I am Margaux, 30 years old. I'm currently VP Finance at Luko. I started my career in the banking industry at Société Générale as an inspector, typically a French job. It was a mix of internal consulting and audit. It was my first introduction to finance, not only financial services as an industry. I also got to understand what finance functions meant in the finance industry because I've been working a lot in all the internal financial departments at SG among my various assignments.
I don’t know if finance was a true calling for me because, if you look at my academic track, I started in business school and ended up in public affairs. So I would say finance was not the initial ambition. But it turned out that I tried different internships in various environments, each time touching finance, in different projects, or in inspection for the Ministry of Finance for the French government. I realized that it was a good opportunity to be super curious and ask any questions I had. When you work in finance, you have access to so much data that it's the best excuse to call and ask: what is it about? What's the rationale for that? I was not that bad with figures and analysis, so I considered it could be interesting. I started like that. This industry: banking, asset management, and insurance in general, it's a regulated environment. In all the financial components there are, there is something that's super related to a certain extent to public affairs. The reason why it's so regulated is to protect consumers. It relates to what should be Regalian or not, and to what extent? Can we let those entities do whatever they want? How can we ensure the minimum protection for the final consumers? So, I ended up there. It was not the initial true calling, but I realized it was a super interesting position and even more so in these industries.
From Société Générale to Luko
I would say my first year at Société Générale was really amazing. The inspection is a crazy adventure because you get to work for all the entities of Société Générale in the world. I think I traveled in more than 14 countries and worked in those countries and with people at these local entities, it was amazing. I asked myself do I want to engage in this for the long run? First, I realized that so many things were happening outside Société Générale. Second, I think I also needed to change my positioning. As an Inspector, I observe, comment, and give advice, which is amazing because you get to meet a lot of super interesting people and a lot of different activities. But you do not have any skin in the game. I wanted to feel that people around me are as dependent as I am on the success of the common adventure we share. I wanted to be where I can move as fast as I want and where everything is to create. Société Général is a kind of megalomania because you can shape it the way you want. I've been observing it for years. It's a beautiful company with beautiful people, but you see what you don't want to reproduce. Here’s the opportunity for me to be accountable for that. I was not comfortable in that environment. It is now my responsibility to make sure it does not happen when I'm driving the boat.
Maybe it's a fun fact, but I joined Luko on 9 March 2020 so precisely seven days before first locked down and we were supposed to go on a big team-building and go skiing altogether. So, that's the first meeting we have as a leadership team, and the two founders said, we need to discuss because we can expect the government to close everything and we are about to put 40 people on a train and go lock ourselves in the mountain. Is it really a good idea? So that was the first decision we took as a team and we made that decision. It was a bit painful of course. It's very difficult to cancel such a trip, but we decided to.
Women's opportunities & values
I really believe women have more opportunities than men. There is a very simple fact that everybody is aware of the discrepancy in treatment, empowerment, and success in their career. So even if everything is not solved yet and it will take a while, at least everybody is aware, which was not the case for so long, we are very lucky as women today to be in that environment. People do care. First, people focus on us and say, now we need to have more balance. How can we make sure that we offer them as many opportunities as they should have? So that we can correct the current imbalance that we face in those industries and in those positions. I think it's true in any field at the top management level. I think it's even worse in finance, in financial services, and in the banking industry, it’s clear. In insurance, it's maybe a bit different, but still, it's not a lot of women driving that. Second, they want to offer opportunities. And third, I think they start understanding why it's valuable, not just being aware because of some moral principle you should try to make it more balanced. No, they understand why a finance partner, being a female, can be a bit different and worth it. It doesn't mean it's better, it doesn't mean it's worse, it just means it's different. If you want to optimize or to get the most value out of your choices and of your teams, it's good to create those different forces and strengths that will maybe sometimes fight and sometimes go in the same direction. The more you create diversity and the more you enrich the teams and you enrich the perspectives and points of view normally the better the outcome is. I really believe now people are buying that it's not just "we need to treat people equally." "We need to make sure we have a couple of women on the board". No, I really believe now people see the value of it.
Inclusion & diversity
I still have a lot to learn there, but I try as much as I can to adapt my management and my positioning with the people around me. I try to make them comfortable, to make the most out of them, and not just to impose my style, even if it's a lot of work on myself, of course, because I have to say I'm a bit intense, but I really try as hard as I can to understand how they work. What are their drivers? How can they be comfortable in their daily life, and daily jobs? What are the projects that they like that they don't like? How can we make it comfortable for everybody? The goal is to make them happy, which is cool because you spend a lot of time at work. And second, they can develop themselves. They can learn, they can try. They can take risks. When you manage to make people's orders and empower them enough, I really believe that they give the best out them because they want to try. They understand that being at risk is also a learning for them and not just their management being super pushy to execute that. So this is how I try. I mean, it's not working all the time, but it's working. It's a lot of learning, but I can see where it has an impact. Actually, I don’t make a lot of difference, but I may be more sensitive or more aware of women when I see that they do not dare. For instance, performance assessment, roadmap definition, and goal setting, it's exactly the same. Whoever you are, depends on the seniority, of course, but I don’t care about the background. But maybe I'm a bit more sensitive when I see some women in teams could do more or better or just pick up and they don't. And I feel like that's my role to go tell her, go for it.
Daring can be complicated. First thing, I try to do as much as I can to provide exposure. In my team, when I think someone is doing something super important and interesting, I do not go present it myself. I take them with me and they present and they speak and they get exposure and they get feedback from the co-founders. Like, I really believe it's the first thing if you want to feel comfortable in those situations if you want to feel comfortable to speak up and to talk to a leadership team and you want to be part of a leadership team because that's the final aim. I want them to be comfortable and become part of leadership teams. You have to be exposed and to sit with them and to get the opportunity to present, to debate. So this is the first thing I try to promote and I think it's important and maybe advice. I say to them “if you approach the problem this way, you might get that feedback, get ready to answer”. I try as much as I can to prepare them when I'm relevant because sometimes I'm not and I learn with them and maybe exemplarity. As much as I can, I try to speak up when I think I need to speak up. They're proposing your direction and disagree. It costs a lot of energy on a daily basis. It's not so easy to consider. Share everything you have in your heart because I truly believe this is how you develop yourself and you give the best to the company. It costs a lot of energy, sometimes easier to just let go. But I really do my best to stick to that rule of thumb for myself, and I hope that it makes people in my team more comfortable doing the same.
Honestly, solidarity and sisterhood are good but it depends on a lot of things. I would say it varies because if I am very transparent here, my first experience with a woman manager was really not cool. Actually, it was maybe the toughest manager I've ever had, not really trying to promote me or to support me or to help me cope with the level of the workload or with the stress or the anxiety it could trigger, for me. It was just adding more pressure on top of that. Maybe it was just to show you need to be tough or tough enough. But I have to say, for my first experience, that was efficient for sure. But maybe I needed something a bit more reassuring or providing more feedback to help me build something and not just learn to be slapped and start over again. So I would say it depends. The first experience was quite bad. And I could feel that there was no open door to make it collaborative or more towards. I just wanted to feel in a sisterhood environment where you are here to help each other. As I said in the beginning, it's just that we are in a new era where everybody accepts it's normal to promote diversity. Women should be part of it, and it's not just for the sake of promoting diversity. It's because it adds value. There is room for everybody, really. Of course, there is competition. The competition is always there and actually not among women, just with all the rest. So the more we help each other, the better the outcome will be. I think for the overall community and having women driving big companies or big teams or big VC funds, it's always a new opportunity to bring that diversity we need in those decision-making teams. For me, it's super important. The more I work, the more I feel it's something that matters and it helps a lot. At Luko, I think we are lucky because our founders were aware of that and we have a lot of women on the leadership team. I would say it's half in the leadership team. We really work on that. This is very positive, and I believe it's important to promote that and discuss that among ourselves and push a woman around us.
I have a very close circle of female friends from my business school. And we call each other before we go into negotiation before we pick another job before we negotiate our packages. We challenge ourselves as much as we can. It's to give advice and share how we feel we can do and just try to help as much as we can. But it's also to give energy and confidence because you very often have a clear idea of what you want or where you think you can try, but you need the confidence to try and do it. And having that very circle, like that very small group of friends where we call each other and we're like, “go for it”. You feel like you can conquer the world. It gives me so much motivation and confidence. And you also accept that if it doesn't work, it's not me, that's just how it is, let's jump on something else. No problem.
I really believe this circle of women helps a lot for that, even though we really don’t work in the same environments. We just call each other because we want to try something new in our life or new jobs or new companies or we want to try our own company or start our own business. We rely on each other and we try as much as we can to promote.
I hope the future of finance will be a bit more balanced. As I said, I really believe there will be more room and there will be more women leaders, and I think it will bring a lot to the overall community. I also think we can contribute to how norms are shaped and how we drive this function. I love being in finance because as explained earlier, it’s for me, the best position to observe everything and talk to anyone, and have access to all the information. So when you are super curious, I still think it's the best job. I think that having access to all of that is a good opportunity to learn a lot of things, rechallenge everything, and open conversations that were not open before. For instance, here what I want to do is to have in the same team FP&A impact, meaning financial planning and environmental impact, will work under the same management. And I want the FP&A team to be able to produce a carbon business plan as a regular business plan. And I think it should be normal and that will be a lot of work. It's not easy. Of course, there is a lot to discuss, understand, and figure out how we will be able to do that. I think it should be natural today. We must start thinking like that if we want things to move. It's better to try, take action, and at our own little scale. Let's try to iterate and make it happen in the company. I'm super happy to publish super interesting speeches and how I see that and how carbon footprint matters, how it's crazy. We will decrease that and so and carbon neutrality, that's going to happen. Of course, everybody is doing that today. Everybody talks about that. Of course, we do the same and we really do our carbon footprint assessment and our carbon footprint roadmap. But all that, if it does not become a normal function in an environment of measuring the performance and development of companies, how do we want it to be just a natural part of how we steer the development of the business? Because what we will have a target by 2030 and by 2030 everybody is carbon neutral and then we stop? No. I really believe that more and more women in finance will bring that touch. Of course, men do as well. It's not a question of it will never happen, if it were not us, really not that. But I don't know. I believe we should ask more questions. Sometimes it helps.