Maxime Carmignac is the daughter of Edouard Carmignac, who founded the French asset management boutique Carmignac in 1989. After working outside her father’s company as an investment banker and hedge fund manager, she is now leading Carmignac’s UK subsidiary. Fondsfrau Anke Dembowski conducts two interviews with her, this is the second one. In the first one she talks with Maxime, among other things, about the attitude to money in the founding family of one of the finest asset management boutiques. In this second one, she talks with her about diversity and how Maxime Carmignac supports female talents in the family business.
Do your clients ask for Carmignac’s diversity figures, before investing into your funds?
Diversity is starting to become a more talked about point, but so far, we haven’t been asked this question too much. It also depends on the country. For example in Spain and Italy, we haven’t been asked this question yet, although we have big offices there. In France and Germany, some investors ask about diversity.
What about diversity at Carmignac?
Two thirds of our AUM are managed or co-managed by women. Take for example three of our flagship funds, the Carmignac Portfolio Patrimoine, the Carmignac Portfolio Sécurité, and the Carmignac China New Economy, they are all managed by female portfolio managers.
If you look at the top eight largest funds in Europe that are managed by women: Two of them are from Carmignac. This is quite a lot, because we are only a small boutique asset manager. We are very proud of that. In effect, today, there is much more communication to reduce inequality of men and women in the workplace, and that is a good development. I appreciate it!
Does your fund management team look at diversity issues when selecting portfolio companies?
I think this is just starting. We want to be proactive and look for diversity, but we do not just want to tick the boxes. What we want is not only gender diversity, but also racial, age, socio-economic diversity. We need to encourage diversity, as diversity leads to better performance.
The result of one of our studies was that female students have the impression that the financial sector is very male dominated and is no good place for them to work in. What do you personally think: How can we make the financial sector a women-friendly environment?
Out of my own experience, there are four things that help women:
- More flexible working hours. If young women feel they are stuck in the office forever and don’t see their family any more, this doesn’t make it easy for them to join our industry.
- We need to have achievable role models, both, inside the company and outside. This shouldn’t be super women, but rather normal women that can inspire others. Such role models will reassure young women that it is possible to achieve something in the financial sector. Others have done it before, why not you? So you at Fondsfrauen have a big role to play, to show and to share these success stories of other women. In my eyes, that is very important!
- What also works for companies is to pay for coaching for their female employees, in order to have them to lean in. That goes back to the book of Sheryl Sandberg, the former COO of Facebook / Meta Platforms. I like her book a lot! She found that often women don’t have the assertiveness to ask for the next salary increase, the next promotion. When you learn to drive or to play tennis, it is clear that you have a coach. But in your job, you often don’t have a coach. I think that does not make sense! Lessons for women should include: Be more self-assertive! Lean in! Ask more for yourself!
- We should also engage with males. If you only put women in the same room, this is not diversity either.
What are you doing at Carmignac to attract young women in your workforce?
I have to say, although two thirds of our AUM are managed or co-managed by women, we did not do that on purpose. I think a big factor is that we have many successful women at Carmignac that act as role models: fund managers, Rose Ouahba, Marie-Anne Allier, Haiyan Li-Labbé and also myself.
Also, we offer a lot of coaching in our company – we always have a big bill for coachings!
Also, I created some groups, and I always ask men to participate in them as well. Our head of diversity, for example, is actually a man. I think that makes sense!
What do you at Carmignac offer in terms of maternity or paternity leave?
As we are doing business in eight different countries, we have to adapt to the respective local regulation, which can be very different.
What we aim for is empowerment and flexibility. We at Carmignac don’t want to tell our employees they must be here at this specific time of the day. We want to empower them that they feel accountable for their own results. This is about mind set and about flexibility.
Do you have children yourself?
Yes, I have four children. Twins of 9 years, one of 6 and one of 4 years. The good thing is that when you have four kids, they tend to play together and entertain themselves. I’ve been lucky in that regard.
How do you handle your four children and your job?
You know, when I was younger, I met a women who had a big job at HSBC, and she was a role model for me: She was clever, successful, good looking, very nice, and had three kids. I asked her: How do you make it? She told me: It is like you are in a cold room, and you have a blanket that is too small. You can cover one part of your body but then there is another part that is not covered and still cold. She said: “This is my life, with my kids and my job!” I loved it, because it was so honest.
If you accept it will be difficult, it will make your own life easier. Then you don’t think “ I am failing, I am not strong enough, I am not organized enough or not smart enough.” You feel that you are struggling, but actually, it is normal to struggle, this is part of our lives.
Ray Dalio, the founder of the hedge fund company Bridgewater Associates, once said: “You have to struggle well!” You have to learn that you won’t be perfect in everything. But you have to do your best!
It is good when your private life benefits from what you learn in your professional life, and when your professional life benefits from what you learn in your private life. This is what I am trying to achieve, but with realistic expectations. And I try to enjoy the struggle!
It is often said that women in France have it easier to combine work and children, because child care is much better in France than for example in Austria or Germany. Do you think that this is right?
In the end, it comes back to very basic things, like the nursery, the early years’ school system. I don’t know the German system very well, but I know the French and the UK system. In France, when your baby is two months old, they can go to the crèche . This is a very strong support for women to come back to work. And it is affordable – that is an amazing system, isn’t it?
In the UK, where I raise my children, childcare is extremely expensive, when it comes to nannies and nursery. Unless you have a very high salary as a women, financially it doesn’t make sense to come back to work, which is damageable.
From my own experience, I can tell you that the big French advantage is the very good child care!
In Germany, we have the word “Rabenmutter”, which means raven mother. A mother that leaves her child in the kindergarten and goes back to work is called that. Have you ever heard this bad connotation for working moms in another country?
I see sometimes some dispute between women that go back to work and women who don’t work. I think going back to work or not is a very personal decision, and it depends on your own interests, and your own skills. I had three maternity leaves, because I have twins. I believe my children were not particularly unhappy when I went back to work. But if you want to do that or not depends on your personality. Every woman should do what they are best at, and be where she is happiest. Some women will be great at home, some will be great at work. I try to be as non-judgemental as possible in this issue.
What are your most important recommendations for other women?
I have four recommendations for women that work:
- They all should read the book “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. It is full of smart tips and it really encourages the readers to lean in.
- I encourage every woman to look for a role model she can relate to. In moments of doubt – and these will always come – you will be able to relate to the story of your role model, which will encourage you to rebound.
- I recommend everybody to really listen to themselves, not to what other people think they should do or not do. You have to do what is in your heart! If it is not clear to you what you want to do, you should reach out for the help of a coach!
- Women must not neglect their own financial situation. Women don’t invest enough.You have to invest as young as possible, to start the ball rolling. You have to profit from the power of compounding! It’s not a matter of amount! You can start with very small amounts, but please do it, as early as possible!
Thanks you very much for this inspiring interview, Maxime!