Careers City Rising Star, Marie Bernon is Head of the French Team at Societe Generale Private Banking Hambros (SGPB Hambros), the private banking arm of Societe Generale. Having been with Societe Generale (SG) since 2000, she has worked across France, Belgium and most recently in the UK.
Marie, how did you get into the world of private banking?
I studied Finance in France and my first job in SG was in international audit. I went into this division because I wanted to move into banking but I was not entirely sure which area. After this foundation, I was able to move into the private bank as I did an assignment in private banking in Switzerland.. I’ve moved locations several times, and been lucky enough to continue working with SG by deploying my own networks to identify opportunities.
Tell us a little bit about a day in the life at SGPB Hambros.
Generally, the workday starts at around 9am. Typically I’ll spend about a third of my time interacting with clients, a third with SGPB Hambros teams or other specialist experts in the bank and then the remaining time ensuring my admin is up to date in relation to the management of the team I manage. It’s very diverse as I’m facing off to different parts of the organisation.
It’s a demanding job dealing with private clients, but since you’re dealing with matters close to their heart you can be assured that they will be satisfied with your efforts. Whilst it can be hard to find a balance on the number of hours you work, I have a very understanding bunch of people inside and outside the office who make it happen! It’s a team effort in the true sense. For me, my time at home is also about quality. I was a bit circumspect about the notion of quality time, but I think it’s quite right. When you are at home you are 100% there, and properly available for your family – my role at SGPB Hambros allows me to do that.
As a female in the city – and this is true for some but of course not all women – they are often not open to raising their own profile and it’s something you should do if you want to progress.
What do you enjoy most about working at SGPB Hambros?
In my current position I have both a management position and also a front office / operational position – I like the fact I can be a full time private banker with my clients but also manage people and get involved in coaching and training members of my team. It’s not always easy to have two hats but I really like having that balance. As a junior, I learnt a lot just seeing my manager work and learning from how they faced challenges, so I think if you set a good example and your team see how you do business they can learn a great deal from it.
We are brought together well as team at SGPB Hambros – it’s a great company to work for as a woman – you feel cared for, not just a number. As an organisation it has a sense of responsibility for its staff which I like. It feels a bit more human than some other organisations.
What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership / management position?
As a female in the city – and this is true for some but of course not all women – they are often not open to raising their own profile and it’s something you should do if you want to progress. If you are too quiet sometimes people can assume you are not interested in progressing.
If you want to move into a role managing a team, I think it is important to acknowledge that not everything is in your control when you have a team. It is very important to set out what the rules are and what is not negotiable whilst also accepting that they will do some things their way – and that there are other ways of doing things that aren’t your way but are still good.
Have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?
I have had some informal coaching in relation to behaviours and how that relates to the best way to do the job. In an organisation like SGPB Hambros you cross paths with lots of people from whom you can learn a lot – in the way they behave, the way they raise their profiles, and in the way that they technically operate in their roles. We have a large number of people who are inspiring and I’m lucky enough to have worked with a lot of them. One piece of advice I have is that sometimes you have to ask for coaching rather than wait for it to come to you.
What kind of networking do you do?
Networking is something that with my team we are working on a lot. I’ve been invited to be part of the SG Women’s Network and have agreed with other team members to go along to some of the events. There are some really good speakers. Personally, I don’t do a great deal of networking to raise my own profile at the moment. It’s a habit that you need to get into – my impression is that English people tend to network more than the French do!
It is very important to set out what the rules are and what is not negotiable whilst also accepting that they will do some things their way – and that there are other ways of doing things that aren’t your way but are still good.
What does the future hold for you?
I really enjoy being in a management role – in the future I would like to have more of a holistic view of the organisation and be more involved in strategic thinking. Private banking is often focused on the day-to-day successes so in the future I’d like to take a different approach and have a bigger picture of the organisation.