“People still have a certain difficulty imagining a woman at the head of a bank” confides Ariane de Rothschild, President of the Edmond de Rothschild Group.
Ariane de Rothschild, President of the Edmond de Rothschild Group, was in Brussels to present the development projects of the Belgian branch which intends to hire 17 people and also to open an office in Ghent (read elsewhere).
It was Baron Edmond de Rothschild who created the group in 1953, before his son Benjamin took over the reins in 1997. The latter tragically died of a heart attack in January 2021, leaving his wife Ariane alone. orders from the Franco-Swiss group. Born in 1965 to a German father and a French mother, Ariane de Rothschild worked at Société Générale and AIG before joining Compagnie Financière Edmond de Rothschild in 1993. Selected pieces from a meeting with some journalists .
Has the group’s policy changed since the events of January?
Since the tragic death of Benjamin, the strategy has not changed, because it was already well in place. There was no turbulence, I had already been on the executive for a long time and present in all activities. In a family business, it is important to ensure continuity. It was a conviction shared by Benjamin. Despite my deep sadness with the passing of my husband in January, it had no impact on business.
We have today two main poles: on the one hand, the banking and financial activities and on the other of “art of living” activities (wine, gastronomy, luxury hotels, cheese dairy, farms).
From 2015, we have simplified the structures for arrive at a single bank, a unique brand and corporate culture. Edmond de Rothschild is an investment house of conviction. It is on the basis of our convictions that our clients invest.
We have also professionalized the art of living activities of my father-in-law to perpetuate them and pass them on to the new generation. We are getting bigger and bigger. Wine today represents 3.5 million bottles produced each year. In the hotel industry in Megève, we have raised a mountain hotel to the best standards of the Four Seasons. Our activities cheese factory are also evolving dramatically and are perfectly aligned with the changing tastes of consumers who value the terroirs. Our challenge today is to reimburse the farm of tomorrow.
You have chosen to no longer be listed on the stock market. Why ?
“One of the advantages of not being listed is that you no longer have quarterly pressure on the results.”
We retired the banking group in 2019. One of the advantages of not being listed is to no longer have quarterly pressure on results. Benjamin and I were convinced that it was necessary to transform and install a group in the long term.
How are the relations with the other Rothschilds, your “cousins”, who are also your competitors and who are located in the same avenue Louise here in Brussels?
A clarification on the name is expressed. It was necessary to avoid any confusion. With Rothschild & Co on one side and Edmond de Rothschild on the other, it is now clear that these are two different groups. Everyone has their own core business. Rothschild & Co is more oriented towards mergers and acquisitions. Corporate cultures are also different.
How important is Belgium for your group?
We want to develop in Belgium. There are a lot of entrepreneurial families here who are very creative.. We want to support them. For example, you have to be present when a young entrepreneur sells his business. When you talk to families of entrepreneurs, they are very sensitive to having diversified assets, particularly in real estate and real assets. In Belgium, for example, we participated in the conversion of brownfields. In partnership with Edmond de Rothschild, Ginkgo has become an investment platform for the leading sustainable urban regeneration plan in Europe. There is also a real desire from clients to do philanthropy. Here too, we can help them.
You recently told the French press that you were not a seller, but a buyer …
“When you’re in charge of a business, if you can encourage and inspire other women, you have to.”
Yes, it’s true. People still have some difficulty imagining a woman at the head of a bank who shows real ambition. There are still few women in the world of finance. When you’re in charge of a business, if you can encourage and inspire other women, you have to.
Indeed, we have no intention of selling. We talked about organic development, it’s our natural DNA. And it’s a real job to attract and integrate talent. But we are also attentive to opportunities that can appear on the market, either to accelerate the development in some countries, or to afford additional expertise such as in private equity.
What is the value of your brand, your name?
I am telling you what Benjamin always told me when we talked about works of art: “As long as an object is not sold, it is worth zero”. These are very wise words. We spent a lot of time recently working on the corporate culture. I think there was a gap between the perception of the name and the exercise of the name. In one of my first speeches, I said that this brand was always prestigious, but that if individually and collectively, we did not contribute to this brand, it risked dying like other prestigious brands before it. Prestigious brands and names only survive if they are constantly powered and do not remain static.
What do you say to those who say that Edmond de Rothschild is elitist?
This seems to me to be a poor understanding of the brand.
“It is important to show that wealthy families are not just wealthy. They are also active, dynamic families who take risks.”
The family has very humble origins in the Jewish ghetto in Frankfurt. It took a lot of energy and vision to become a family of entrepreneurs who also have very strong social commitments. It is important to show that wealthy families are not just wealthy. They are also active, dynamic families who take risks. This is what we do.
Is the next generation already involved in the business?
Since they were born, my four daughters have heard about business. They are rocked to the sound of business. They are between 19 and 25 years old. But to drop a 25-year-old into the company would be presumptuous. What is important is that they study properly and that they have space to build themselves. This does not mean that they are not involved today in different themes, such as wine projects or the Caron perfume house that I bought. But forcing a path for your children is a bad idea. It’s my mom opinion.
What do you know about Belgium? What do you like about us?
From the age of 9 to 18, I grew up in the DRC (his father worked for a pharmaceutical company, Editor’s note).
“The Belgians are extremely warm people and have a good life.”
When I returned at 18 to come and study in Europe, I was living in Paris, but I came to Brussels every weekend, because my friends were Belgian and Congolese. I know the Matonge neighborhood well (laughs).
Brussels is a city that I really appreciate. Belgians are extremely warm people and have a good life. It is not limited to eating and drinking well, the Belgians are also great esthetes, it is said too infrequently. In Belgium, there are extraordinary collections, very discreet and secret collections with a real culture of art.
- Benjamin Rothschild died of a heart attack in January 2021, leaving his wife Ariane alone at the helm of the Franco-Swiss group.
- According to her, the strategy did not change because it was already well in place. This with two main poles: on the one hand banking activities and on the other “art of living” activities (wine, gastronomy, luxury hotels, etc.)
- “There are a lot of entrepreneurial families in Belgium who are very creative. We want to support them“says Ariane de Rothschild who knows our country well, Brussels in particular.