From the corporate private sector to an International Financial Institution: Swiss working for the IFC

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1 From the corporate e sector to an International Financial Institution: Swiss working for the IFC A career move from the corporate e sector in Switzerland banking and insurance to an International Financial Institution (IFI) offers highly interesting opportunities. cinfo has been collaborating with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) in order to enhance the visibility of multilateral development banks as employers. During a visit to Washington DC in 2013, cinfo talked to three Swiss professionals working with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) about their experiences in moving their careers to an IFI. The IFC, which is part of the World Bank Group, is the largest global organisation focused exclusively on the e sector in developing countries. Established in 1956, the IFC works in over 100 developing countries and allows local companies to create jobs, generate tax revenues and improve both their corporate governance and their environmental performance. Headquartered in Washington DC, the institution has over 3,800 staff, around half of whom work in field offices around the globe. What does the IFC look for? The IFC s activities can be divided into three areas: Investment Services (industry related), Advisory Services and Corporate Support. Employees working in Advisory rarely have a background in the banking sector. On the contrary, professionals working in Investment often do. Rather than retail, the IFC attracts wholesale profiles, i.e. industry and corporate customer advisors. Backgrounds are relevant when they combine a corporate focus with an industry or operations focus (e.g. transportation, health, agriculture) as well as international experience. «It is rewarding to take a longer-view position» Martin Bühler, Principal Insurance Officer, Global Financial Markets. He joined the IFC after having worked with Zurich Insurances for 19 years. He spent his whole career in the insurance industry. He has been working with IFC for 6.5 years as insurance specialist responsible for the Asian, European, (North) African / French speaking financial markets, looking after and supporting IFC s investment projects related to the insurance sector. His specialty areas include micro-, agro- and health insurance, facilities and structured transactions. Jan Mumenthaler, Head Insurance Services Group, Portfolio & Operational Risk Department. He has been working with IFC for 9.5 years. Prior to joining the IFC, he was active in different areas of the insurance sector in Switzerland and abroad: reinsurance, direct insurance, insurance and reinsurance broking and risk management/captive. At IFC, he is responsible for reviewing investment projects for operational and hazard risk and proposing sustainable risk management solutions. His work puts him in daily contact with global insurance markets, with a focus on emerging countries. Urs Stauffer, HR Account Manager. He joined IFC a year ago. Prior to that, he worked with UBS as HR Business Partner for 8 years. He joined IFC in the same function and is now the HR contact person for various departments in all human resources-related matters. He is mainly supporting IFC s Advisory Business.

2 cinfo: How did your transition from e corporate banking to the IFC happen? Jan Mumenthaler: I saw an advertisement in the Economist and applied because I thought, «this is me, I can bring all that to IFC». I got a note back which basically said «very interesting but you are a little too senior for this position». However, IFC kept my files and I got a call about 12 months later. I was told that a more senior position was now open and asked whether I was interested in coming to Washington for some interviews. I went through an extremely extensive interview process which I found very fair and transparent and eventually got the offer. Concerning salary and general remuneration considerations: Is the difference between the corporate e sector and IFIs substantial? I came out of the e sector, where a big part of my salary was performance-linked and we were all driven by bonuses. The portion of the flexible salary at IFC is extremely low compared to that, so you know pretty well where you are going to be at the end of the year and that is a reassurance in a certain sense. And since the income derived from the World Bank is taxexempt, you do not have to deal with those issues. Moreover, living particularly in Washington duty station is really easy as you do not need to worry about registration issues and there is a lot of support in getting the documentation that you need. So, I think all of that really leads to great peace of mind. Some people on your level sooner or later want to go back to Switzerland. What challenges would they have to deal with? I would not even describe it as a challenge. I think by having been with the IFC for some years, you are an asset to any future employer since you bring unique experience which is difficult to get from any other organisation. The IFC is by far the largest organisation that does business on a global scale and focuses on emerging markets, so it enables you to acquire skills that are really very much in demand. Particularly in Switzerland, which has such an international focus, I think the avenues are quite wide. If you want to make this move back, I think in terms of IFC s flexibility and support there really are no hurdles. Make sure your CV stands out. The amount of applications is quite enormous. Make it really clear why you are the right person for that particular position. What I would also like to say: Although my position is in the US, the IFC is neither an American organisation nor does it employ a majority of US staff. This is truly the United Nations here, so do consider that as an opportunity and enjoy American life outside the office. 2013/2015 cinfo From the corporate e sector to an International Financial Institution 3

3 cinfo: What motivated you to move your career away from the corporate e sector to an IFI such as the IFC? Martin Bühler: After 25 years in the business, I had reached a sort of mid-career point and was looking for something outside of corporate insurance business in Western Europe. I came across IFC, which was extremely exciting to me because it offered an opportunity in the middle of my life and career to change my direction by 180 degrees, while at the same time allowing me to continue working in the field of insurance and use my acquired experience and expertise for that. What are the main differences between a e sector company and an IFI? There are «good differences» depending on where you are in your life and career in the sense that, as you seek for value and as you are looking for content and things of a more mid- to longer-term nature, the IFC s objectives are very strong. Coming from the mobile and agile e sector background of an insurance company in Switzerland, where it was important to meet the quarterly goals, into an organisation where there is more of a focus on «where do we want to be in 3-5 years?» is very healthy and satisfying. But don't get me wrong, there is a lot of pressure and we work crazy hours. I could say that, whereas in my former job, my role was to find out how to do things quicker, cheaper and more efficiently, my role here is to find out what are the right things to do and it is simply very rewarding to be able to take a longer-view position on certain things. This also translates into the fact that there is practically no routine business in my life. The variety of things that you see, the people and situations that you deal with is just mind-boggling, interesting and exciting. If you are more of an administrator type, the IFC is probably not the right place for you. So it is a combination of entrepreneurial and sustainable commercial thinking that really brings value to the IFC. Are there also differences which are more challenging, in terms of adjustment for example? Well, I personally consider it an advantage: In 6 years I have been to about 40 countries, and I spend about 100 days a year on the road. So that can be a challenge. Although not every position has the same ratio of travel, if you don't like travelling then the IFC is probably not the right place for you. Moreover, the IFC is an institution that, despite its clear structure, works more like an organism. A lot of people move from one side of the organisation to the other, and sometimes they take some responsibilities at least the ethical ones along with them and continue to be somewhat in the loop. So, if you have a project and though you know exactly who your boss is, you may still need to talk to other people on an «informal-formal basis» in order to keep them up to date and to assure your success. Within the IFC, you need to be aware of the informal network. Regarding salary and general remuneration considerations: Is the difference between the corporate e sector and IFIs substantial? At the IFC, we hire three types of people: young people looking for an opportunity to take their first steps in the business, young professionals on the road to managerial positions, and the «end of career / specialist types» like me. The comparison at my level when I joined: yes, I took about a 15% pay cut. But that was okay, because there were a lot of advantages, not least the likelihood that I would be able to continue doing what I am doing until retirement as opposed to never knowing when the axe will fall in the e sector in Switzerland. The IFC is not the 2013/2015 cinfo From the corporate e sector to an International Financial Institution 4

4 peak payer and it probably should not be, but I can say the compensation package is competitive. What kind of career options are there within the IFC and outside of it? Once you have passed the interview stage, I can tell you that the less specialized you are, the more options you will find. If you would like to work in a different hemisphere, you talk to the right people and there is a strong chance that they will find you a position. In doing so, you will not only change your commute, but also for example the language that your children are growing up with, as well as your business profile or the sector that you are working in. Everything can change within a few months and then you can go on for two, three, four years until you want to do something else again. I have friends who chose to take a career in management, going a little bit out of the business area, be that in IT or HR or in other functions that is absolutely possible within the IFC. An organisation that hosts about 3,500 people has plenty of back offices and general types of staff functions as well. On the other hand, if you choose to become one of the best in your chosen profession, you can stay in your position and go as deep as you want to. So, there are really plenty of opportunities to move, to an extent that I have not seen elsewhere before. As to options outside the IFC: We have been in a financial crisis for four or five years. I remember that before, colleagues very easily switched back into either insurance or banking functions. I have not really seen that happen in the past four years because there are simply very few open positions. I am sure that once growth kicks in again, the systems will become more communicative and pervasive. Switzerland is one of 188 countries that are part of the World Bank Group, so if there is already a Swiss in the specific unit you are going for, it might be difficult simply for diversity reasons. Try to go where no other Swiss have gone before. Moreover, try to be as «Swiss» as you can and at the same time open your «shutter Swiss» in the sense of worldly, educated, diplomatic, polite, listening and talking. 2013/2015 cinfo From the corporate e sector to an International Financial Institution 5

5 cinfo: How did your transition from e corporate banking to the IFC happen? Urs Stauffer: I was always interested in development work. I saw the vacancy on I had not realized before that IFC was recruiting so internationally, even for profiles like HR. After applying, it took several weeks before I was contacted by a recruiter. I first had several telephone interviews, and at some point I got an invitation for a final interview round in Washington. I think at the end of the process I had had around 11 interviews with 20 people. This enabled me to get a fairly good overview of IFC and my potential new role. What are the main differences between a e sector company and an IFI? Having worked with a global e sector firm, I thought I knew what it means to work in an international setting. But when I joined the IFC, I realized that my former employer was not really international compared to IFC. Working at IFC is what I call working in an international environment. The HR service delivery model and the HR programmes are more or less the same, but what I found to be very different was the multicultural workforce and the commitment of the staff members to the IFC's mission. What kind of benefits, in addition to your salary, do you receive? The IFC offers a wide range of benefits, it in the area of health insurance, pension or mobility support, to mention only a few. One major benefit is the option to enroll your whole family in a global health plan at very low cost thanks to IFC's heavy contribution. Apart from that, the IFC offers a broad range of benefits when you move to Washington or to one of the field offices. Due to the IFC's decentralized structure, there are many different types of mobility packages. Whenever the company decides to put you in a different region, there are numerous benefits to help you move, get settled and feel comfortable in your new duty station. All together, this makes the remuneration package interesting and competitive. You need to inform yourself about how to apply for an international organisation. For example, American CVs and motivation letters look different from a typical Swiss application. I think we tend to undersell ourselves in Switzerland. Moreover, you need to be aware of the different kinds of profiles that the IFC wants to attract and the skill set required for each profile. Bookmark the job page 1 and visit the site on a regular basis, as most vacancies are only posted for two weeks. If you apply, do not expect to get an answer within three to four weeks. There are normally a lot of applicants, and many people within the IFC are involved in the recruitment process, so this just takes some time. If you are not shortlisted for the position you applied for which means you are not contacted do not give up. This does not mean that your profile is not interesting. Interview: Nina Prochazka, Bettina Stauffer, cinfo, February /2015 cinfo From the corporate e sector to an International Financial Institution 6

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