‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’


Charlotte De Baere fiduciam

In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Charlotte De Baere, Head of Operations at Fiduciam.

Charlotte has been working in Financial Services, in Real Estate Direct Lending with Fiduciam, for over five years; starting by helping with day-to-day operations to eventually build and lead the Operations and Portfolio Management functions to support the expansion of the company.

Charlotte holds a double degree in Business Management from ESC Troyes, France & Escuela Bancaria y Comercial (EBC), Mexico DF, Mexico.

What brought you into financial services?

Making the most out of the opportunities I was presented with. As I was about to graduate from business school in France, I sought a work placement and received offers from two parties which could not have been more different: a renowned global organisation in Geneva and an exciting start-up in London.

I was keen to start my career in a vibrant financial hub, so I decided to join Fiduciam in London and have been with them ever since.

Looking back, I know I made the right decision taking a chance on a small business, as they took a chance on me.

What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?

Adaptability, confidence, and empathy are, in my opinion, key character traits of a successful leader.

The primary focus of a good leader must be to develop others. This is achieved via a delicate balance between being confident and strong-minded enough that others believe in your vision, and being adaptable and empathic to be able to motivate and empower each individual within your team.

Women tend to be more comfortable using their EQ than men do. Emotional intelligence is not just a powerful tool but a requirement nowadays to connect with people, to truly understand them and what motivates them.

I think it is also naïve to believe that we can and should remove emotions from all decision-making processes.

Leaders should be incentivized to learn to better manage their emotions in the workplace, rather than suppress them.

What are the biggest barriers you have faced in your career in financial services?

I struggle with the fact that the industry is still very much under-digitalized. This is changing, albeit not fast enough.

I find that small to mid-size firms are still quite reluctant to invest in advanced technology solutions. I don’t subscribe to the belief that a financial services company should reach a certain size before investing in strong technological support.

Rather, I find it key to build a strong and flexible framework allowing for process streamlining early on, to later expand the offering to more complex or bespoke products without compromising on the quality.

If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business now, what would it be? 

It would be about the importance of a network. To start building and maintaining my network from the friendships and acquaintances I have made through university and business school.

What’s your own personal mantra?

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

What do you think is key for finding a successful work-life balance?

Un esprit sain dans un corps sain. Coming from the champagne region of France, outdoor activities such as hiking are a great way for me to catch a break from a fast-paced professional life.

What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?

It would be that as a leader, not only will my success be measured by how well my team does, but it is my responsibility to promote the growth of my people.

I try to be as transparent and constructive as possible to foster an inclusive work environment.

What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?

To be less apologetic and bolder when setting their expectations for a role. I have always been a believer that quality work speaks for itself.

However, producing exemplary work in the shadows is just not enough to climb the corporate ladder, especially in an industry in which our male counterparts aren’t ‘afraid’ to be loud about their accomplishments.

What do you think is holding women back?

The lack of adequate financial education from a young age is a problem, in the UK and across western Europe. Teenagers in high school should be introduced to financial knowledge.

Women tend to be more risk-averse than men. Today, an education and subsequent career in finance is not perceived as a logical or safe choice for young women.

Early awareness would help to change this false perception by promoting the industry as a viable option for all genders and encourage more women to show an interest in Finance.

Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?

To be fair, I have not personally experienced it (yet, anyway).

I started my career at Fiduciam and within three years, worked my way up to heading my own team.

However, I am conscious that most of my counterparts in the industry are male because of a historic, and potentially current, glass ceiling.

What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter? 

The Women in Finance Charter is a very positive initiative to highlight the issue of women being underrepresented in senior positions in the financial industry.

Gender diversity contributes to better, more profitable businesses, and the Women in Finance Charter sends a very positive signal to young female students and professionals that businesses are working to enable them to be high achievers in the industry.

How do we encourage more women into financial services? 

Firstly, we should educate highschoolers, boys and girls alike, about financial knowledge as a tool.

When doing so, it would be sensible to put forward both female and male leaders.

Equipping girls with such skills and doing so through female role models will encourage them to take an interest in the finance industry, and should they choose to pursue it, will allow them to feel confident about it.

Secondly, creating a diverse and inclusive culture is key to retaining female talent at leadership positions, especially in an industry where there are so few of them.

There isn’t one single way to achieve this, but some basic examples come to mind: promoting two-way communication by communicating goals and ways to measure progress and holding regular feedback sessions, hearing and valuing employees’ feedback and input, connecting with employees, ensuring they are motivated, and creating an agile and flexible working environment.

In fact, I was reading an interesting article from Grant Thornton regarding, amongst other things, their 2021 International Business Report (IBR), which surveys the global mid-market and provides insight into the views and expectations of around 10,000 businesses in across 28 economies.

The article highlighted that 75% of respondents in financial services believe that flexible/hybrid working practices caused by coronavirus have empowered women in business to assume stronger leadership roles, while a striking 82% believe these will benefit women’s careers in the long term.

The gender pay gap is only second worst to the construction industry. What can organisations do to address this?

This is not my field of expertise; however, I know that compensation is often very much based on one’s network and ability to negotiate.

This is especially accurate in Financial Services for senior positions. Most women will see less room for negotiation when it comes to compensation, I think this is mainly due to character traits and the fact that most have never been incentivized to be ‘bold’ and assertive the way men are from a young age.

To address this, organisations can do a couple of things: (i) equally train their male and female leaders and future leaders on negotiation tactics, regardless of the nature of their work, and (ii) render the compensation decision-making more transparent and performance-driven, perhaps with the use of tools such as KPIs.

What is your biggest achievement to date? 

That all the plants I bought on a compulsive shopping spree during the first lockdown are still alive. LOL.