the top manager: “How does one get to the top of such a big company?” was one of the questions. Entertainingly and with many personal anecdotes, Souque shared his career path with the students, recalling that in the early years he sometimes sat at the till of a Penny Market and needed to prove himself to his superiors. He also stressed how important networks are in professional life and that CEOs should not have their head in the clouds but must stay in touch with staff and customers. Souque’s professional life has also included positions abroad. His training had prepared him well for this: “At ESB Business School I learned a lot about intercultural cooperation.”

The evening provided ample opportunity for questions from the audience: Will our food be delivered by drones in future? How important is service? What role does e-commerce play in food retailing? The students were eager to learn. Souque, an avowed football fan, was glad to answer questions not only about REWE but also about his role as chairman of the supervisory board of 1. FC Cologne.

Towards the end there was a personal question one member of the audience was itching to ask: “Over twenty years ago, what made a young Frenchman come to Reutlingen of all places?“ “I had always wanted to study something with an international focus plus I also have a German grandmother, so the German-French Business Administration course at ESB Business School seemed a logical choice. Back then ESB already enjoyed a very good reputation, so I came to Reutlingen“, explained Souque, adding: “Even though Barcelona or Rome are cities that are better known - in Reutlingen we had a lot of fun!” The Reutlingen students applauded in agreement.