100th Most Powerful Woman – Dominique Senequier


According to the 2010 Forbes List of 100 most powerful women, Dominique Senequier is the 100th most powerful woman.  Last on the list but definitely not the least, she has featured in each of the three FN 100 Women in Finance, and also on the 25 most powerful women in finance lists.

According to Dalia Fahmy’s piece in America banker “Senequier founded AXA Private Equity, a subsidiary of France’s largest insurer, 14 years ago after spending almost a decade running a private-equity firm for another French insurer. Senequier has grown the business almost entirely organically-it now has more than $25 billion under management-attracting institutional and private investors worldwide. Its funds have posted an average annualized return of more than 20 percent since inception, putting it in the top quartile of European competitors”.

She is also celebrated for being one of the first seven women to graduate from the École Polytechnique, France’s foremost engineering higher education establishment.

Here are some of her answers to questions asked by Emma Jones (Financial Times) and Paul Hodkinson (Financial News)

Are women-only quotas a good thing?

I can see, in some situations, they might be a necessary evil.

Did you ever think you’d end up where you are?

I first thought I would be a maths teacher – like my grandmother who taught me maths. But now I enjoy my job so much that I can’t imagine having done anything else.

Has your job made your personal life suffer?

No. The trick is to be committed in all aspects of your life.

Secret to  success

Hard work and an ability to focus on the task at hand. You have to like human nature and accept people for who they are,” she says. “I know that people have weaknesses, but I try to focus on their strengths.

How do you want to be remembered?

A woman of laughter, spirit and heart.

How important is money?

It’s what you do with it that counts.

Is being French a handicap in the private equity sector?

Non, pas du tout. In any case we are a fully international firm. It just so happens the head office is  in Paris.

Is it difficult working in a male-dominated sector?

Certainly, but it is a challenge worth taking, especially if you are competitive like me.

What are you reading?

L’Evangéliste by Alphonse Daudet.

What are your three best features?

A long-term perspective; swift to act; ability to laugh.

And your three worst?

That’s for my family to judge, though some might say I’m not a sufferer of fools.

What book are you reading right now?

Dits et Ecrits 1 (1954-1975) by Michel Foucault

What do you like most about your job?

It is challenging, inspiring and changing. You never stop learning from the people you meet.

What is the smartest business idea you have ever had?

To share with employees the value created through LBOs [leveraged buy-outs].

What is your greatest achievement of your career?

To help build a fully international and successful private equity firm out of a country with no significant pension funds and little private equity tradition.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Bordeaux wines.

What keeps you up at night?

Thinking about new opportunities, and about how we can continue to provide high returns to our investors.

What time do you start and finish work?

Either side of my August vacation which I spend in my house in Vaucluse in the south of France.

What will you do once you retire?

I don’t know – it’s hard to imagine right now. I hope I will have more time to spend on my other interests such as opera and theatre. But, even in France we are extending our due date for retirement!

What’s on your iPod?

I prefer going to the opera house to listen to the real thing.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

Claude Bébéar, founder and former chief executive of AXA, told me early in my career to find the best in people by always paying attention to them.

When was the last time you lost your temper at work?

With myself, last month. It was over a missed opportunity. I very rarely lose my temper with other people. I think the ability to control one’s temper is a sign of maturity.

Where do you buy your work clothes?

I have to confess I cherish French couturiers.

Would you have liked to be a professional pianist?

No, it is too difficult a job, I prefer to be sitting and listening.

What do you like most about your job?

It is challenging, inspiring and changing. You never stop learning from the people you meet.

And least?

Jealousy, envy. I have found that being a woman in this job has attracted a great deal of jealousy from men. Women tend to be pleased that another woman has been successful. I think that the French are the worst nation in the world for being jealous of success. It’s a great problem. In other countries they admire success.

Sources – Financial Times, Financial News, Forbes

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