Seizing opportunities with the help of Marie Prud'homme
The goal of EDHEC Women in Finance is to promote gender diversity in the financial industry. We aim at creating a platform to exchange on the various opportunities that exist within Finance, by relying on professionals willing to share their experience. We seek to help women interested in Finance finding what would be the right path for them to take.
In this context, Marie Prud’homme agreed to talk to us about her own experience. At only 25 years old, she was appointed Head of Corporate M&A at ODDO BHF. Prior to this position, she tried out several roles in different departments of the financial industry: this diversity is a true strength and Marie’s journey demonstrates that curiosity and dedication can take you far. Hello Marie! Thank you for letting us conduct this interview. You told us that the topic of Women in Finance is really of importance to you. The topic of gender diversity in the financial industry is quite important in my view and keeps arising around me every single day. My awareness on this topic has been growing especially since I am working in the M&A sector, where I am rarely interacting with women.
I believe that most banks and financial companies acknowledged this imbalance and implement dedicated programmes to fight against it. For example, within ODDO BHF it is a key challenge and objective to promote diversity and encourage young female talents to join our Group at all levels. I believe that we cannot expect this situation to change overnight : we need young women to build a good working experience before being appointed as leaders and it should be only a matter of time before we see more women in senior positions in the financial world. Could you describe what has led you where you are now, at ODDO BHF? I graduated from Sciences Po Paris in 2019, where I completed the “Finance and Strategy” Masters degree. Before, I had pursued a double degree with both Science Po and Paris 1 Sorbonne, in applied mathematics. I chose to work in Finance, because it was the best way to keep this diversified profile, working with numbers while being in front-office positions.
I discovered ODDO BHF during my first internship in Private Banking, where I learned very much about commercial and pedagogy skills. Then I chose to join a small and specialized investment fund, Trocadero Capital Partners, where I worked as a Private Equity analyst. I would really recommend having experiences in small structures, because being part of a small team, you can be trusted with responsibilities quite rapidly and have a steep learning curve. During my last year of Masters, I made an apprenticeship in the Investor Relations department of L’Oréal.
After these very different experiences, I chose to go back to ODDO BHF, within the Family Office, where I could reconcile both aspects I liked in Private Banking and in the private assets investment industry. One year later, I had the opportunity to join the Corporate Development team, that I am heading since several months – I am very thankful for this unique opportunity - with such actions, the Group proves its willingness to support the promotion of young women in Finance. This quite atypical career path also shows that everything is achievable in a constructive and supportive working environment, and hard work obviously. The people you are working with are in my view one of the most important elements for personal and professional development. Could you briefly explain the characteristics of Private Banking versus Family Office? Private Bankers and Family Officers have quite similar missions, but there are some important differences that we shall bear in mind. First, from a client perspective, the level of the clients’ wealth is usually higher for Family Office clients, which also means that Family Officers have in average less clients than Private Bankers. In addition, Family Officers have a consolidated view on their clients’ wealth i.e. not only for the assets that are with the bank, comparatively to Private Bankers. In addition to Private Banking services, including financial investments supervision and regular reporting, tax and estate planning etc., Family Officers also play a role in the Family Governance, when needed (succession, conflicts etc.). Generally, Family Offices are perceived as an independent point of contact, offering tailored services to its clients, in every field of expertise and that is able to gather around the table the best experts answering the clients’ needs. Also, if I make reference to my experience, in a Family Office you can take care of all direct investments in start-ups and companies, hence having a real buy-side/ investor approach, always defending the best conditions for the client. What would you say are necessary skills to have for someone who would like to get started in M&A or Private Banking? The question is funnily asked because M&A and Private Banking are very different environments. I believe that for being a good wealth manager, you need to use your intellectual curiosity a lot, to have excellent communication skills and most importantly, to be patient and listen very closely to the needs of the clients. A Corporate banker needs a lot of energy. Efficiency and structure are key characteristics for this job, since it is very demanding, and you should be able to handle several processes at the same time. Whatever career path you should take in finance, you need to be passionate about what you’re doing, since you will be working long hours. Any advice for young women, to encourage them to apply? In my daily job I meet and see very few women in Finance, but I am confident that this imbalance will evolve. Today, most companies in Finance take this imbalance into account and promote young women to apply and choose positions in finance. In this context, one should never believe that “she was chosen only because she is a woman” – for equivalent experiences, resumes and skills, it is more than rightful for women to take the job, so seize the opportunity ! Today we have the same chances to enter the professional world, which is quite a big win. However, something that worries me, is the right balance to find once we choose to have a family – this choice should not slow down women’s progression curve at a moment when we really have the opportunity to get more senior positions.
Sometimes, evolving as a (young) woman in such environments is quite stressing and hard, so one of my strongest advice would be to try and have a trustful sparring partner within the company, who would help you anytime overcome hard times. What do you consider a strength for Women in Finance? I imagined that working in Finance would mean stepping in a world full of “sharks” – in school I was taught to be very competitive and independent. I think it is quite important to realise that you actually need the help of everyone around you and you should never hesitate to doubt and ask questions. I strongly believe that it is a real strength to know when to ask the right questions, that would help you move forward. Relying and learning from others' experiences is key. Don’t be afraid to ask.