You don’t need a perfect CV to make it to the top. Case in point is Adeline de Metz, UniCredit’s global co-head of trade finance and working capital solutions, who for many years prioritised husband and kids over career. She tells Sanne Wass the story of how she broke the mould.
Had you asked Adeline de Metz 20 years ago if she could imagine she would one day lead the trade business of one of Italy’s largest banks, the answer would have been no.
In fact, for the large portion of her early working life, a high-flying career was simply not on the cards. Little did she know then that, at the age of 54, she would be heading up a department of 300 bankers across Europe and spending most of her week on the go, whether in the office in Milan, on regular business trips to the likes of London or Berlin, or back home with her family in Paris.
“To be honest, I come from a family where my mother and grandmother, even women in my generation, never worked. I’m the first one in the family who studied and worked. So I was not really in line for a career. I married early, I had four children and for many years my main goal was to try to make things work at home. My husband was the breadwinner,” de Metz says, adding that for many years she followed him and where his career took them.
As a result, she has moved quite a bit over the years. She graduated with a degree in engineering in Paris, where she also got her first job at Banque Française du Commerce Extérieur in 1987. She says she chose to study engineering because she was good at maths at school, and, with this being a well-regarded subject in France, “it seemed a natural progression”. But, she adds: “What I really wanted was to gain an understanding of the economy, learn how the world works and have something to talk about at dinner parties! That’s what banking offered me then.”
In 1990, de Metz and her husband moved to Lyon for seven years, and then to Detroit in the US. The moves saw her hold a variety of different banking roles and resulted in a career path that is, in her own words, “not particularly linear at all”. Today, her CV includes experience in everything from management consulting to small-business lending and corporate and investment banking.
She explains that it was only when she arrived back in Paris in the early 2000s that she started to understand that she was skilled enough to build her own career path. “I realised this is my chance: now it’s my time,” she says. “Every job I had, I was promoted internally, and I started to realise, maybe I did something right, maybe I could have a career of my own. I started building trust in myself, and in the end I took my destiny into my own hands.”
The big move
In 2006, de Metz took up a senior role at Natixis, where she stayed for almost six years before joining UniCredit in 2012 as a senior banker. The pursuit of a career eventually led her to Milan in 2016, when she was offered a role as the bank’s head of supply chain finance solutions. Accepting a position 850km from her family in Paris, it was a momentous career decision.
“That was the big move for me, moving from coverage to global transaction banking, from Paris to Milan, taking a managerial role with teams in several countries,” she says. One year later, she was promoted once again, this time to co-head of trade finance and working capital solutions. Sharing the role with Raphael Barisaac, she says the model works well given how complementary they are.
“We’re a good match. We’re man and woman, he’s Israeli and I’m French, he comes from a software company and I am a banker. Our complementary skills mean we work well together and can challenge and refine one another’s ideas,” she says. If there is one important takeaway from de Metz’s story, it is probably that a career path doesn’t have to be “perfect”. Her advice to other women in the industry is to never say yes to a job or stay in one purely because “it looks nice on the business card”.
She is certain that her varied experience and personality is what got her hired in the role she has today. “Even though I did it a little late: I figured out what I was good at, what I liked,” she says. “In the end, I think it helped me stay mobile, flexible, adaptable in terms of mindset. It also helped me understand better what I liked and what I didn’t like in terms of job profiles and working environment. Compared with someone who has spent 30 years at the same company, for example, I think these many moves have given me a much better frame of reference to recognise and value certain companies over others.”
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