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Fanny, Chief Growth Officer for L’olivier in Paris, tells us about her Admiral journey

Fanny joined the Admiral Group in 2010 to help set-up our French subsidiary L’olivier after completing her master’s degree in international business at HEC Paris’ Grand Ecole. She held various high-profile marketing & Product roles in both France and the UK before transitioning onto the Future Leaders Program in 2018. She now works as Chief Growth Officer for L’olivier in Paris. 

How did you come to join Admiral?
After completing my master’s at HEC Paris, I was looking for my first job. I loved the idea of creating my own business, but it wasn’t the right time for me. When I saw the advert looking for someone to come and help set up a French subsidiary of a Welsh insurance company, I thought it could be interesting. It was basically entrepreneurship with a pay-check.

I sent my CV and cover letter and was called back right away! I was wow-ed. I felt special. I was interviewed by Henry Engelhardt, who was our CEO at the time and one of our founders. I also met the founding team of the French comparison site and the CEO of the French subsidiary who was looking to hire me.

At just twenty-three, interviewing for my first job, this stood out as something quite special. The combination of a personalized experience, friendliness and professionalism was unique, compared to other companies I had interviewed with.

At the time I was debating between Admiral and a very big French industrial company – the kind of company that everyone knows and that would make your parents proud. But there was something that attracted me to Admiral. The company’s story was compelling and I wanted to be part of the adventure. I remember talking to my dad and he told me ‘sometimes you have to follow your heart’.

I decided to give it a try and I’ve never looked back!

Tell us about your experience setting up our French operation?When I joined in France, the French business did not yet exist. We had an appointed CEO, who I worked closely with. On day one, I went to the shop to buy a pen and a notebook. Materially, there was nothing. Two people, two laptops, in a shared office space in Paris.

Year one was spent setting up the company from the ground up: writing the first policy booklet, selecting the brand, finding the right office space – I remember sitting on the floor waiting hours for our electricity to be installed. I experienced everything from the material facilities aspects to flying to Munich to present our business plan to investors. Contributing to it all was incredibly rewarding.  

The next three years in France were centred on marketing, product and growth.

How did you find moving to Cardiff and becoming the UK’s Marketing Director?In 2014 I left France for a bigger adventure in Cardiff, our global HQ, to head up the marketing department for the UK insurance business.

One of my proudest moments was becoming Marketing Director for the UK. I was twenty-eight, making me one of the youngest Marketing Directors for a FTSE100 company at the time. I was managing 30 people and millions of pounds – it was a lofty responsibility and an exciting challenge. I remember friends from business school saying to me ‘you’ve made it’. I’m not so sure about that but I felt proud. Choosing the company that felt right for me paid off.

It was a very different dynamic, with more established teams and larger resources. The step up was clear and this brought with it a steep learning curve. That excited me greatly. One of our biggest achievements was reinventing the entire brand, from the logo to the TV ads - with the very first female Admiral! I was so lucky to be welcomed and supported by such a friendly and competent team.

After three years leading the marketing team, I craved that start-up spirit again, so I joined the newer UK Loans business to look after marketing, product and sales. It was great to learn about something completely different, outside of insurance. A key milestone for us was launching car finance direct to consumer – this was the first time this had been done in the UK.  

Why did you decide to join the Future Leaders Program (FLP)?
I knew a lot about marketing, but I didn’t know a lot about the wider company and how Admiral truly makes money. Being on this program gives you the privilege of getting closer to the DNA of the business, to understand what makes Admiral so profitable. 

I was also motivated by the geographical flexibility and international component as well as the chance to work directly with Milena Mondini, who is now our Group CEO. I remember thinking, ‘wow, I can learn so much from this woman. She is doing something exciting.’ 

I worked as an International Business Development Manager on the FLP for two years with Milena and completed some very interesting projects, including a strategy review of the Group.

What’s the impact been of having a female CEO?

I am very proud when I see that we are one of just two FTSE100 companies with both a female CEO and a female chair. Milena and Annette are both hugely inspiring. But it goes beyond that. What is remarkable, in my opinion, is the presence of successful women at all levels across the business. Often when a company does have a female CEO, she is just one woman among a management team of men.

At Admiral there are multiple female leaders at all levels of the organisation and this provides role models for women across the business. It means that wherever you go, there will be a woman just a little bit ahead of you, to look up to, inspire you and lift you up. It is a company of many Milenas and this creates a very special environment for both men and women to work in.

How have you found balancing your impressive career with raising a family?
Fanny has three children aged five, three and almost one. All her children were born while she was employed at Admiral in Cardiff.

It goes without saying that having children can be a challenge for your career and requires new levels of organisation. In a way, you become far more productive!

My husband also works for Admiral and was CEO of one of our businesses when we had our children. So, we both had ambitious careers with a lot of responsibility. Fortunately, Admiral does a lot for parents, which meant that neither of us had to sacrifice our career or family life.

In some companies, family-friendly policies are almost exclusively targeted at mothers and this can have many negative side effects. In Admiral, family-friendly policies ensure that both parents can take their share of household duties and strike the right balance for their families.

Admiral champions a culture of work-life balance. Long hours and late meetings are avoided and there is flexibility around working hours and patterns. Everyone benefits from that, not only parents.

Due to Admiral’s encouragement and culture, my husband and I were able to create a balanced and equal pattern of work that allowed both of us to continue to develop professionally whilst also being there for our children. We are proud that we can both be positive role models for our three girls.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career at Admiral?
I am yet to meet anyone who has regretted joining Admiral. I know people who have stayed longer than I and shorter than I have, but no one that I know has regretted their time at Admiral. So, my advice would be to go for it because you will not regret it!

 

You can find out more about the journeys on our Future Leaders Program here or read more about our MBA Leadership Programs. Alternatively, follow our MBA Leadership page on Linkedin.

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