Corinna Valentine is COO and Head of Finance for Fidelity International, Germany. We talk to her about what excites her about the financial industry, how she reconciles family and career, and what she advises young women who want to pursue a career.
Corinna, what exactly are your activities as COO, and what exactly do you do as Head of Finance, for Fidelity International Germany?
As COO, i.e. as Chief Operation Officer, I am responsible for a very broad area of responsibility. A major focus is on optimizing our internal structures and collaboration so that we can provide our customers with the best possible service. As CFO – Chief Finance Officer – I take care of all fidelity's financial issues in Germany. For example, I work closely with our sales channels when it comes to offers for customers, but I am also closely involved in our strategy and planning. We have various legal companies in Germany, including a bank, so i am also responsible for accounting, financial statements and reporting to the supervisory authorities. Although these CFO/COO divisions tend to operate inwardly, they contribute significantly to the overall success of the German business.
I know only a few female Head of Finance. Why are there so few women in this area?
This also surprises me, because many women bring the necessary skills for this role. Numerous studies show that women often keep track of a crisis, are good communicators and at the same time very pragmatic. In practice, however, I experience that I am often the only woman at the table, as the asset management sales, but also many other senior management roles, are male-staffed. If you don't let yourself be fooled by this, you can be successful with good factual arguments. But this numerical imbalance between men and women alone can certainly deter. I have to say: there are 7 women in my team, some of them part-time, because I haven't found good full-time people.
Does it work with part-time employees?
Yes, as head of department it is my job to distribute the work in such way that it can be done.
Which three things do you enjoy most in your work?
I work with a fantastic and very diverse team, not only locally, but also globally. In addition, I have exciting tasks, because a lot is happening with us in the Group. So I get something new on the table every day. As a Group, we place a great deal of emphasis on employee engagement; this is an issue that has been close to my heart for a long time. That's why I'm involved in many initiatives, e.g. I do a lot of mentoring – internally and externally – and of course I also learn a lot myself.
You used to work in the consulting department at KPMG. What is the most notable difference between working for a consultant or an asset manager?
At KPMG, I worked in auditing. It was very educating because I got an insight into many different industries there. In the end, I chose Financial Services because this industry is so super-versatile. There are so many starting points and opportunities there. Even though I then got involved in the revision there, I realized at some point that I not only want to work project-related, but also want to contribute deeper and longer-term to individual areas. I didn't just want to go in somewhere and see where something is going well and where bad, and then go again. I wanted to have something for which I was responsible.
What prompted you to work for a large international house like Fidelity International? What are the advantages for you?
I came to Fidelity rather by chance. I previously worked in London at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, which was shortly after their merger. For me, British and German culture didn't fit together that well, so Fidelity's call came at just the right time. I was attracted to Fidelity that it is a global private company, has flat hierarchies and is very collaborative. This is also reflected today in our Value & Behaviours. Bold & Brave, Compassionate, Courious etc. – this just fits very well with my personal attitude. It is a pleasant way to work, even though there is a high tempo. You can get involved as a person; my door is always open, e.g.
Do you have a family? And how do you combine family and work? What are the challenges, and which "tricks" have you found for you that you would like to pass on here?
I am married and have two daughters (16 and 18). My husband supports me incredibly. He went on parental leave after the birth of my first daughter to allow me to return to the office. When we moved for Fidelity, he became a stay-at-home dad in the long term, otherwise the many relocations and professional trips would not have been possible. That helped incredibly when the kids were even younger. He has been waiting for a donor kidney for a few years now, i.e. he is not in good health, but the children are quite independent and we are doing ok. I am very involved in my career, which is sometimes a balancing act. I try to live on the concept of "love and role model" rather than "rules and nagging", although this is not always easy. It is important that my children know that I am always there for them, which means that after a long day of work I listen to the German essay with a lot of patience, although I would perhaps rather sit on the sofa with a glass of wine.
It's a very private question, but we all have to solve it somehow: How do you divide your house- and family work?
It's very simple: I do the organization (holiday, finances, birthday gifts, etc.), my husband and the children do everything else. I cook only on weekends, and during the pandemic my daughter always cooked at lunchtime.
Haha, you're a COO after all! You have recently joined the advisory board of Fondsfrauen. What does this mean for you?
I was very pleased with the invitation, especially because in a back office function you are much less visible someone in portfolio management or sales. Finance and operations in asset management offer an extraordinary number of career opportunities for women, and we sometimes have a different view of things. I look forward to an exciting exchange and also to expanding my network and working with really impressive women.
What advice would you like to give to young women who want to pursue a career as an asset manager?
Be open to everything – this is an industry where there are many different possibilities. My own career path shows how many exciting roles there are. Often, after entering an area, other possibilities arise, especially if you are willing to look outside the box. To do this, one should also be opportunistic; Professionally, it is rarely something for a whole life. Oother possibilities arise from each position. It's always going on somehow. And never forget: When things don’t go so well, remember: Good things happen to good people.
Thank you for the motivational interview, Corinna!