“How the time has flown!” Since January 1st, 2013, Eric Wesse, 59, has been Chairman of the Management Board of Banque Cantonale de Genève (France). Although he has spent most of his career in various banking institutions, he has nonetheless managed, at certain times of his career, to step through the looking glass, as he has held positions in companies and in auditing and consulting firms. “I hope that this versatility has enabled me to better understand the business leaders I meet as a banker. What's more, I see myself as a small business operator, an entrepreneur”, he stresses.
Here is his interview:
Yes, indeed, as I studied a master's degree in economics at the University of Paris Assas, before getting a master's degree in financial engineering from EMLYON and a degree from the Institut Technique de Banque. After that, my career path was completely focused on this area. After working for the BNP Bank in Paris in 1977, I went to the region of Rhône-Alpes to work for Groupe des Banques Populaires as the manager of the Annecy branch (5 site offices): at the age of 28, I was one of the youngest branch managers. However, although I have been in the banking system for most of my career, I also worked in corporate financial management, at Paccard (Haute-Savoie). I wanted to experience management and the financial administration of a company. At that time, I was able to get first-hand experience in the international dimension of business through Paccard's ventures in Africa (Morocco and Gabon) and the United States.
For two years, as the Director of International Development at the Banque Populaire in Lyon. An opportunity arose with the creation of an accounting firm (In Extenso) by Deloitte et Touche. This is how I ended up in the unusual position of having experience as a bank executive, a CFO, and a consultant for negotiations between business leaders and their bankers! This made me realise that I preferred working in the banking sector.
I was contacted to create and develop the French subsidiary, in the region of Rhône-Alpes initially. In 1993, the headquarters were set up in Lyon, with a branch in Annecy. Twenty years is not very long for a bank. We now have 46 employees, have made loans totaling 700 million euros, and manage funds worth 325 million euros.
In 2010, we opened a second branch in Paris. In the coming years, depending on the situation, we will open branches in Grenoble and Dijon. We do not plan to develop retail banking - we want to remain an institution specialising in financing and private management. We have always had an investment policy that has enabled us to avoid “toxic” and speculative products. Our body of shareholders is solid, and thanks to our investment philosophy, our development has been solid as well!
I think that the important thing is to first figure out what interests you and then hold onto that principle your whole life, even if you have to make detours sometimes. I have been in banking my whole life, but I've kept an open mind about the different sectors or careers that could interest me in the economic world. However, I do believe that by focusing on one activity, you can build up experience that you can take advantage of later on in your career. I also believe - regardless of the career you have in mind - that you have to think “international, international, international”. And that's where EMLYON is a valuable asset...