ILA Leadership Profile: Marie-Jeanne Chèvremont
Much of ILA’s current personality became more clearly defined during Marie-Jeanne Chèvremont-Lorenzini’s term as chair between 2011 and 2015.
Early growth had been impressive since the association was founded, and this continued as the institute’s role expanded.
Membership had gone from zero to around 500 in just six years under ILA’s founding chair, the late Patrick Zurstrassen. The emerging range of education and networking events, training, and publications had been attractive, and members also valued the institute’s thought-leadership, as well as the local and international representation.
However more definition was needed. Marie-Jeanne led the process of writing a mission statement to reflect this and set clear ambitions. “This was a relatively uncontroversial process, but it was important to commit this to paper to guide our actions,” she commented.
Principally it was important to reaffirm ILA’s identity as an organisation for all governance professionals, not just the financial sector. “We needed to underline that we represented the interests of all members, be it public companies, private firms or not-for-profits,” said Marie-Jeanne. There was also the understanding that promoting high levels of corporate governance in all sectors was key to promoting Luxembourg’s image as an international business hub.
An independent institute
This also helped the institute define its independence. As it led the process of building corporate governance norms, ILA acquired influence as a “soft” regulator. “We benefit from a strong working relationship with regulators and the government, but it is important that we are able to have our own voice, representative of all our member’s interests,” Marie-Jeanne explained. It was also stated clearly that ILA wanted to be the lead voice in the Grand Duchy on questions of corporate governance.
This was also a reaffirmation of ILA’s status as an institute rather than as an association. “Being an institute implies a clearer role for the organisation in terms of training and representation, whereby an association has overtones of just being a collective of individuals,” she added. As well, the role and composition of the board was given definition, and a limit of two two-year terms put on the chair.
More events, training, publications
Meanwhile the offering of training courses and publications grew, with the first ILA certified director graduating at this time. There was also growth in the range of information and networking events. For example, the first landmark Directors’ Day began under Marie-Jeanne’s leadership. The Fund Day was originally a PwC event, but this was rebadged and reorganised as a partnership with ILA during her time too. There was also the emergence of events such as the Golf Day, and what she refers to humorously as the “last New Year’s drink of the year”, which is now a well-attended event held regularly in late January. Preparatory work to the 17th European Corporate Governance Conference held during Luxembourg’s presidency of the EU Council in 2015 also took under her mandate.
The workload was increasing for the voluntary ILA team, and the need to hire permanent staff became clear. “We weren’t totally sure that this would be sustainable, but we had the funds for at least a year and decided to go for it,” Marie-Jeanne explained. So in 2011 they hired Véronique Vansaen to organise training, events and communication. This entrepreneurial move spurred further growth, enabling more posts to be created as the remit of the organisation flourished. Véronique eventually became ILA’s managing director, with an office of 10 part and full time staff.
“It’s true that we had an excellent team at that time, with the board featuring three ex-managing partners of the big four,” Marie-Jeanne noted, referring to herself, John Li and her successor Raymond Schadeck. “I was grateful for their support because it wasn’t always easy to get good people to sit on the board in the early days; unlike now when we have more candidates than places available,” she said. It is also a source of satisfaction for her that of ILA’s four chairs so far, two have been men and two women. By the time Marie-Jeanne’s four-year mandate had reached limit in 2015, membership had almost doubled.