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Léa on the secret ingredients to Investment Advisory

After an internship and completing the Graduate Programme, Léa joined our Geneva office as an investment advisor. For over a decade she has translated her passion for financial markets and people into valuable advice for our clients. We take a closer look at how she makes a critical impact all the while walking the talk of sustainability.

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Léa, what inspired you to become an investment advisor?

“When I was studying at HEC Lausanne, I realised that finance combines my interest in mathematics, strategy, and social interaction. I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Management & Economics and then a Master’s in Financial Engineering and Risk Management. Then, to get some initial professional experience I did an internship at Julius Baer in Zurich in 2010. I have been with the company ever since.”

Could you describe your journey from internship to your current position?

“After the internship, I applied for Julius Baer’s Graduate Programme and spent several months in Singapore (advisory and trading floor). From there I went to Advisory in Geneva where I advise clients on portfolio strategy and investment selection, in cooperation with that client’s relationship manager, this is what I like. I am in continuous contact with clients – this is definitely a people business.”

What is the best aspect of your job?

“It is the combination of working with people and being close to financial markets that I find exciting. Every day is different – I never know what challenges and opportunities await me. The idea is to put an investment strategy in place that best fits a client’s needs. And every client is different: my role is to understand their needs and wishes, then translate those into tailor-made solutions for each of them. That’s both fun and challenging. I don’t do this alone, however – I work in a team that constantly shares and challenges its views internally.”

What else makes a difference in your job in Advisory at Julius Baer?

“Each advisor has a client book, but we nonetheless work as a team with common goals. This helps us to create synergies, interactions, and investment ideas. There is no micromanagement – I structure my day freely with my clients’ agendas as the focal point, of course. Two of my main challenges are to deepen my interaction with relationship managers and with my clients. Our Advisory team has a broad array of backgrounds, personalities, and expertise – for every client we have an appropriate advisor. 
I think one of my main strengths is empathy – I really try to understand my clients’ specificities, mindsets, and needs – in addition to my technical know-how. Moreover, Julius Baer cares about sustainability. Its ESG view is a core element of our investment approach. I was involved in this development for the Advisory Geneva team, and I’m proud to have earned a CFA Certificate in ESG Investing.”

What makes Julius Baer a great place to work, and how is it different than other employers?

“The slogan ‘big enough to matter, small enough to care’ is really true and describes the family spirit we have within Julius Baer. Colleagues throughout the company are reachable, flexible, willing to help, and open to new ideas. The other day one of my clients had a very specific question about a particular stock; I phoned the equity analyst directly and in a few minutes had an answer for the client. We have minimal hierarchy and a true human touch – you can see this across the company. “

What has been your proudest moment thus far?

“The last 18 months of the pandemic have been very challenging and have affected our day-to-day work – in the markets, in investments, and in how to manage clients’ stress and expectations. I am most gratified when clients appreciate the advice I have given them during this sensitive period. Furthermore, I have put in place the ‘Equity deep dive sessions’ for the Investment Advisory teams globally. These are briefing calls held twice a month with the Equity Research Team about a specific sub-sector. I was also one of the speakers at our ‘Woman and Wealth’ series, an educational programme on finance and portfolio construction for women.”

After 11 years at Julius Baer, how do you stay motivated?

“Julius Baer cares about its employees, and this is obvious in the day-to-day work culture. And while it’s nice to be praised by managers, it’s even more satisfying to receive positive feedback from clients. In the past months, we’ve had a number of clients transfer additional assets to Investment Advisory because they were happy with the way we navigated the market crises created by the pandemic. We helped them deal with the risk, the stress and the opportunities. Their choice to work more closely with us is the best thank you I could ever receive.”

How do you create value beyond wealth and make a positive impact?

“Beyond providing value to clients and the team I look after my family, and I also try to walk the talk of sustainability. I travel most of the time by bicycle, try to minimise my environmental footprint, and care about nature.”

How do you find a healthy balance between career and parenting small children?

“A career can be combined with family life, but it takes some balancing. I am part of a modern family where both parents raise the children and pursue careers. Of course we must be well-organised as to who does what when, but it works well for me, my husband, and our two daughters. It helps a lot that Julius Baer offers some flexibility as I work 80%. And the Advisory team has each other’s back – my colleagues cover for me when I’m not available or out of the office.”

How would you advise someone hoping to work in Advisory? What qualities should they emphasise?

“You must be passionate about financial markets and want to interact with people, because this is the core business of Advisory. Be curious, be a good listener, be empathetic, and be able to tolerate stress and uncertainty. Perhaps most of all, you need to be a quick study. The job involves processing masses of information quickly. You have to separate the wheat from the chaff, at speed. You will never know everything off-the-cuff, so you need to be able to find answers rapidly. If that sounds appealing: this could be a job you will love.”

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