Hello From... Paris
Olivier Belaich, head of Equities Distribution for France, Belgium and Luxembourg discusses his career journey at the firm, relocating from London to Paris, and the future of our franchise in France.
Olivier, you joined the firm in London back in 2007. Can you tell us a bit about your career at Goldman Sachs?
My whole career has been with the firm. I started out as an intern, joined our hedge fund coverage team in London in 2007, and relocated to Paris in 2018 to lead FraBeLux Equities Distribution. Listening and learning, from my colleagues and clients, has been a defining feature of my progression. I first focused on developing macro and derivatives skills, to service our hedge fund clients. Later on, I aimed to identify scalable opportunities that could deliver impact for our franchise, and leveraged our firm’s appetite for entrepreneurship and collaboration. I was promoted to managing director in 2015 and ran our Equity Derivatives Hedge Fund business for three years, before transitioning to my current role in Paris.
I have been fortunate to see the firm operate and adapt through epochal shifts. I’ll always remember this day of October 2008, when Pablo Salame (who subsequently co-headed our Global Markets division) told me ; ‘In the next few months, you will learn more about financial markets than you would have in the past ten years’. It has been fascinating ever since, and the past year was no exception! Our core principles helped us stay close to our clients and communities throughout this journey.
Tell us about your transition to Paris - what was that like?
I had spent my whole career in London, I enjoyed my job and was surrounded by a fantastic team. My wife and I had grown our family there, we embraced the culture and treasures of this wonderful city.
I didn’t expect the opportunity offered to me in Paris. While a promotion and vote of confidence, I initially felt overwhelmed. But stepping out of my comfort zone was the right move, so I took the job and never looked back. I found an amazing group of people in our Paris office, and discovered new clients and businesses. I quickly realised there was substantial upside for our Equities franchise in the region, and established a vision and a plan to go after it.
On a personal level, it was great to get closer to our family and old friends, and rediscover the magic of Paris.
Do you have any advice for someone considering moving to a different office or region?
If someone gets offered such an opportunity, my first advice would be to trust the firm. Goldman Sachs has an outstanding track record in finding the right seat for its talent. Change brings opportunities, and what makes you uncomfortable is your chance to grow.
Once you are on the ground, I think it’s about finding the right balance between adapting to your new environment and making an impact. You need to watch and listen, get to know your colleagues, and understand the local business culture. In parallel, look for ways to add value and show what makes you special - early wins make a big difference.
What are the forward looking priorities for our franchise in France?
When I moved to Paris, our goal was to assert Goldman Sachs as the top non-local Equities house in the region. We are there now, thanks to a deliberate investment from the firm and the collective effort of our team. Our momentum and the competitive landscape fill me with optimism, there is so much more to achieve in the years ahead.
As a firm, our ability to deliver for clients in unprecedented conditions earned us wallet share and goodwill. The deployment of our ‘One GS’ programme helps us identify client needs, and translate goodwill into actionable opportunities across divisions. Our thought leadership in sustainable finance has been another key differentiator; our clients need our expertise and solutions to reach their goals, opportunities will keep emerging in that space. Also, low interest rates and margin compression is forcing our industry to innovate, we want to help clients develop income-generating solutions and manage their cost structure.
Our focus on local communities has also never been greater. We provided support to Paris hospitals throughout the pandemic, and participated in a number of initiatives targeted at promoting diversity and inclusion. The launch of our 10,000 Small Businesses programme in France is a major milestone as well, which couldn’t have been more timely.
What about the city itself, do you have any advice for visitors when the time comes?
Paris is beautiful in so many ways. Simply wandering the streets is entertaining. Food is excellent, from the local ‘boulangerie’ to the most fancy restaurants. Nightlife is fun (when the city is open!). I find spring a particularly good period to visit Paris.