with Baroness Benjamin de Rothschild in Corriere della Sera
MILAN - Ariane
de Rothschild and her daughters: "We will change high finance". She
sits on all boards of directors of the Edmond de Rothschild Group. Her face
(with no apparent trace of make-up) and her self-styled hairdo held in place
by a clip, are characteristic of this pleasant
44-year old lady free from the stress of trying to look 10 years younger.
Ariane de Rothschild is progressing her personal
revolution, which consists of modernising the male
chauvinist - not to say misogynous - environment of high finance. "Equal
opportunities" are her key words. "They'll have to get used to Ariane, because it will be one of our daughters, one day,
who will take the reins of the group", stated Benjamin de Rothschild,
her husband in an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, explaining how not everyone had looked favourably on the female intrusion into the places that
Four daughters, between 8 and 15 years of age, all-female offspring. Ariane has opened the doors, but the best is yet to come.
It is therefore no exaggeration to say that the new face of the Rothschild
dynasty and bank is, and will become even more so, female. "When I talk
like this, our partners laugh, they don't believe me", said the
Baroness, in Milan to present the prize for young artists named after her.
"But in any case I am there, on the board, I discuss, I take decisions.
But it's not a debate on gender, but rather one on competencies. As far as my
daughters are concerned, they will be the ones who choose what they want to
do in life. Following in the footsteps of my father, I had a natural interest
in business. My brother however is an agronomist; he would have been
disastrous as a financier. This means that the difficulties of succession are
the same, be the descendents male or female". Born in San Salvador, she
studied economics, then in 1993 she met Benjamin de
Rothschild and in November 2009 became vice president of the holding company.
In 1997, Benjamin, 47 years old, the fourth generation of James de Rothschild,
founder of the Parisian branch of the empire, inherited from his father
Edmond a financial group with 600 employees. Today it employs 2,700 people
and manages EUR 130 billion.
Women in the economy: what has happened to
female competencies in the crisis?
"I think that women are effectively the most heavily penalised", the Baroness replied, "but I also
have another, deeper conviction. I take this crisis as an opportunity, because
it has caused the natural feminine values to rise higher in the order of
Let's look around us: women manage their husbands, children, homes and
jobs. "I started my morning, at 7.30, talking to my youngest daughter on
the telephone", she said. "I then presented the prize for young
artists, which this year took place for the first time in Italy and
afterwards I took care of various business commitments. My life is a constant
balancing act, which is true for many women - and it is exactly this that,
today, companies need. When a woman makes a decision, she takes many factors
into account, she has a global vision. Many women are coming to the forefront
in France, Spain and Italy. Veronique Morali is the
first Frenchwoman to sit on a US board of directors. Emma Marcegaglia
Now for pink quotas: are they needed?
"I believe so, even though I am aware that there's a price to
pay, because certain people will claim that a woman has only made it onto a
board of directors because of the quotas in place, rather than on merit. I
hope that in 10 years time no one will talk about the pink quotas anymore,
because they will no longer be needed".
Art is not a pastime for us. "On the one hand we collect art; on
the other we support artists. Not forgetting artisans: in Italy there are
still so many extraordinary crafts". Her passion for avant-garde art has
honed her flair and sense of risk - the same skills that she uses to manage,
in what she describes as an "innovative" way, the Rothschild
Foundation, of which she is president. "I want to break with the past.
It's interesting for people under the name of Rothschild, who are considered
to be classical, traditional collectors, to try out new ways, to discover
unknown artists. It's important for me to give young people the chance to
succeed, artists who would otherwise really struggle to do so. The Foundation
dares to test new models, be they economic or operational. I draw many
parallels between the business and art worlds: what works in one context, may
turn out to be effective in the other too. Let's take the agreement made in
Italy to restore the Colosseum: I don't see why we
can't emulate this public-private partnership in philanthropy too".
Since last November, the Rothschild private bank has achieved
full-scale banking status in Italy. The Italian market is fertile; the
arrival of the art prize in Milan is not a coincidence, but another result of
the pragmatism of the Baroness, who talks of the need for a "new
capitalism", a "family capitalism". "My profound belief
is that this crisis is structural. Family companies have reacted better
because they're naturally inclined to have a long-term vision, the
forward-looking perspective that motivates those who do things for their
children. They are therefore companies that are more stable, more
responsible. It is also a question of moral heritage.The
heritage of the Rothschilds is complex. We're a
large group with an enormous variety of activities, ranging from wine to
banking and the essential ingredient in all of this is the family. It's our
characteristic, our strength. One of the difficulties of the major
international groups listed on the stock market, notwithstanding their
advantages is knowing to whom they belong, who they
are". More soul is needed in finance, she stated and "the family is
key for changing things. Money isn't everything. When bankers come to me sure
of their own importance, I always remind them that in the group there are
also activities that give zero in terms of profit, but that are no less
important, because they help us to keep a strong link with reality. I think
that at the origin of the crisis of the international financial system there
was indeed the distance between finance and the real economy".
What about employee profit-sharing?
"It was one of the first measures applied by my husband:
distribution of part of capital to all employees, from the secretary to the
boss, everyone. The idea is to give people a sense of belonging and
responsibility". When she was a little girl she lived in poor countries
like the Congo and Bangladesh. "When you grow up in certain realities -
albeit in a situation different to that of most of the population - you
become more sensitive to certain things, to the value of money and to
everything that exists besides money". Her daughters, however, have a
different experience. "Certainly, but every year I take them to Africa;
they see; they listen. They are
"It's not a debate on gender but rather one on competencies. This
crisis is an opportunity"
"My life is a constant balancing act, which is true for many
women - and it is this that companies need"
"More soul is needed in finance; the family is key for changing
The vice president: "I tell managers that money isn't
© ALL REPRODUCTION RIGHTS RESERVED
of the article published in the leading Italian daily newspaper "Corriere della Sera" on 27