Laurence Fraissinet-Dubois, Senior Banker and Deputy Head of UniCredit’s Paris branch, on supporting clients throughout the pandemic, the importance of female role models and encouraging diversity within an organization.
We continue our series called Women in Leadership that highlights the roles, expertise and commitments of some of our female executives working in the different countries and areas of the business in which the bank operates.
Our sixth interviewee is Laurence Fraissinet-Dubois, Senior Banker and Deputy Head of UniCredit’s Paris branch. In this interview, Laurence, who is due to take over as Country Manager for France in September, outlines how UniCredit ably supported its French clients throughout the pandemic, as well why diversity is an enabler of collaborative thinking.
What is the current economic situation in France and how are companies reacting to the crisis?
We are emerging from the crisis in tandem with our European neighbours largely thanks to the measures put in place by the French government (minimising unemployment and offering state guaranteed loans, for instance). French groups adjusted in a very agile way to the situation and have started to grow again across most sectors by lowering their breakeven costs and reviewing their business models with a clear emphasis on digitalisation and innovation. Whilst our clients are remaining cautious, selective investments have restarted and will be supported by Next Generation EU funds alongside the French national investment plan. Current OECD forecasts for the French economy this year predict a growth rate of circa 6% after a very sharp GDP drop of 8% in 2020. France is a country where tourism and related economic services play a significant part and these may take more time to return to pre-COVID levels in comparison to other sectors of the economy, barring a serious fourth wave.
Could you share with us the solutions the bank is putting in place to support financial institutions and corporate clients in terms of financing, liquidity management, investments, etc.?
UniCredit France is a lean CIB hub focusing primarily on very large French corporates and financial institutions, that is to say very international groups with leading positions in France, Europe and around the world. Our Senior Bankers, alongside our highly experienced product specialists, provide ad hoc solutions for their corporate needs at parent-level or in collaboration with our various local banks for their subsidiaries in Italy, Germany, Austria and across CEE. In this respect, during the first wave of the pandemic, we were very reactive.
We concentrate our efforts where we have a clear competitive advantage and seek to capitalize in terms of offering the best possible products and services. We are very active in advising, underwriting or structuring our clients’ public or private financings, as well as leading their debt capital markets issuances.
In this respect, during the first wave of the pandemic, we were very reactive. It was an extraordinary opportunity for us to show our core corporate clients in particular how we could support them in a challenging environment by rapidly putting together additional liquidity lines to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. We were also able to accompany them on the second leg of this journey, when the same lines were quickly refinanced in the bond markets.
More generally speaking, UniCredit has been very successful in debt capital markets with French groups both on corporate and FIG side, frequently finding itself in sixth position after the four main French banks and one or two of the most established non-French players in the EUR DCM league tables. We are also increasingly present in ESG-related financings, which is both part of our DNA as a bank and a highly important trend for our clients at the same time.
What is your outlook for this year?
2021 will most likely be a transition year for the global economy after the 2020 ' ‘annus horribilis’, which strongly disrupted 2019’s positive economic momentum. As remote working became the norm, companies had to quickly adjust to digital channels whilst revisiting their existing strategies. In this context, the banking sector played an important role in supporting both economies and the private sector; depending on the industry, M&A activity has restarted whilst asset rotation in portfolios is also accelerating thanks to increased liquidity in the market. We expect to return to pre-COVID growth trends in 2022, with a boost to longer-term investments helped by European and national funds in particular in the areas of energy transition, infrastructure and education.
As a woman in an executive role, what advice would you give women working in the financial sector? In Paris there is a high level of diversity within the bank, how did you manage to achieve such a great result and what are the actions that you are implementing to maintain this high level of diversity in the future?
I think women should be confident that they can succeed in every sector and financial services is no exception! Although of course it is never easy for a woman to manage the individual challenges of being a professional, a working mother and a leader, for which you need to be very organised, it is becoming increasingly possible and I think going forward, women’s own inherent qualities – traditionally those of empathy, collaboration and different ways of thinking – will be key for organisations to be successful and attractive to new hires. As ever in life, you need to meet the right people and capitalise on momentum at the right time but there are a lot of opportunities and women should not be shy to grab them. There are also a series of impressive role models: could you ever have imagined that the Head of ECB and EU Commission would both be women whilst at the same time, still having a number of powerful women as heads of state? But diversity is not just about women, it is also about bringing together different nationalities or profiles in order to break stereotypes and foster collaborative thinking. At UniCredit Paris we have been very open to diversity since inception and are often regarded as an exemplar around the Group, offering development opportunities for talented people at all levels. Mind-set remains of essence and this key for the future.
Can you tell us more about your career journey and your current role?
In keeping with UniCredit DNA, I am a true European in my working life. I started my career at French bank BNPP working in capital market origination for private and public borrowers in Paris and London. I subsequently joined Deutsche Bank in Paris where I stayed for over thirteen years covering different roles and portfolios at a time when DB was transforming through acquisitions (Morgan Grenfell in the UK and Bankers Trust in the US) but always serving large French groups both in advisory and across all types of simple or more complex financings. Following my stint at Deutsche, I joined Barclays Capital in 2003 as a Senior Banker contributing to the development of their corporate finance franchise in France with a large French client base primarily looking at capital markets financing and hedging products.
A decade ago, I joined UniCredit in Paris as the bank was reopening as a lean hub to represent the Group in order to develop and optimize business with large multinational French clients across our different products and geographies. The development of what was, in 2012, almost a sort of start-up has proved altogether an exciting and rewarding experience as well as a successful business development story rooted in the One Bank, One UniCredit approach.
In parallel, I have been France Deputy Country Head for three years and will soon take over the responsibility to lead the UniCredit Paris team of 50 professionals.