Global Head of Sales & Relationship Management • Societe Generale Securities Services
With the past sluggish performance of the global economies and the recent sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone, one would have expected a French banker to have a cautious outlook on the future. Not so with Mathieu Maurier, a near 20-year veteran at Societe Generale Securities Services (SGSS), who is currently head of its global sales and relationship management. He was, in fact, remarkably positive. “I’m optimistic…as optimistic as when I started almost two decades ago, even more optimistic now,” he says.
Still optimistic today, this stems from his faith in the securities services business as an important backbone of banking. “We are a business that provides recurrent revenues to Societe Generale group,” he says, “a business which is building relationships with a variety of clients, that is, financial institutions—so asset management firms, insurance companies, broker-dealers—and we are building genuine client-provider relationships, so we are securing relationships with the securities services we are delivering.”
Maurier observes that SGSS is also a business which does not use a lot of capital, which is a scarce resource today and provides liquidity to Societe Generale at a time when there is a need for it.
“Since banks began deleveraging globally, [they] have discovered the beauty of the back-to-basics type of business of securities services…it’s like a toolbox, I would say,” Maurier says. “It’s a toolbox connecting the dots within the entire organization, and it has genuine value. Like having a toolbox, when you have the correct tool, you can do a lot of things, but the value of the tool itself is a relative value. The know-how and the experience of securities servicing businesses, therefore, become key to reducing costs for other businesses such as asset managers who are not necessarily equipped to deal with challenges. And because of the “tsunami of regulation,” the entry barriers of the business are becoming much higher, presenting great opportunities to established securities servicing firms such as SGSS, both internally and to clients.
But Maurier’s confidence in securities services also comes from a nearly two-decade-long, global career of assisting new business initiatives at Societe Generale. His first opportunity was in 1994, right after college. He had just graduated from Université de Nantes—in his native city Nantes—with a master’s degree in banking and corporate finance, when a professor gave him an offer. The professor, who was a senior executive at SGSS, offered him a trainee placement at the firm’s location in Nantes to validate his degree. It was an operational role, but after his training finished, he was offered a full-time account manager position in SGSS’s brand new French sub-custody division in Paris.
In that role, he was responsible for the accounts of banks, broker-dealers and international central securities depositories, including managing the transition of Intersettle and Euroclear as clients of SGSS in 1995. He was doing settlement operations, but as it was a small startup team, he also ended up helping the sales team reply to requests for proposals, handle service-level agreements and meet clients almost on a daily basis. This gave him a taste of a different role. “Operations is important because you get to know how it works, but then you want to do something else, so I really was only in operations for two years, which was a good learning curve,” he says.
So in 1996, Maurier was promoted to a product specialist and relationship management position. He developed new services for international clients and worked on implementing Relit Grande Vitesse, the French delivery-versus-payment settlement system and the French RTGS system. This was also around the time the euro was introduced, and he worked with custody clients on the implementation and conversion of legacy currency.
After three years in that position, he moved on to sales. “Going into sales has been a very natural move: I had the know-how, I had the background, and I’ve always been keen to interact and to bring my expertise to the benefit of the client. It’s been a natural move—not so much a revolution as an evolution,” he says. Ever since his first job, even though it was in operations, Maurier had dealt with international clients such as Euroclear and other international financial institutions, and one of his first tasks in sales was to handle customers from the Middle East. Later on, his geographical responsibility increased, and after becoming senior sales manager he handled customers from Japan, Luxembourg and the Nordics in addition to the Middle East. While still based in Paris, he made extensive trips abroad as part of his position, further globalizing his career.
But by 2005, he started to question whether this was what he wanted to do. “After six years of sales, I was questioning myself: ‘What’s next after sales?’” Maurier says. In that year, however, he was picked by the management to become the managing director of Societe Generale Johannesburg, a full branch of the bank that is managed by SGSS. “I was lucky enough to have a management at that time that recognized, maybe before me, my capacity to do more managerial functions and being able to evolve and being able to manage an international team at 10,000 km [from Paris],” he says.
And that was when his career took off. In Johannesburg, Maurier oversaw a team of around 50 people speaking seven to eight languages between them, dealing with the challenges of operating in an emerging market. He says it was “a challenging time, but a really exciting time…moving out from a securities services background to a genuine banking experience. I was running the bank, I was 32 years old at that time, and I was responsible for really managing the bank from A to Z.” As the bank provided securities services, there was still a link to his career, but Maurier’s duties were similar to other bankers’. He worked on implementing Basel II and dealt with the treasury desk. During his time, the bank significantly increased profitability in the face of local currency depreciation and tough competition.
But Maurier does not solely take credit for this—rather, he lauds his team. It was an “amazing three years,” he says. “We’ve got a brilliant team over there and I really was privileged to manage the team I had at that time.” They developed the business together, and while it was a small team, it was very agile and highly committed. When one day a fire broke out in the building late on a Friday, he says, “despite the fact that they knew there was something wrong, they really stuck to their seats,” and he had to convince them to leave the premises. While their floor was only damaged by water from the firefighters, they had to leave the building for three weeks, and the team successfully completed their emergency recovery plan. The episode showed Maurier just how dedicated his team was.
After three successful years in South Africa, Maurier was appointed to a new position—head of business development for Russia. He left Johannesburg with his family in November, which meant it was summer there, and flew straight to wintry Moscow—“quite a shock,” he says. At the time, SG had just completed its acquisition of Rosbank, its largest acquisition ever, absorbing around 30,000 employees and 700 branches. Maurier was sent as SG’s first French expatriate to develop SG’s Russian securities services. “I was like an ambassador, I would say, one of the first ambassadors within the bank going into something new for SG, something very important for SG and also something very important for SGSS,” he says.
There, he worked on developing SGSS Russia’s name in the industry, when the division was just getting off the ground. He worked with Mikhail Bratanov, the head of SGSS Russia, and oversaw a team of around 70 securities services employees under the reporting of fellow GC legend Ramy Bourgi (who passed away in 2011). The effort was a joint venture between SG’s retail network, SGSS, and Rosbank’s own locally developed business, and Maurier says he is proud of the work the team accomplished there. He says he found the new environment very easy to acclimate to, as long as you didn’t take an overbearing management position and adapted yourself to your surroundings—instead of vice versa. “You learn a lot of things in being sent to such an organization, and I think I’ve got genuine friends over there,” he says.
On returning to Moscow on a red-eye flight from Heathrow once, Maurier says, a Russian colleague asked him if he felt like he was flying back home. He replied, “for sure,” since he was pleased to be back in Moscow because that was where he and his family were at home. His son was born there during the dramatic heat wave of summer 2010. Although Maurier does not speak Russian fluently, he can read and write Cyrillic and understand quite a bit.
So when he returned to Paris in 2011 to take the position of global head of sales, going full circle since his first post-college job, he felt almost like an expatriate in his own country. “I’m back in Paris, the same way I was in Johannesburg and in Moscow,” he says. Now, he is responsible for sales and relationship management across SGSS’ product line globally. It’s been a very exciting time, he says, as SGSS has taken steps to transform its business. “The changes we’ve been putting in place have really been to design a new organization, tailoring it based on different client needs as opposed to having an amalgamation of various business lines. We have separated distribution from production, placed the client at the heart of our structure, harmonized the levels of services offered and thus maximized quality and client satisfaction,” he says.
And that is especially exciting for someone who has made a career out of transforming businesses. In his career, Maurier has “[transformed] things, not by cutting everywhere, shutting down and rebuilding, which is what an organization could have done, but by transforming something with more or less the same ingredient…as an insider in something different, being able to transform something from the inside, that’s my proudest experience within the bank.” Of SGSS as an organization, he says with a laugh, “We are a very agile organization. We are lean and agile, and it’s because we’re lean that we’re agile. But no, being lean and agile is helping you also to try to assess how to transform opportunities into successes.”
For Maurier, being back in Paris after six years was almost like being new in an organization he’s known inside out, and it’s giving him a fresh perspective. “We’ve never been in such good shape with such a willingness to go ahead. We’ve closed the first chapter and are getting well into the new one, which is going to be as exciting as the one we closed,” he says. The same applies to Maurier’s career. “You can do really so many different things in such a wide business as securities services that in fact I had several lives with SG and SGSS; in fact, time flew like an arrow,” he says. “Looking back to those first years, it’s been an amazing journey, and I look forward to the next one.”