1. About yourself
Current Roles: Associate Partner within EY Luxembourg Private Equity Practice
Hails from: French with Ivorian descent
Education: Master in audit - IAE Toulouse, Master in Business – Kogod School of Business Washington DC
First Job: Auditor
Work Attire: Business
Hobbies: Travelling, Trekking, Training, Reading, Cooking with husband and kids
Most admired woman entrepreneur or investor, and why: My Mom, as an amazing civil engineer who started, after a fruitful civil servant career, a successful company while aged over 60. She demonstrates that the start-up mentality is not bound by age.
2. About woman entrepreneur We met each other during the LPEA 10th anniversary, and we exchange about the mission and role of EY in the start-ups, innovation and private equity in Luxembourg and globally.
2.1. Can you tell us more about your role in PE?
I am an Associate Partner within EY’s 300 professional strong Private Equity (PE) practice for audit, advisory, valuation, transaction and tax services in Luxembourg. I have executive’s responsibilities on the audit of Luxembourg-based PE/VC structures (SICARs, SIFs, SOPARFIs, SCSp, RAIF) whose general partners or investment managers are mainly located in Europe and/or the United States. I am also involved in the audit of Impact Investing funds reporting under IFRS, and Luxembourg GAAP using both SIF and SICAR legal framework. Finally, I am leading within our PE practice an African PE / VC initiative aimed at contributing to the development of Africa PE / VC ecosystem across the continent.
You also mention you work closely with the Team of EYnovation. 2.2. Regarding the footprint of EY, how the funding ecosystem fit to the need of local start-ups? -How can we do better?
One of the crucial requirements for an environment in which start-ups can flourish is a financial system that supports entrepreneurs by expanding both traditional and innovative forms of lending. Through EYnovation, we help start-ups and scaleups with solving strategic, legal and financial issues – this can be at the very beginning (seed phase), when they start selling to their first customers (early growth phase) or when they are scaling up internationally (expansion phase). I observe that the funding pillar in Luxembourg start-up ecosystem still has room to strengthen itself. Although credit is generally cheap with existing public funding opportunities, the rate of penetration of venture capital and business angels is still low given levels of supply and demand. To further strengthen this funding pillar, Luxembourg could develop incentives to channel the country abundant savings towards the financing of promising entrepreneurs through business angels. Partnership with government and corporate funding through hybrid funds or co-investment funds which combine public and private investments is also a response to the need to reduce the risk for financial investors investing in entrepreneurial ventures.
A Bloomberg analysis (Oct 2019) found that women fill only 8% of senior investment roles globally at the ten largest firms that use debt to buy companies. Only one or two women are present in top positions on the buyout investment teams of most firms, which are generally made up of dozens of executives. These figures are quite the same in Business Angels investing with 3 in 10 women BA in Central & Eastern Europe.
2.3. How can we attract more women?
Women’s wealth and income are growing faster than ever across the planet. Powerful demographic, economic and technological changes are increasing women’s financial strength and independence. From my perspective, this power represents a huge opportunity for BA investing which unfortunately still looks like a boy’s club. Beating the BA diversity problem particularly from a gender perspective, means not only working on women’s self-confidence but also increasing through dedicated campaigns the awareness around opportunities offered by angel investing. Women need ultimately as their male counterparts, to be presented with good opportunities and deals, on top of mastering the process of investing. Having more roles models and robust networks to be part of, could also certainly help in attracting more women into the BA investing space.
2.4. As a woman, do you have a different approach to evaluate the project?
As a professional with a different background and experience I am indeed bringing a perspective that may be different from my peers being males or females. Although, when looking at a start-up I am able to go beyond pattern that match what I am comfortable with, I believe that to capture the full potential of a project it is important to be able to sail far from safe harbours. I also like focusing on how realistic a game plan is to reach success rather than expecting and looking at a “wow effect” or at the size of a project when looking at a start-up.
2.5. What are the specific woman concerns and barriers to women entrepreneurs?
Although we are witnessing a significant shift in terms of female entrepreneurship, there is still a very long way to go when it comes to granting females entrepreneur with equal access to education and finance. Finance is the lifeblood of business. Through our EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ program we are targeting the “missing middle” consisting of those savvy women founders who have built profitable small companies but have not yet found the essential tools needed to scale sustainably. We provide participants to this program with rich networks and know how in the aim of helping them strengthen their abilities to become market leaders. the program creates a vibrant global community of successful women entrepreneurs and inspiring peer role models who, in 2020, numbered more than 750 across 48 countries, thus reducing the barriers to women entrepreneurs.
2.6. Would you agree with the statement: the more woman business angels there is, the more women entrepreneurs there will be?
There are indeed several initiatives aimed at creating networks designed to connect and empower female’s entrepreneur to women angel investors as a response to the gender investment gap. Although gender diversity among decision-makers improves the chances that women entrepreneurs will be funded, such initiative should be coupled with mentorship and training opportunities in various spaces including angel investing, venture capital and private equity to develop a female talent pipeline that will transition into position of leadership on the investors side. This will not happen without the support and commitment of males since there is currently not enough women in these fields to develop large scale apprenticeship for females.
2.7 Do you have any pieces of advice or information to share?
Diversity is crucial to success in the global economy. Limiting diversity means limiting the innovation and insight it inspires. At EY We are committed to creating an environment where everyone feels valued. We are strongly committed to equal opportunity and are embedding diversity and inclusiveness in all our internal processes, from recruitment to assignments, from career management to recognition. We also contribute to our communities though our global platform “Women.Fast forward” and programs such as the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ which identifies ambitious women entrepreneurs and provides them with the advice, resources and access they need to unlock their full potential. In today’s fast-changing environment, I truly believe that gender equality and diversity at a large are one of the secrets to success in our transformative age.
Thank you very much for such insights! It was a pleasure speaking with you. I hope our members will also enjoy this interview. Sonia Franck