Jean-Francois Lambert first entered the world of commodities when he was appointed to lead Crédit Commercial de France’s (CCF) Trade Finance activities in emerging markets. Through his contacts in West Africa, he saw the opportunity to develop a commodity structured finance business, particularly in the cotton sector and was able to convince the bank to get involved in that business.
After HSBC’s take over of CCF, in 2000, this business kept developing. Post the 2008 financial crisis, as the bank was on the look for growth opportunities, Jean-Francois convinced the bank to build a fully fledged commodity and structured trade finance activity, capitalising on the unparalleled reach of HSBC of word trade flows.
Within a few years, he was able to build a full business line of commodity and structured finance, gathering a team of 150 specialists across 16 countries.
Jean-Francois has been active in the commodity markets for the past 25 years. In 2016, he founded his own consultancy firm aiming at helping and supporting banks, companies, investors in their endeavours in the trade and commodity business.
#1-What is the best moment you can remember in your career?
The best moment is always the “here and now”. I live in the present and look at the future.
I find the work I’m doing at the moment really fascinating. I think that the common theme running through everything I’ve done professionally is entrepreneurship. Developing businesses, getting stakeholders’ buy-in, building teams and leading them is incredibly exciting and rewarding.
Whenever my mission was to set up entire departments for a bank, my motivation and determination were very strong for a simple reason: the conviction that at the time, it was the right thing to do for the organisation. Harnessing resources to devise, build, develop and lead a new venture, instilating an entrepreneurial spirit amongst the team, is hugely satisfying.
#2-If you had to give just one piece of advice to a junior starting his/her career, what would it be?
In my opinion, any young person with an interest in commodities should join a trading firm. Trying to get experience in this field by working for a bank isn’t the best approach. With trading firms, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of what physical flows entail: logistics, financing, hedging. No better insight into the realities of the commodity markets. For a young professional, there’s no better experience!
It also helps you to develop a much better perspective of the commodity dynamics. Banks are there to provide support – they’re facilitators, but not actors. They are key players but a first hand experience in a trading firm is certainly very valuable. Even for a future banker! If you have to take risks on a business, the more understanding, the better.
#3-Do you have a Motto/Lucky charm?
You have to have the courage of your convictions and your convictions will give you courage! It’s also important to be consistent in your professional and personal lifes. For me, life is a continuum; there may be glitches along the way, but consistency is paramount and a key factor of success and happiness.
#4-What do you enjoy the most in your day to day job?
Persuading others! In my work, I end up around the table with a wide range of people, so it’s important to constantly adapt to different cultures, people and procedures.
You have to develop excellent listening skills and ask yourself: what do they really mean? Different cultures have ways of saying or not saying something and of showing whether they believe you or not.
Generally speaking, each time you come out of a negotiation, you feel as though you’ve learned something new.
#5-If you had to do it again would you choose the same career path?
Yes, absolutely! I have no regrets about being a banker and I’m extremely happy to have been working in this field at a fun and interesting time. If I had to start over again now, I would definitely work in commodities.
#6-Where is your favourite place on earth and why?
My chalet in La Clusaz, in the Haute-Savoie department. I find the environment inspiring and hugely relaxing; it’s a place where I can be in constant contact with nature.
#7-How could you qualify your relationship with Ampersand World?
Excellent! I often see you react in just the right way. You have strong ethics and a sound approach to this business, that is both modern and intelligent.