Interviewed by Alison OATES and Dovile BOGUSYTE
Meet our Member, Bénédicte Micard, Southern European Business development lead at Virtu Financial, based in the South of France. We talked about being a woman in the male-dominated financial sector, the diverse competencies required for successful business development, and the impact of being a long-term remote worker on her career.
You are responsible for Southern Europe business development at Virtu Financial, a large financial services provider. What does your job entail and what part of it gets you up in the morning?
Virtu Financial offers a wide range of financial services and solutions that support retail and intuitional firms across the world.
The definition of Business Development is to find new clients and generate new business. In my view and experience, it entails so much more than that. To effectively engage with institutional prospects and clients, a successful business developer requires a multi-phased approach that includes Prospecting (identifying new clients) Analysis (listening to clients to understand their needs), Marketing (presenting and promoting solutions), Sales (converting prospects to clients) and Relationship Management (solving new client challenges as needs arise and ensuring their satisfaction in the long run. ).
What I value most about my role at Virtu is the relationship management aspect―solving client challenges and providing excellent service― it’s a key driver for me. I’ve learned that it takes years to earn trust and build confidence with clients and it’s personally satisfying when they recognise that your day-to-day efforts help.
In the years that you have been leading Southern European Business Development, have any new country markets emerged? Who are the key European players and which countries do you most enjoy working with?
In 2007, I began covering seven European countries (France, French and Italian speaking Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Norway and the Czech Republic), a time in which two financial crises led to many clients shuttering or being acquired. The client-culture in each country I manage are all very different. Success is gained through a tailored approach, and given the variety of my territory, a one-size-fits-all strategy simply would not work. I am creative in my approach (figuring out what works best and for who) and this challenges me and ensures my work is interesting and rewarding.
I am creative in my approach (figuring out what works best and for who) and this challenges me and ensures my work is interesting and rewarding.
You have worked for both small to medium-sized companies, and multinationals. What have you learned from being part of such different organisations?
To work in any size firm you need to be flexible and open-minded—that is a winning strategy and the mentality of today. I started my career in a small office of a large investment bank which was very people-oriented. Communication was open, and management was very accessible. I transferred to London with the same company and joined a trading floor of 500 seats and the sheer size seemed impersonal to me―like losing human contact with your peers―though I was surrounded by people. While the work was interesting, I missed being able to meaningfully interact with my colleagues. Networking and interaction with other teams build knowledge, but also creates strong connections and work relationships.
Networking and interaction with other teams build knowledge, but also creates strong connections and work relationships.
Based in Montpellier, you have been a champion of remote working since long before the Covid crisis. Tell us about the impact that this has had on your career and how attitudes towards it have evolved.
I enjoyed my life in London it’s is a great city to live in, especially when you are in your early 30s. I appreciated my work and travelling, but I was away from home too often, which was difficult with a baby. So, in 2009 I decided to move back to Montpellier to raise my child and I have worked remotely ever since.
Thankfully, this did not have a negative impact on my career trajectory. A few years after moving to France, I was hired by Virtu Financial―a firm that appreciates people's strengths and values professionalism.
Almost overnight, Covid-19 required people to become self-sufficient and motivated whilst working from home―a more difficult task than many people first anticipated. Fortunately, Virtu was a thoughtful and supportive employer who put their people first. They supplied all employees with the necessary tools and technology to set up a home office, offered child support, tutoring, community support and more. The employee and social/emotional support they continue to provide was instrumental in the firm’s successful transition to a physically distant work environment.
Working closely with clients through the periods of historic volume and volatility accelerated the shift and enhanced the appreciation of Virtu’s scale and technology-based solutions. The firm’s workflow technology, trade analytics and data, venues and execution services coupled with a client-first attitude is the heart of how we managed. We really are all in this together.
You have always worked in the finance sector, one which Board Member Paulina Dejmek-Hack wrote about in our July 2021 newsletter. What is your experience of being a woman in this male-dominated industry, and what in your view can be done to improve the career prospects of women in Financial Services?
Generally, when you work in a male-dominated industry you need to work harder as a woman to get the same recognition as a man. That is why networks like WIL exist, because as women we know we are strong and that we are super capable, but at the end of the day the gender pay gap is still a reality.
I grew up surrounded by male cousins and with whom I spent all my vacations, and my father was an FX dealer, so I was used to being in male-dominated surroundings. When I joined ITG (now Virtu Financial) in 2012, I was surprised by the large percentage of women in senior roles which convinced me that even in a male-dominated environment, women should pursue to access senior roles, as parity is just around the corner.
I do believe that people should be valued for their work, strengths and capabilities, and not be penalised because of gender. I feel that for women to be recognized professionally we need to trust ourselves and put forward our skills and knowledge with confidence.
I do believe that people should be valued for their work, strengths, and capabilities and not be penalised because of gender. I feel that women, in order to grow professionally, need to trust and believe in themselves more.
Finance, trading, and investment can seem quite daunting for non-specialists, especially women who remain unrepresented in the finance world. Do you have any podcasts, books, or blogs to recommend to our readers who may want to improve their knowledge of Finance and Investment?
The best book I have read relating to the overall business of trading would be the Nick Leeson autobiography, TRADER. Leeson was a senior trader at Barings Bank during its collapse in the 90s.
For more specific podcasts on investing, the website The Balance offers a wide choice of worthwhile content: https://www.thebalance.com/best-investing-podcasts-4584068
You are a new member of the European Network for Women in Leadership, having joined in April 2021. What spurred you to become a WIL Member and what are you hoping to get out of it? Also, what would you like to contribute to our network?
I have been following the WIL Network for some years now and have been inspired by the variety of different backgrounds of the WIL members–most of them outside of the financial services sector!
What inspired me to become a WIL member was the isolation due to the pandemic. Technology and e-networking have allowed me to meet WIL members online and participate in sessions that were previously held in person and were difficult for me to attend.
I value the exchange with senior women from different industries and look forward to engaging and meeting other female professionals. I can contribute by sharing my work experiences with younger members/talents and help women discover possible career paths within the financial services industry.
I value the exchange with senior women from different industries and look forward to engaging and meeting other female professionals.
Video edited by Dovile BOGUSYTE