With more than 15 years of experience at Lombard Odier, a bank founded in 1796 for private and institutional clients seeking a sustainable and personalised approach to wealth and asset management, Susana Montaner is responsible for conveying the firm’s principles in Spain.
Relationships based on trust
AYou currently work as managing director and CEO at Lombard Odier Gestión. What are your responsibilities as head of the firm?
I represent an organisation that was founded in Geneva in 1796 and has been exclusively dedicated to private banking ever since. Its values, its discretion, its way of understanding banking and its relationship with its clients are unique. As head of the asset management division in Spain, I have to transmit these principles. My responsibilities include cultivating the group’s inter-European relationships, dealing with Spanish regulators on behalf of the group and, of course, helping our clients with the management of their assets.
To achieve excellence, one of the things I consider most important in my day-to-day work is to ensure that all members of my team give their best as professionals and as people. In addition to technical skills, the new position requires a global vision, a willingness to take responsibility, the ability to manage expectations and the capacity for team management. A good workplace climate makes it easier to achieve our objectives despite the pressure of the financial markets, which is part of our job. We are a team, and a big part of my job is to make sure that we achieve our goals with as much enthusiasm as possible.
After more than 18 years of experience in the financial industry and in private banking, what qualities do you think are necessary in order to succeed in private banking?
Private banking is based on the relationship of trust between client and banker/manager, in addition to personalised wealth management. In addition to technical training, it is important to develop commercial skills and the ability to adapt quickly to change, since the financial industry is very dynamic. We are constantly evolving. Innovation is fundamental to meet our clients’ needs.
There are few women at the helm of financial institutions of this type. Why do you think that is? How would you define your leadership style?
Historically, the financial industry was characterised by a greater male presence. Like other sectors, it has evolved. Now there are many more women leading institutions linked to the financial industry.
Leadership styles vary depending on the context and what the team is working on. I am in favour of sharing information and objectives to align people’s expectations with the culture of the company I work for. I have a team of exceptional professionals. We try to create a positive environment so that we can enjoy the work and cope with the pressure and difficulties as they arise.
How would you like to evolve as a professional?
I would love to continue growing as a professional, taking on responsibilities and contributing as much as I can to the projects I collaborate on. I have always found challenges to be motivational and a great source of learning and development.
Helping to improve the world
You have volunteered for several different organisations. Without a doubt, your most remarkable volunteering experience has been coordinating Pro Bono Consultants for more than 10 years. Tell us about your experience as a team and project coordinator.
Collaborating with Pro Bono Consultants has been a very enriching experience for me. Esade Alumni has allowed me to get to know the third sector from the inside by contributing my work and my project-management knowledge to many different third-sector organisations. It is an experience where you receive and learn much more than you give. It is also proof of Esade’s willingness to help to improve the world.
I started out as a consultant and worked my way up to coordinating the projects carried out by teams of pro bono consultants in Madrid. It is a real privilege to meet great professionals who voluntarily dedicate their work and their scarce free time to collaborating with organisations that help to create a fairer society, as well as to building bridges between the business world and the third sector, which sometimes seem further apart than they really are.
What have you learned as a pro bono consultant?
I have learned many things: how to coordinate great professionals with very different functions and experiences based on their availability in order to find the best approach for each project, how to meet expectations, and how to obtain realistic and applicable results in organisations.
I have been very impressed by the motivation of the consultants to collaborate and do voluntary management work, which is very different from welfare work, but the result likewise helps to improve the organisations and solve the problems of the people served by third-sector organisations.
It is an experience where the positive energy of volunteering is contagious and very rewarding. The experience brought me many positive things. I would definitely recommend it.
What has it brought to your personal and professional life?
In my personal life, the experience has helped me understand the size of the third sector and its orientation towards people. The project allows you to meet other Esade alumni and get to know the organisations with which you share hours of work and good times.
In my professional experience, coordinating teams of pro bono consultants has helped me improve my team management skills and learn to value different approaches to projects. Over the years, you incorporate flexibility into your decisions on an ongoing basis and you learn to adapt to changes at all times without becoming discouraged.
Beyond volunteering, how can we have a positive impact on society?
The pandemic has transformed the world and the way we relate to it. We are more aware that through our actions we can have a positive impact on society, both personally and collectively. There have been many changes, with results that have contributed to sustainable changes for society.
As the head of Lombard Odier in Spain, I have to convey the organisation’s ESG policies. Organisations are looking for hybrid and social-economy organisational formulas to develop the concept of social innovation. It is important to empathise emotionally when making any proposal, both with the investor who provides the capital – so that they can appreciate that the results are more than just material and economic – and also with the emotional satisfaction of the people targeted by the project.
Philanthropy has to be a basic pillar of organisations. We must maintain and implement this philosophy in order to have an impact on society and on new generations, evolving with them.