The programme really underscored the need to reinforce your competencies, which dovetailed with my own intuition as a ‘newcomer’ board member. I also took away the importance of being selective about roles. It gives you that insight into how much it matters that you have a good fit with organisation and with other board members, because the role of the board in defining strategy is crucial."
Non-executive board member, Solenne Niedercorn-Desouches, has a long career that straddles finance and entrepreneurship. She took the Aspiring Directors Programme to get in shape for the challenges of board membership. Here she explains what it means to be prepared, and why it matters so much.
This is the life motto and very much the opus operandi of Solenne Niedercorn-Desouches. A self-described “pure product of the financial sector,” she has enjoyed a varied and challenging professional trajectory that spans private banking, entrepreneurship and, most recently, advisory consulting as an independent director in the financial sector – as well as a burgeoning career in podcast hosting.
At each step of her professional journey, Niedercorn-Desouches has consistently and proactively taken the time to stop and prepare for the next phase.
And it’s this approach that led her to INSEAD's Aspiring Directors Programme in 2020.
“I have multiple strands to my career, and I’ve developed very broad expertise over the last decade or so that straddles banking, financial regulation and starting or scaling up in the fintech space,” she says.
“I’ve launched my own venture and been recruited as employee #1 several times, meaning that I have a lot of diverse experience and insights to offer as a non-executive board director, which is the path that I have now chosen to pursue. But I believe in being fully prepared for each challenge before I embark upon it.”
Conversations with contacts in the financial sector in Luxembourg – in particular with colleagues at the Institut Luxembourgeois des Administrateur who are INSEAD partners – all led to INSEAD as the best option to prepare for this next chapter in her life, she says.
“I have a network of non-executive directors in the industry who recommended the programme to me, so going into the experience, I was really very confident that it would deliver the kind of learning and preparation I felt I needed.”
Specifically, Niedercorn-Desouches was looking to dig deep into the role and impact of being a board member. And with career-long experience of the benefits of coaching and mentorship, she was looking forward to exploring her personal strengths and weaknesses – and pinpointing those areas she wanted to develop further. The programme, she says, really delivered against these expectations.
“I was really impressed by the quality of the content and the sessions across the programme; that and by just how inspiring both faculty and my fellow peers were. The financial sessions provided a very invigorating refresher for me and were a timely reminder of the continuous need to go deeper and to reinforce your skills.”
Invigorating also were case-based sessions on becoming an effective board member, and daily morning “catch up” discussions with programme director, Professor Jose Luis Alvarez, who provided “kind support” as she prepared to pursue a third directorship mandate on leaving the programme.
“The programme really underscored the need to reinforce your competencies, which totally dovetailed with my own intuition as a ‘newcomer’ board member. I also took away the importance of being selective about roles. The programme gives you that insight into how much it matters that you have a good fit with organisation and with other board members, because the role of the board in defining strategy is so very crucial.”
Coming out of the programme, Niedercorn-Desouches has built up her peer network – an outcome that was possible despite the restrictions of the virtual format due to the pandemic.
“I wanted to connect with other people at the same point of evolution in their careers. At INSEAD I was able to exchange perspectives and insights with other board members from fields as different to my own as hospitality and biotech. It was less natural perhaps to network virtually because of the Covid-19 situation, but those connections were still made efficiently and fluidly. I do believe that going forward, the integration of digital technology will be characteristic of learning and development in general.”
The Aspiring Directors Programme at INSEAD is “an intense week to discover what it really means to be a board director. It is also a first step towards the INSEAD Certificate in Corporate Governance,” says Niedercorn-Desouches.
“In my spare time I am a trail runner, and in this as well as my professional life, I believe in going step by step. You start with short races and build up your stamina and strength for big one. I look forward to putting into practice what I have learnt at INSEAD and then coming back and bringing the benefits of my experience to the next programme. I’m doing my bit now to be truly prepared for the INSEAD certification!”