Interview of Philippine Gontier, Business Management & Development, Switzerland

October 20, 2021

Philippine Gontier | gender diversity | Indosuez | Switzerland

Could you outline your educational background and current position? Would you say it is a rather "male" or "female" job? Please provide an annual vision of your work pace, seasonal variations in your missions, main highlights.

With a Legal background, I joined an international business school then entered and stayed in the banking world through my final year internship at JP Morgan. As "Head of Business Management and Development", I am responsible for various missions: risk management and business monitoring with the help of the General Staff and Due Diligence teams, support for Relationship Managers (RM) particularly by steering the Client Service Officers (CSO) team but also the drive and follow-up of commercial challenges and highlights of the Front Office activity. I therefore have a 360-degree vision of the challenges, difficulties and needs of the Front activity and I do everything in my power with my teams to help them with all of their administrative and commercial challenges.
The challenge consists in prioritising the different topics at the same time according to the current sales priorities, the projects underway and the controls implemented. This requires daily work with all Front teams, in perfect harmony with the Support, Legal, Compliance and Risk teams. This role can only be performed by working closely with those who are directly in charge of the teams and without whom the mission would be impossible, by knowing how to delegate and by trusting everybody.
I think that men and women have a different approach to responsibilities, one not being better than the other, but complementary. As a woman, I may bring more listening skills, more compromise, in order to facilitate cross-business skill pooling and try to provide everyone with the help she or he needs.

 

Please explain your professional background, the developments that allowed you to take on more responsibilities. Were you at the origin of these advances? How did you climb through the ranks?

After JP Morgan in Paris, I pursued my professional career in London with American brokers Lehman Brothers and Salomon Smith Barney who taught me a lot. While women were clearly a minority, especially in trading rooms 20 years ago, everyone had their chances if they were willing to work hard and show initiative. Two women allowed me to thrive in my work. My manager at Salomon Smith Barney in New York believed in me and put me in charge of her department in London, which led me to find my vocation, which is Management. Then, another woman allowed me to become RM at BNP Paribas in Geneva and shortly thereafter take responsibility for a "Mass Affluent" RM team. These two roles were milestones and enabled me to learn, shape my role as Manager and demonstrate my abilities.

 

Tell us about the obstacles you encountered. How did you get past them? Do you find that being a woman was conversely an advantage? How do you balance professional and personal life?

It is clear that being a woman in the banking sector’s wealth management industry in Switzerland 20 years ago was complicated. Opportunities were limited and sometimes people’s words were not very encouraging to persevere, but on the contrary, this context encouraged some managers, especially women, to help you especially if you had the skills and demonstrated the will to get there. To reconcile professional and private life, you need to take the necessary time for both, be very organised and know how to get help. There are times where balance leans a little too much towards the professional side, which is normal in our activity, but we must always take time for friends, and mostly for family so that they always feel like they occupy a privileged position in our life.

 

Please share your vision on the changes you have observed and those you want to see in the future. Could you provide examples of initiatives already carried out? What were the obstacles and success drivers? Talk about the support provided by your management.

The evolution has been significant over the past 20 years with an increased awareness of the value of women and what they can bring to the company. It is now widely recognised. There are more women and parity is developing, but it will take some more effort to fully achieve it. In recent years, the role of Human Resources in this area has been key, for example with internal or external “Gender” committees which allow women and men to help women, advise them, show them the way through conferences or testimonials, mentoring programmes, etc. Finally, the importance of Management is crucial, whether woman or man, because it is she or he who will continue to give the drive in all the company’s departments for an intelligent and assumed gender mix.

 

Could you give tangible advice based on your personal experience?

One of the most important qualities is patience in order to take the time to learn and demonstrate your skills and aspirations. Impatience frequently leads you to make bad decisions.
It is often necessary for a woman to demonstrate her skills more widely and to prove her abilities, but on the other hand it pushes us to go the extra mile and multiply our skills, and when this energy is recognised, it is totally worth it! It didn’t come all at once, I also learned to wait, although I often yearned for something else, but I knew that it was possible to evolve. By demonstrating my added value and being in the right place, with the right people, they finally thought of me for roles that interested me. You need to know how to highlight the work that you accomplish, do not hesitate to manage your personal marketing intelligently so that you are never forgotten!

October 20, 2021

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