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In her shoes | Elise Sabran | Global Finance Syndicate Chief Operating Officer – Societe Generale

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Careers City Rising Star, Elise Sabran is Global Finance Syndicate Chief Operating Officer in the Global Banking and Investor Solutions division at Societe Generale (SG). Working globally, with a base in London, she has been in the role for the last five years, having worked for SG in London for 15 years and in Paris for two years prior. Her studies in Lyon, France led her to a career in Finance and Banking.

Tell us a little bit about your role at Societe Generale.

In the role of a Chief Operating Officer (COO) you have a whole suite of recurrent tasks which are required to keep things moving, and of course you are also on hand to deal with queries from your direct manager who is the Global Head of the Global Finance business line. I’m also working with a team of over 100 people, so there is huge variety in what I’ll do day-to-day. I’ve become very good at juggling, prioritising and knowing how to work with both planned and unexpected workload.

An average day might be starting at 8.30am and finishing around 5.30 or 6pm. I’m a mum of two so I ensure my professional life works around childcare arrangements. I don’t stay too late but as a consequence I work non-stop days, which suits me. However, that means I am very strict about leaving on time to get back to my family.

You have to believe what you are capable of doing – if that’s the case you can find the opportunity you want yourself if you’re determined enough.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I knew from an early age I would work in banking – I liked economics, and in Lyon where I lived at the time, there was a good school for banking and finance. If you’d have asked me at 18 if I had a career plan I would have told you I didn’t – but my first role was working in a local bank and I’ve never looked back. I’ve relocated with SG from Paris to London which has been a great move. I knew I wanted to come to London – and then I started in one of the SG teams, I was lucky to join a really good team. Since then I have moved more laterally which has presented even more opportunities. So, it wasn’t career planning as such, it was meeting the right people at the right time and going for it.

What do you enjoy most about working at SG?

There are two main things I want to raise here – I’m really lucky to have always worked with extremely good managers and they have been respectful that I have to balance professional and personal life. They put a lot of trust in me to deliver – it’s certainly been a pleasure to work for all the people I have reported to.

Second, there is very good team spirit in SG London. I really like working in the London team. My experiences are mainly in my specific team – we are a bunch of around 45 people. As a group we treat each other fairly and with a lot of respect. I have made very good friends here and look forward to going to work – you know you’ll be seeing great colleagues. There have been occasions in my career where I have had the option to stop working, and the people at SG were one of the reasons I wanted to continue working.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

You have to believe what you are capable of doing – if that’s the case you can find the opportunity you want yourself if you’re determined enough. If you want something, then say it! Probably say it several times! And then be patient as well… I think what experience has taught me that you can’t have everything that you want in the next 2-3 years, sometimes you have to be patient as well as being determined.

What advice can you give to someone about raising their profile within their own organisation?

I’m not sure I would give advice because I am still learning myself after all these years! I started from scratch like most women, because we know we are not the best at raising our own profiles. I actually think that is true about women! I would love to say – try to work your network and speak out loud. Be confident!

Have you benefited from coaching or mentoring at SG?

Yes, about 3 years ago as part of the UK Women’s Network of SG London I was part of a group coaching programme where 10 directors took part. With a facilitator we used discussion sessions to gather 360 degree feedback which was really useful as I had not done that exercise before.

I was also involved in a mentoring programme – originally I was a mentee and then I went on also to become a mentor. I was fortunate to be mentored by a senior director within the bank who gave me some great advice on how to manage new challenges and pressures at a really key point in my career. When I was a mentor I offered advice and guidance to someone working in a completely different department to mine. I was able to help guide her through preparing to change position, and think through how to prepare objectives and gain confidence. We are still in touch and see other twice a year. It was really beneficial for both of us and a really interesting experience.

And how about networking?

To be honest, I don’t network externally – it’s down to a total lack of time! That said, I am on the Exco of the UK Women’s Network, and I am currently organising training and am trying to put into place a coaching programme for new joiners similar to the one I benefitted from.

it wasn’t career planning as such, it was meeting the right people at the right time and going for it.

What does the future hold for you?

For once, I am trying to have a plan! I am learning from past experience. I’ll plan ahead now to learn new skills which will ensure I am ready to move to the next position that I identify as my goal. For the first time ever I am planning several years ahead!

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