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Christèle Clémence is Deputy Head of Wholesales Switzerland and Liechtenstein at RobecoSAM. Before joining the firm in 2017, she worked at UBS Wealth Management for five years, first as a growth specialist in business development and then as a relationship manager. Prior to that, Christèle spent six years at Bank Syz on the Sales and Business Development team.
Christèle Clémence, what is it that motivates you?
To me, it’s important to work for a company which has leadership and integrity as well as a great product range. What motivates me is the desire to reach a goal which fulfils my values and core beliefs, improving something or bringing a project to fruition. I’m fully dedicated to sustainability, and being able to translate my passion into opportunities makes me happy and motivates me to do more towards that direction, to see results in real change. I’m a solution-oriented person by nature, and I prefer to talk about opportunities rather than unsolved problems. All my life, I’ve been building up from nothing. The beauty of being a salesperson in asset management is understanding clients’ needs and providing them with dedicated advice and solutions. That’s very motivating, and the combination of content and social contact is extremely fulfilling.
What was the biggest challenge you faced at the start of your career (in the past five years, in your career to date)?
It may appear feminist, but being a woman in a male-driven environment hasn’t always been easy. It’s a challenge at the beginning, since you have to prove that you’re a content-driven person and not a flowerpot, representing a company. I remember once a client was talking to me and thought I was an assistant until he realised he had to deal directly with me. My way and philosophy were to dig more deeply into my field of expertise so as to have a broader and deeper knowledge than what was expected. Today, when looking back, I’m thankful to have chosen that way. From challenge to strength, it allows me to advise clients without needing to have the investment specialists along with me. This has the positive outcome of making me credible towards colleagues, the investment team and management and a trustful and respected salesperson, values which are key to me.
Which values underlie your day-to-day actions, decisions, plans?
First being loyal to myself, conscious of where I come from and where I belong. As I already mentioned, I’ve repeatedly reinvented myself throughout my life. That means I’m a fighter and will get involved and engage with topics I can fully stand behind which make sense to me and have an impact. Being a half-emotional, half-rational sort of person, I like to analyse and assess the possibilities before acting on them with passion. Respect, trust, transparency and empathy are key beliefs to me which drive both my private and professional lives. If I feel bad energy, I’d rather go one step back than keep pressing ahead. In my daily business, I’m convinced that ESG and especially constructive shareholder dialogue and SDG investing can make a huge difference in the world. I’m delighted to discuss with clients how they can incorporate these ideas into an impact investment strategy with appropriate targets and a measurable influence on sustainable change. Investors can make a difference by allocating capital to companies that contribute to solving the world’s problems.
What drove you to do what you do today?
When talking to UHNWI clients or entrepreneurs at my previous employer, it was clear to me that most of them had achieved a lot with their own businesses during their lives and wanted to give something back to society by investing in a smarter way. They asked me to help them with it. Salespeople often don’t listen much as they have a clear idea of what they want to sell to their clients. From my side, I like to listen, open doors and then find fitting solutions. Providing clients with a meaningful goal is what makes me happy. It’s also the “new future” or even “new present”, as many companies are having to reconsider the purpose of their business models. In order to dig deeper into those values, I started a CAS in sustainability at the University of Zurich last year. I can highly recommend this course to everyone. It definitely opens up your mind as to where human beings belong and the fact that there’s an emergency we have to wake up to and act on in order to protect our biggest asset, Mother Earth. The finance industry in Switzerland, which represents approximately 10% of GDP, can help move assets towards a meaningful way of investing. This is what I’m very proud to represent towards my clients. From ESG integration to impact investing, the menu is broad and the ingredients strong. It’s not just storytelling, it’s proven fact, you only have to look at the performance contributions of such strategies. It’s also interesting to see how these strategies have performed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe this crisis was needed to create more transparency and awareness, which will help us to generate sustainable alpha.
What are your goals – professionally and personally?
My objective is to be happy. Aiming to be a winning personality, I like to pursue and achieve long-term goals by putting a positive attitude into everything I do. I’d rather do things 150% than 99%. Doing something with a smile makes you feel positive energy and automatically opens up the attitude of your vis-à-vis, not always but most of the time. This may be too much of a black-and-white approach, but if I feel something or someone being an “energy vampire”, then I’ll take another route. My way of thinking is very systematic, so I try to make a long-term plan, clarifying what can be done as much as possible in order to account for the unexpected. Having access to the right people is also important when working with clients. I’m not scared to knock at the door of someone in our management if I need to. The same applies to my private life. The simple answer “no” is not constructive. “No, we can’t do it like this” is not an attitude I can live with. On the contrary, I find the answer “What about if we do it like this?” much more satisfying. The acronym GROW summarises how I act in the pursuit of my goals, whether in my private or professional life: G for goal, R for reality, O for opportunities or options, W for the way forward. This sounds easy, but keeping this in mind helps you stay on the right track .
What do you enjoy most in your job, what least?
What I like most about my job is having the two facets, being able to understand clients’ needs on the one hand and developing, building and fulfilling their expectations on the other. This is a great combination of social and intellectual skills, acknowledging and brainstorming what’s the best way forward to reach the goal. What’s sometimes hard for me to perceive and accept is that not everyone has the same motivation, drive and path. Some people do what they do because they have to and don’t feel the need to excel, so they’ll never be happy or unhappy. Working with people like this is a challenge. It’s hard to conceive that they can’t think out of the box because they feel more comfortable and secure being in the box.
How do you achieve that crucial work/life balance?
In nature. You’ll always find me where there are amazing landscapes. The natural elements give me energy, grounding and serenity, whether I’m hiking, playing golf, biking, scuba diving or just admiring a stunning view. Travelling is a source of energy for me too, discovering cultures and places that aren’t too popular with tourists, be they in the jungle, by the water or even under it. Spending time with my loved ones also provides a healthy balance. Almost every day, I meditate, which gives me grounding, peace and a clear mind. I try to do sport three or four times a week – I’m kind of addicted to it because it’s so important to my well-being and allows me to eat whatever I feel like, which is what we French speakers call “savoir-vivre”.
What can you not do without?
I couldn’t live without love, friends, nature and having a choice. Love is vitamin D, nature the place where I can regenerate, and being born in a place where we have choices is not self-evident, this is a privilege and an opportunity. I’m thankful to have the choice to pick up the things which I think make sense to me. I couldn’t be without helping others in whatever way and doing something which has a positive impact on the environment, society and governance. On top of all this, it would be hard for me to forego a glass of wine and my two young cats.
What advice would you give to someone embarking on a career in asset management today or your younger self?
1. Don’t be opportunistic, it doesn’t get you anywhere in the long term, only the short term.
2. Never forget people who helped you once, be thankful for what you have and fight for what you believe in.
3. Don’t let people bring you down because they don’t have the same values or envy you.
4. Give without expecting. Maybe it doesn’t sound balanced at first, but karma will provide that balance.
5. Be loyal to yourself before being loyal to others.
6. Don’t do to anybody what you wouldn’t accept someone else doing to you. Treat people the way you would like to be treated, this is my main motto.
What are you thankful for?
I’m thankful for many things, but the most relevant thing to be thankful about is health. This is the biggest asset one can have. I grew up with sick people around me, a cruel twist of fate. Through this, I learned how to fight for life, but I also understood that life is made up of many small moments of happiness. People often tell me, “Christèle, you have so much energy, and you laugh a lot.” True, but I know where I’ve come from, and it wasn’t an easy road to where I am now, it was a long fight for life. This definitely changed the way I look at things, especially problems, and it left me with no patience for people who complain all the time. Be thankful for what you have, don’t waste time worrying about what you don’t have. I’m thankful for having amazing people around me and for having a job I’m passionate about. I’m thankful to live in a country like Switzerland and grateful to have amazing, loving parents who taught me the morals I have today and allowed me to follow my dreams and convictions. I’m thankful for the opportunity to study sustainability and for being able to implement my beliefs and values in my work together with our clients. I’m thankful for being a woman, supporting and fighting for diversity, to get the same rights as men in terms of recognition and opportunities.
What is more important to you as you get older, and what is less important?
It’s important to cut through to what really matters and ignore the superficial. I find myself looking more and more for authenticity and integrity.
What, in your opinion, is the best anti-depressant?
A walk in the forest, dark chocolate with nuts, red wine and listening to my purring cats.