March 10, 2021

Interviews with members of the CFTE Community: Christelle Foucault

This week, CFTE’s co-founder Tram Anh Nguyen had the opportunity to interview and meet Christelle Foucault, Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Diversity and Equality in France.

Christelle has more than 20 years of experience in Finance. She worked in Paris as well as internationally such as in Singapore for BNP Paribas Wealth management department. A Member of CFTE community as well as engaged learner, Christelle now has a job that didn’t exist a few years ago.  On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we discover Christelle’s career path and achievements. 

Christelle’s career in finance

Tram Anh: What is your background, your position and experience in the finance industry? 

I have always worked in the banking and financial sector until I joined Elisabeth Moreno’s cabinet. I started my career as a sales advisor in a bank branch in Aquitaine, then moved on to more IT and international functions, first joining a software publisher specialising in credit risk management in Paris.

I then joined Groupe BPCE to help set up an IT EIG supporting the Caisses d’Epargne Régionales before joining Natixis (CIB) as International Project Manager. This experience allowed me to discover Asia and to say yes to an opportunity in Singapore as a Senior Consultant for a major French private bank which lasted 4 years until the summer of 2019. I then returned to Paris as IT Project Manager at Natixis until December 2020.

Tram Anh: Why are you interested in Digital finance and how has your journey in digital finance been? 

My experience in Singapore marked a turning point in improving my professional skills. Apart from an initial experience of relocation and confrontation with the multicultural management of face-to-face teams, the ultra dynamic environment I felt as soon as I arrived in Asia, the pace of creation and modernisation, “pushes” you to want to complete your skills to be able to follow the evolution of the world around you and make your contribution to this technological evolution.

Tram Anh: Have you experienced any major career transition as a result of embracing the transformation of the industry? 

No, there has been no clear break or evolution in my career linked to these technological developments in the world of Finance. The changes have been relatively gradual and in continuity.

Christelle Foucault as International project manager

Continuously learning to shape her career

Tram Anh: How has your career witnessed a transition in terms of new skills, technologies, knowledge, methods? What value do you place on constantly learning and upskilling?

I am lucky to have had an “atypical” career path that has allowed me to see different aspects and different activities within the same industry: the financial sector and the banking world in particular. From the sales network, to the development of structured product management software, from the implementation of Front to Back software with user support, from the worldwide deployment of a common IT solution to the development of an internal solution for regulatory reporting, all these changes could not have been made without the desire to learn and discover new horizons, or without the desire to get out of one’s comfort zone and the ability to take up studies here and there. From a Master’s degree in General Management in continuing education at ESSEC, to a FINTECH or cyber security certificate, combined with collaborative work with the “knowers”, employability requires lifelong training.

Tram Anh: How have you applied new skills developed at work in your day to day tasks? Would you have examples to share?

My various training courses, in International Business, Philosophy in evening classes, in business school with the BPCE-ESSEC course and then the various certifications have all contributed, at different times, to my role as a manager and leader. I don’t have any specific examples, but I’m also sure that I wouldn’t have succeeded in these different experiences (not all with the same success, however) without these “external” contributions. They have shaped me as a manager, as a collaborator and as an employee who is committed to the company. 

Christelle and her team in BNP Singapore

Starting a job like never before

Tram Anh: Your role is a new role, which did not even exist a couple of years ago. Could you tell us more about what it entails?  

Indeed, the position of LGBT+ Rights Adviser did not exist within the Ministries until August 2020 and the arrival of Elisabeth Moreno in the Cabinet in charge of Equality and Diversity. While diversity must be addressed in a broad sense and work towards the inclusion of all people equally, unfortunately, the evidence shows that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is still prevalent in our society. In 2019 there were 1,870 victims of homophobic or transphobic acts in France, i.e. +36% compared to 2018. While this is better in certain aspects, these figures show that here too, nothing can be taken for granted.  55% of LGBT people have experienced LGBTphobic acts in their lifetime.

This is why a new National Action Plan for Equal Rights, against anti-LGBT+ hatred and discrimination was launched last October by Elisabeth Moreno. This action plan was drawn up on the basis of an observation and exchanges with LGBT+ associations and involves all Ministries around 42 identified actions. I am in charge of the follow-up of this action plan, the first report of which will take place on 16 March, and of the stakeholders’ coordination (Ministries, public and territorial functions, but also the communication with the associative fabric and different actors of the civil society). The current government is very committed on this subject and one of the illustrations is undoubtedly the access to the LDC for all, which should be ratified before the summer and which is expected by homosexual women but also by single women since 2013.

Tram Anh: From your experience in your new role, how can we collectively foster diversity in finance?

Over the last few years, several banking institutions and consulting firms that also work in Finance have seen the creation of internal networks of LGBT+ employees. London, perhaps a little further ahead than France on these issues, has led the way in Finance. I think this is a good thing. Far from being communitarianism, it is sometimes useful, and on this subject I believe it is even necessary, to make the invisible visible. By showing that the Trader you regularly meet is gay, that this Project Manager is married to a woman and mother of two beautiful children, that the newcomer is a volunteer in an association fighting against HIV, you bring people together, you create a link and you show the normality but also the richness of a company. I am a great believer in these internal networks, which have a role to play at several levels (in relation to management in developing the LGBT+ rights of employees, in recruitment by showing that diversity is not an issue, in the friendliness they can provide, etc.).

“By showing that the Trader you regularly meet is gay, that this Project Manager is married to a woman and mother of two beautiful children, that the newcomer is a volunteer in an association fighting against HIV, you bring people together, you create a link and you show the normality but also the richness of a company.”

Christelle Foucault

Tram Anh: What challenges do you think women face in this current environment? What are the solutions?

Being a woman in the financial world often puts you in a minority position, at least for positions of responsibility and more markedly at the top of financial institutions. Being a lesbian in this universe undoubtedly adds the risk of further discrimination (sexism and sexual orientation are among the 25 criteria for discrimination). There is no solution to the potential misogyny in a company, but there is the possibility of choosing an inclusive company, and there are more and more of them, and also never hesitate to raise the issue when you think you are being discriminated against.

Tram Anh: If you had one piece of advice to give to someone starting his/ her career today, what would it be? 

The world of finance, which had not experienced a real revolution for a long time, is being reshaped with the evolution of Fintechs, changes in consumer habits (online shopping, increase in remote working, financial services comparison sites…) and the arrival of new and large non-specialised players. There is therefore no standard curriculum, but on the contrary, there are skills and attitudes which define you, which differentiate you and which make you useful and necessary for a company. Lifelong learning to adapt is the key. The variety of roles, environments and structures also contributes to your value. So don’t be afraid to diversify your experiences!

“There is therefore no standard curriculum, but on the contrary, there are skills and attitudes which define you, which differentiate you and which make you useful and necessary for a company. Lifelong learning to adapt is the key.”

Christelle Foucault

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