17 Aug Finance Matters Interviews Dominique Carrie from Social Finance
Base: London, UK
Position: Associate, International Development Team, Social Finance
Tenure in current role: 11 months
By: Clare McCartney
Dominique, can you tell us a bit about your story / background?
I was born in France and lived there until I was 18, when I decided to travel and see the world. My English was not great at that time so I picked a French school in Montreal to do my Bachelor. After 4 years (and 4 horrible winters!) I wanted to come back to Europe to be closer to my family. London was a natural choice for someone who wanted to work in Finance so I did a MSc Finance at LSE and found a job at Orbis, an asset management firm. I worked there for four years and learned a lot during that time but I realised that this wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my career. I needed some time to take a step back and figure out what to do. So I joined the London Business School to do an MBA. The only thing I was sure of when starting the programme was that I wanted to do something more meaningful, to help people.
What motivated you to pursue the impact investment space?
I think I was looking for some purpose, for a reason to be here. I am (like most people I know actually) very privileged to have been born in a developed country, in a family that was able to give me lots of opportunities, to have attended great schools and met so many amazing people. It’s just luck and it’s actually very unfair when you think about it. So I wanted to use my brain and skills to help others, to make sure I contributed somehow to making the world a better place, even if at a very small scale. And the social investment space seemed like a good place to leverage my finance background to achieve this goal.
How did you get into the International Development team at Social Finance?
When I started my MBA at LBS, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do and which companies were operating in the social impact space (very broadly defined) so I started networking early on to map out all the players and try figuring out whether it could be a fit for me. A few LBS alumni work at Social Finance, including Lisa Barclay – COO, so I contacted her and we had a chat about Social Finance’s work. I was really interested in this idea of helping governments and foundations use their money more efficiently but also the breadth of projects Social Finance had, including in enterprise advisory. However, I wanted to focus on international development because I believed that this was where I could have the highest impact (given that the majority of the poorest people are in developing countries and in Africa in particular). So I chose to do my first internship during the MBA with the West Africa team of Acumen, based in Ghana. This was a way for me to gain on-the-ground experience and also check that I was happy to travel to and stay in Sub-Saharan Africa. I loved it but the plan was always to find a job in London so I contacted Lisa again. She put me in touch with Diane Mak, a Director in the international development team, who gave me the chance to join Social Finance for an internship. 3 months later, the internship became a permanent position.
Can you describe your job in a nutshell?
For now, I have been working mostly on designing Development Impact Bonds (DIB). A DIB is basically a contract whereby an investor provides upfront capital for a service provider to implement an intervention and is repaid by outcomes funders only if outcomes have been achieved (those outcomes are based on impact, not financial metrics). So Social Finance’s role is to develop the operational and financial model, develop the payment mechanism (i.e. determining what metric the investor should be repaid on), find both outcomes funders and investors, develop the necessary contracting among all stakeholders, etc. It is very much about getting a lot of various stakeholders to come together to achieve impact.
What key challenges have you experienced if any in your career transition?
I would say there were two challenges for me. The first one is that a lot of the players in this sector are relatively small and are all doing something a bit different. So it requires a lot of time and effort to network, meet people and understand what they do and how it fits with your values, your view on how to make a positive impact, and your skillset. I have found though, perhaps unsurprisingly, that people in this space are very willing to help out and guide you through this journey and I’m very grateful to everyone I’ve spoken to during this search.
Coming from the private sector and in particular from a company which was very focused on performance, the second challenge for me was to find a place which wouldn’t trigger too much of a culture shock. I wanted to avoid bureaucratic and slow-moving organisations and I wanted to be somewhere which had a similar work ethics as I did, with people who didn’t mind working hard for the sake of a project.
What are the skills you utilise most in this new field?
Analytical, project management, communication skills are critical, like in any consulting role. A lot of the projects we work on have many (sometimes 10+) stakeholders we need to work with so being able to manage each relationship, understanding different points of view and building on this to bring people together is critical – I’m still developing this skill!
Any parting words of advice for others wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Network a lot, talk to people to understand how their organisation fits with your vision and how your skills can help them achieve a positive impact. Read about the sector, develop a strong understanding of any area you’re particularly interested about. Be clear about your priorities and what matters most to you (e.g. in terms of remuneration, time spent traveling, type of people you work with, etc.) and use this to make your decision on which firms and jobs to apply to. Basically nothing that different from finding any job. Good luck!