Laurence Loyer (H.92)
Buenos Aires. Laurence welcomed us in her office in Grupo Supervielle’s headquarters. Talking to Laurence we realized how stupid it is to play solo in a company. From a board member perspective, the higher you get in the hierarchy, the more connected to other people in the company you must be. Check it out !
Read full transcript…
HU: Hi Laurence! Let’s start with the Chinese portrait, so if you were … a color?
LL: Pink, because it is feminine and joyful.
HU: An animal?
HU: A meal?
LL: Probably something very sweet, a desert.
HU: Any one in particular?
LL: Saint Honoré.
HU: A movie?
LL: Wall Street
HU: A song?
LL: Stairway to heaven.
HU: An object?
LL: I would be a travel souvenir.
HU: A book?
LL: If I were a book I would be Barbarians at the gate. It is an incredible book for anyone who likes finance and mergers and acquisitions.
HU: A hero or a superhero?
LL: Madre Theresa.
HU: End of the Chinese portrait. Now, could you sum up your professional background in just 30 seconds?
LL: The common thread in my career is finance. I have worked two years in M&A at Banexi in New York. I then moved on to a finance position in the industry in an American conglomerate named Sara Lee Corporation. It is known for manufacturing and marketing consumer goods. They are very well known in France through brands such as Dim, Playtex or Wonderbra. I had a role of CFO in these companies. I stayed there 15 years, I learned a lot. Then I moved on to this new position at Grupo Supervielle in Argentina. I am not anymore in a finance position but I am in a group providing financial services.
“The penetration of credit in Argentina is only about 15% of GDP, which is two time less than any other country in Latin America, so there is a lot of potential for growth”
HU: Could you tell us more about Grupo Supervielle?
LL: Grupo Supervielle is a privately owned financial services group. The biggest asset is a commercial bank in Argentina and a consumer service financing company. We are associated with Wall Mart, we basically operate their consumer financing services. We also have an insurance company, a mutual fund and a micro-credit company.
HU: What is your position at Grupo Supervielle?
LL: I am a member of the board. We are seven people at the board, our role is to overview the management. What I am bringing to the group is good governance, which I am veiling for, ethics, setting objectives for the management and I am also president of the audit commitee, which means that I make sure that the financial information is accurate.
HU: How is it to work in the banking industry in Argentina, which has suffered a few financial crisis in the past years?
LL: It is very interesting! We have a few sets of issues to start with. First, the public doesn’t trust banks because Argentina’s banks have already been forced to seize the savings of its clients and give them back at a slow pace or at an exchange rate that was unfavorable to Argentinians. So we have to work with that and try to gain our clients’ confidence. The other issue we have is that we are operating in a country with very high inflation. So there is no incentive to save and as a consequence there are very few deposits and it is more complicated to lend money on the long term. That’s why banking is very transactional in Argentina. There are very little loans to buy houses for instance because this is too long term. The good thing about being in this industry is that it is at the heart of Argentina and Argentina’s politics. What’s more, the penetration of credit in Argentina is only about 15% of GDP, which is two time less than any other country in Latin America, so there is a lot of potential for growth.
HU: What makes you happy to go to work every morning?
LL: Reason number one is learning from others. Secondly, rising up to the daily challenges and adapting. But firstly, learning from others, I have learnt a lot from Argentinians.
HU: What are your usual tasks at work?
LL: Generally when I go to work I am in meetings. It can be commitee meetings or board meetings. Basically it is always about working as a team. That is what I do every day. I have very little time on my own apart from reviewing the information sent by the management.
“One of the biggest challenge I was faced with when entering the group was to prepare for the IPO. It was one of the most interesting things I have done in my whole career”
HU: Is it easy to work with Argentinians?
LL: I learned a lot from Argentinians because they have a way of managing themselves in meeting which is very different from what I have seen so far. Basically, in France and in the US, meetings are run in a quite efficient manner, the decision is set at the beginning of the meeting. Whereas in Argentina you get to the meeting and you set the decision at the end. Because it is very critical to try and gain adhesion from your team, so you will avoid announcing the selected options to your teams in a top down fashion. As a consequence I have learned a lot about negociation…
HU: What is Grupo Supervielle’s strategy?
LL: Our strategy is twofold. Fist, we are trying to gain scale. Basically we are pursuing a volume strategy on very profitable market segments. We are trying to gain scale because the banking sector is little developed in Argentina and it is difficult to grow. The second strategy we are pursuing is that we are looking for efficiency. We are trying to be more cost efficient in the way we provide services. One of the means we have found to reach both objectives – scale and efficiency – is to go digital.
HU: Can you tell us more about this digitalization?
LL: There is one thing that characterizes the banking industry in Argentina: the long queues at the banks’ branches. So for instance we are trying to be more efficient using digital tools. This is good for us because it is very costly to give a one-to-one service to the customer, and also good for the customer who wants to avoid long queues and going to the bank.
HU: You told us off the record that Grupo Supervielle was about to make its IPO. Could you tell us more about that?
LL: One of the biggest challenge I was faced with when entering the group was to prepare for the IPO. It was one of the most interesting things I have done in my whole career. Grupo Supervielle needs capital in order to gain scale, and we are going to raise this capital in New York. That is public information but also a work in progress. We are waiting for the markets to be stable in order for us to go public.
HU: Thank you for your insights. Now we are going to talk about Buenos Aires, where you have been living for seven years now. What do you like to do during the week ends in Buenos Aires?
LL: With my family we are used to going to the delta Tigre, 30 minutes away from Buenos Aires. It is a beautiful river and one of the biggest deltas in the world. It feels like you were in the Amazon. It is completely exotic and jungle like. You feel so far away from the city when you are there.
HU: What would you do if you had only 24 hours left to live in Buenos Aires?
LL: I would arrange an “asado”. An “asado” is a barbecue and it is the traditional meal in Argentina. You start late, around 1pm, and it ends very late, you gather with lots of friend and eat excellent food, especially Argentina meat. It is a good friendly moment and that is what I would do.
HU: What are your favourite places in Buenos Aires?
LL: The best is Palermo and the second best is San Telmo. Those are the most trendy places with very good restaurants and lots of people on the street. Another place I really like is “la Recoleta” because that is the place that looks the most like Paris, very European and very chic. Personally I live in Belgrano near to the French high school.
HU: What do you like about people from Argentina?
LL: I think they are extremely welcoming, creative, very intelligent and very involved in cultural aspects. There are many operas, theaters, art exhibitions in Buenos Aires. I like their European side. When you are in Buenos Aires, you don’t feel a foreigner.
HU: After the success of the recent debt obligation emission (April 2016), is the end of the financial crisis close?
LL: We are hoping it is. But I think the biggest challenge that Argentina has right now is that this new government be successful. It is a non peronist government. Peronism comes from general Peron’s name and is a very populist doctrine which – to my point of view – have done much harm to Argentina. But so far the non peronist governments have always failed. We are hoping this one will not fail and lead to a new crisis.
HU: Do you think that Argentina has a bright future?
LL: Yes, I think that Argentina is set for a bright future. We are hoping the country will grow again and be at the standard of the skills of its population
HU: As you are also a graduate from McGill university in Canada, why would you want to do HEC Paris?
LL: I grew up in Canada and in America but I am born from French parents. So they always told me HEC was the best business school. I was curious to see how this business school was and I had heard from a friend about the HEC Entrepreneur major. He had described it to me as something that was super practical, very business oriented and I saw it as a good complement to my MBA in McGill. So I applied and I got in the program!
HU: What was your favourite place on the HEC campus?
LL: Of course there is “la Kfet” because this was the party place. But there are two other spaces that I really liked. First, the corridors taking you to the classrooms and amphitheaters. HEC Entrepreneurs used to cross each other dressed-up as serious people waiting to present their projects to professors. Those were great moments of fun and stress. The second place would be my apartment. I had an apartment for me and my husband – we were newly wed. Most of our friends would come over for dinner. It was a good meeting place.
HU: What is it to be married while at HEC? Was it common at the time?
LL: There were a few married couple at HEC but in my group, at HEC Entrepreneurs, I was the only one. I had gotten married just a month before, I was 24. Honestly it was pretty fun.
HU: What is your best memory from HEC?
LL: I should say is that the best thing of all are the friends I have made there. They are still my friends although I live very far. When I go to Europe and meet a friend it would always be an HEC friend. The best memories are the foolish things we have done together when we were at meetings with general managers. They would be very kindly receiving us, explaining their business to us and giving us some missions. And whenever they would come out from the room for five minutes we would do the most foolish things in their office…
HU: Would you advise someone to go to HEC today?
LL: I would definitely recommend HEC and especially the Entrepreneur major. It is incredible how much you learn, to be in direct contact with businesses really makes a difference and I loved this innovative way of teaching. I would also recommend it because I think that HEC has really made a move with respect to understanding how its international reputation is key. Today a business school needs to be well known abroad, not just in France. And I would also recommend it for the level of the people you meet there, intellectual level, fun, everything…
HU: How do you use the HEC alumni network? For which reason would you like to be contacted by an HEC alumnus?
LL: I would love to be contacted to be offered another board position. I would also love to be contacted by an alumni who wants to settle in Argentina and would be asking for advice on the culture, on which door to knock on.
HU: Which advice would you give to a young HEC graduate?
LL: I would say travel, work abroad and find a great boss to learn from. Should it be in a large or in a small company, try to find someone that you admire and want to follow.
HU: Did you have a mentor yourself?
LL: I really had this chance in Sara Lee corporation. I had two incredible managers and if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t have stayed so long in the company and I wouldn’t be the professional I am today.
HU: HEC’s motto is “the more you know, the more you dare”. What would be your own motto?
LL: I have two mottos, the first one is “the sweet spot is out of your comfort zone”. This is something we should all know. It is necessary to go outside from our comfort zone, even though it is hard and it produces its share of stress, the truth is: that is the only place where you learn and where you are growing. The other motto is new to me and is linked to my teamwork experience. “Teams are smarter than the smartest person in them” and that is something that we should always remember. Smartness adds up, it doesn’t detract.
… or pick a category…
…or an Alumnus
If you see human resources as a concept standing somewhere between paper works and new age mystics, you are wrong and have a lot to learn from Alessandra. About: Family Capitalism - Human Resources - The purpose of life