Inside Ardian

Generation game

  • 15 December 2019

  • Talent

  • Milan, Italy

Reading time: 8 minutes

Ardian’s highly innovative Millennial Executive Committee speaks to its core values of cohesion and excellence. As the project moves into its third year, original member Giacomo Forti discusses the Millennial Executive Committee’s achievements and challenges, as well as the power of Ardian’s culture.

Q: What were the key drivers for setting up the Millennial Executive Committee in the first place?

Giacomo Forti (GF): The Millennial Executive Committee was created in April 2017 at the  request of our President CEO, Dominique Senequier, after a workshop organized by the communications department which brought together executives from Ardian’s global office network to think about opportunities and challenges over the next 20 years. The idea was primarily based on how best to capture and then preserve Ardian’s culture as we continue our growth journey (in the last 20 years Ardian has grown from 10 employees to more than 650 worldwide).

Following the two-day workshop, the Millennial Executive Committee was created, comprising a group of 12 under-35-year-old professionals to propose new ideas and projects. It acts as an ”idea generator” working hand in hand with all Ardian pillars to suggest and implement concrete projects.

Four main areas of focus were identified to develop new projects. The first area looked at talent retention, specifically in ensuring we have the best conditions to attract the best professionals. Secondly, we focus on cohesion between teams, which we consider a key factor for the continued success of Ardian. Thirdly, we focus on Ardian’s impact, not only environmentally, but also in other aspects of society. The fourth is Ardian’s reputation, increasing the awareness of our activity, culture and track record.


Q: How were the original members selected and what’s the recruitment process going forward?

GF: Today, the Millennial Executive Committee consists of 12 professionals from different countries and departments. The original concept was to have a diverse group of people, so we have members from Asia, the US, the UK, France, Italy and Germany. We’re also from different departments, with representatives from the front investment teams, fund finance teams and the support functions.

Initially, the members were selected by the ComEx and they rotate every two-and-a-half years. For the second mandate, the Millennial Executive Committee proposes new joiners. The candidates are shared with the ComEx to make the final decision. There is a short hand over period, with half of the team rotating first, and the second half after six months.

 

Q: How does it work in practice? How do you interact with Ardian’s ComEx, and the wider business?

GF: In terms of how we work together, we meet via video conference every six weeks and hold two physical meetings every year. During these get togethers we brainstorm on new ideas relating to the four focus areas, and we update each other on ongoing projects.

Each project typically has two or three Millennial Executive Committee members, who work alongside the relevant department. Ideas are developed both through brainstorming among Millennial Comex members, and also with the members of the respective Ardian pillar. Once we have an idea, we share it with the corresponding department and work with them to fine-tune it to the needs of Ardian. When we have a clear roadmap, the plan is presented to the ComEx for feedback and approval. If the ComEx gives it the green light, we return to the relevant department, who become the ultimate owner of the project.

The Millennial ComEx is not just the effort of 12 people; it's for the whole company to share ideas through this channel, which then connects directly to Ardian’s ComEx. With everyone involved this becomes a really powerful tool to drive innovation in Ardian. And with the majority of Ardian employees being shareholders this really speaks to the heart of our culture.

 

Q: Millennials are assumed to be more focused on technology and environmental issues compared with their seniors - have these been prominent topics on the Millennial ComEx?

If so, how did these conversations link back to Ardian? What other topics were frequently discussed?

GF: Technology was initially a key priority for us, however Ardian had already set up a specific technology taskforce so we lessened our focus on this area.

We’ve instead focused more on preserving and sharing Ardian’s culture. Until a few years ago Dominique Senequier met all new joiners personally. This is of course impossible as the company continues to grow. Our idea was to preserve this warm welcome and that feeling of being part of a family. So now, we have created a welcome kit for new joiners including a welcome letter from the ComEx, an Ardian-branded PC suitcase and a welcome book. The latter is a small handbook, which we crafted with the communications department, detailing Ardian’s activities, business, history, culture and values. This is one example of a project which we developed with HR and communications. Another similar initiative, aimed at increasing integration and cohesion investing on new joiners, is improving our Integration Seminar. This seminar is designed to give new joiners an overview of Ardian and its various activities, presenting an opportunity to network with over 40 new joiners from all of our Ardian offices across the globe. This features  a Q&A session with a member of the Executive Committee, a team-building activity at the Louvre Museum and a workshop on ‘Unconscious Biases’ organized by Korn Ferry, the management consulting company.

A new project we are developing is the Ardian Conference & Training 2020 seminar, which brings together a group of recently promoted individuals inside Ardian across different geographies and departments. The two-day seminar focuses on two main themes: emotional intelligence and artificial intelligence. In an increasingly digital world, we ask how emotional intelligence is becoming more important and how we could leverage artificial intelligence tools to interact with sectors’ experts through several workshops.

 

Q: What has been the Millennial Executive Committee’s biggest learning? And what was your biggest challenge?


GF: At the beginning we didn’t expect to develop so many projects, which shows how the commitment and passion of employees can really make the difference. The values of Ardian, particularly excellence and cohesion, are really visible through this lens; and the results we have achieved show that we can really make a difference day-to-day, and also in the long-term.

Second was finding an efficient way to develop and implement real projects. At the beginning it was a little slow, but after a while we found a way to work in smaller groups and be more effective when it came to implementation. This was probably the most challenging aspect; to unify people in different departments and different countries.

Last but not least, the most important challenge we are facing is increasing awareness of our activity. We would like to involve the entire company in developing new ideas and we want to help people across the company see the Millennial Comex as a tool for every employee to contribute to the success of Ardian


Q: Has participating in this project supported or improved your core role at Ardian?

GF: The possibility to interact and brainstorm with a variety of professionals across the entire firm has been a unique opportunity.

The interaction with the ComEx – presenting and being challenged by them on projects – has been a huge opportunity to develop our skills. We had to present our projects in front of the entire firm at the management symposium – speaking in front of 500 people isn’t something that happens every day. In so many ways the experience has helped me improve and I’m really grateful to ComEx and all the people who’ve worked with me. This has been such an enriching experience.


Q: Do you think all asset managers should establish some kind of Millennial Executive Committee?

GF: This is a very powerful tool. It’s a great opportunity for people to contribute more to their company, and for private equity and asset management, people are the most important asset. Only with strong cohesion, and fueling that cohesion in the right way, can we help our companies cultivate sustainable growth.

It’s also hugely important to listen to the voice of Millennials, and the younger generation more broadly, because the world is changing so rapidly. Having this different view to provide inputs and ideas, as well as to diversify risk, is a really effective tool for management to have better control and a greater understanding of risks and opportunities for their organization.
 

It’s also hugely important to listen to the voice of Millennials, and the younger generation more broadly, because the world is changing so rapidly.

Giacomo Forti, Director at Ardian Buyout