On September the 28th, GEM Finance Society and GEM Career Center had the pleasure to organise the FINANCE BOOTCAMP at Grenoble Ecole de Management.
In case you missed it, GEM Finance Society had the opportunity to ask our participants questions about the sector and their company. We will post each one of the interviews on our blog, so keep posted.
INTERVIEW WITH MR LANIES FOR SOCIETE GENERALE
Today, meeting with Mr Lanies, at Société Générale. Good reading!
Short presentation of Société Générale: Société Générale S.A. is a French multinational banking and financial services company headquartered in the business district of La Defense in the city of Nanterre, west of Paris. The company is a universal bank and has divisions supporting French Networks, Global Transaction Banking, International Retail Banking, Financial services, Corporate and Investment Banking, Private Banking, Asset Management and Securities Services.
The group, often nicknamed SocGen, consists of three pillars or divisions, that are at the heart of the development of its relationship banking model:
- Retail Banking in France through Societe Generale, Credit du Nord and Boursorama
- International Banking and Financial Services (IBFS)
- Corporate and Investment Banking (SG CIB). Some of the services offered by this division include investment banking and fixed income, structured financing, debt and forex activities and equity and consulting activities.
SocGen also has two other core activities:
- Specialized Financial Services & Insurance
- Private Banking, Global Investment Management & Services
These activities aid and support the development and growth of SocGen’s three main divisions
Societe Generale also fully owns a subsidiary called Lyxor Asset Management. This investment company based in Paris, offer investment products and services providing institutional clients with a selection of structured, index and alternative investment solutions. It also offers investors solutions to diversify their allocation through the range of asset class, in addition to offering a range of advisory services and tailored financial solutions to induvial clients, corporations and institutional investors.
As of 2016, SocGen employs 145,700 individuals from 123 different nationalities. They reported a net banking income of 25.3 billion Euros and 3.9 billion Euros of net group income. Societe Generale also serves 31 million clients across the world. The company is a component of the Euro Stoxx 50 and CAC 40 market indexes and is traded on Euronext.
Brief Overview about Pierre-Elie Lanies
Pierre-Elie Lanies, graduating class of 2006 from Grenoble Ecole de Management, is currently a senior FX sales representative for Societe Generale. During his gap year, he interned at HSBC France as an FX sales assistant and discovered his passion for market finance, and more specifically FX. He then later joined Societe Generale for a structured product sales position for small institutional clients. He then switched to the FX market as a sales person for SME’s and now mostly deals with sales for CAC 40 companies.
Societe Generale Viewed from the Inside
As an employee of SocGen for the past 11 years, he had a lot of insight about the company. Societe Generale embraces teamwork, collaboration and innovation as part of their corporate culture. Pierre-Elie discussed how during the subprime crisis of 2007, team members stuck together and helped each other out through this difficult period: a testament to the company’s emphasis on teamwork and collaboration. Now, during this more stable period, the company is evolving in answer to the changes to the industry brought about by digitization and legislation. This has created a lot of opportunities for employees to step up and take on additional projects. SocGen encourages its employees to think outside the box and work on personal projects they think will help the firm going forward.
The company has a lot of quality in the staff room, with different skills and backgrounds. SocGen promotes team-work, and the overall strategy of the bank is relationship focused. They also pride themselves in being an innovative bank with regards to the solutions they offer their clients.
Societe Generale is looking for motivated people who dare to dream and who are proactive in the pursuit of such dreams. Additionally, they are looking for people with a thirst for knowledge and a motivation to better themselves. For example, Pierre-Elie prefers face-to-face conversations or a private message on LinkedIn as opposed to a generic friend request. This allows potential candidates to stand out from the crowd and make themselves noticeable.
Technical aspect of the interview
The first topic of conversation was what a typical day in the life of a FX derivatives sales representative would look like. To which Pierre-Elie responded “there is no typical day”. Some tasks he might do on a daily basis include reading the news, looking at the state of the markets and calling clients. However, if he walked into his office in the morning and there was a recent tweet from Donald Trump, or election news, his day might change drastically. This unpredictability is what has made Pierre-Elie fall in love with his work. He loves the experience in the dealing room. He feels he is never alone, he relishes the high levels of stress and likes being in the middle of everything. He also relishes the fast-paced atmosphere when dealing with real time information about geopolitical tensions, policy changes etc.
When asked about the impact of technology on the sector, and how SocGen has been able to integrate technology as part of their daily operations, Pierre-Elie had this to say “If you do not take advantage of technology, technology will kill you”. Indeed, he believes technology has facilitated their day-to-day activities by allowing clients to use online platform to perform trades. They are also improving their existing platforms and developing new ones to stay up to date with the market. Pierre-Elie remembers he used to place most trades manually when he first started, but now he does around 70% of all trades through online platforms. New regulations and increased automation in the sector have accelerated that process of innovation and digitization forcing companies to make use of technology at a faster pace than they would like and top management at SocGen are encouraging this initiative.
The conversation naturally flowed towards Fintech and if he felt that is was disrupting the current operations of financial institutions. Pierre-Elie agreed that Fintech is disrupting commercial banks, but that disruption has still not affected FX markets because no one has come up with the right business plan for such markets. However, he believes that traditional banks and Fintech companies will eventually coexist. Fintech companies might just become software providers for traditional banks. Furthermore, there are specialized people at SocGen who are following the Fintech market looking for collaboration or acquisition opportunities.
We then discussed cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, and the positions banks have taken regarding regulating or banning their trading. In Pierre-Elie’s opinion, the distance banks have taken vis-à-vis cryptocurrencies has to do with their ties with the dark web, and the repercussions that can bring to a bank’s reputation. However, their recent high volatility is turning heads and many traders are looking at them as possible investment options. Traders are not banned from trading cryptocurrencies on their personal accounts, but they are still barred from trading them on behalf of clients.
But the biggest disruption to banks caused by the rise of cryptocurrencies is the blockchain. They are currently trying to find ways to integrate the blockchain into their operations. However, such integrations are currently only being developed for back office work. The importance of IT security is hindering any development of blockchain in front office operations. But Pierre-Elie believes blockchain to be the future of banking.
The next topic dealt with the effects of Brexit, and how it is affecting institutions such as SocGen. Pierre-Elie agrees that it will be dramatic for the UK, but as things stand nobody quite knows what is going to happen. As such, Societe Generale does not have a strategy in place to counteract the effects of Brexit due to the unknowns still surrounding it. He knows that SocGen and HSBC among other banks, have plans to move employees to Paris. It will cost a lot of money to do so, but as of right now no real strategy has been put in place.
Finally, we discussed his future aspiration and where he sees himself in the industry in the future. Pierre-Elie enjoys his work and the interactions it offers him with clients and the market. But he believes everything is moving fast and jobs that exist today might be obsolete in the near future. He is looking into possibly moving into EFX sales, or moving up the corporate ladder to be more involved in developing new strategies for the future. He also has plans to look at blockchain and Fintech for opportunities. In his eyes, the bottom line is to keep an open mind, be adaptable and open to every avenue of possibility.
Interview carried out by Mazen Younes
GEM Finance Society