Entrepreneurs Forever 2014 | Version française

Marie-Hélène Dray-Steinman

Senior VP Wealth management for Merrill Lynch

She worked hard to become a ‘’billion dollar woman’’.

Let's beware of clichés. Marie-Hélène Dray- Steinman lives in the sunshine in Beverly, with her husband who is an artist in the cinema and their four adorable children; every morning, she hands over the care of her house (which she decorated herself Mediterranean style), to two faithful servants; she works out over ten hours a week to train for the Los Angeles marathon, which she has run every year for the past ten years; she loves cooking beef bourguignon and speaking French slang; in the evening, she discusses fund-raising at receptions with the bright beautiful people.

But behind this American-style success story lies, not frivolity, but the determination and resistance of a young woman who is both professional and competitive.

Marie-Hélène Dray-Steinman was 16 when she became the French Junior Chess champion... and lost her father. She inherited from him at the age of 18, and needing some security, invested in a flat. As a student, she imagined herself working for an international group, « a well-ordered life, with a classic career ».

I have always had mentors who gave me a positive ambition: to discover that things are possible, to banish doubt to build true professional achievements, reveal one's talents. Today I really want to transmit and to create the mentoring group for the Alliance between Centrale Lyon and EMLYON in America.
In the end, there is nothing so gratifying as seeing one of your mentees grow and mature.

Her first expat experience was during an internship in London with Lloyd's Bank. Air France recruited her when she graduated from EMLYON, as Project manager for General Management. The company was restructuring at the time, and she worked on the productivity of both fleets and crews, which was the key subject in Union negotiations. « They were two agitated years but gave me a real apprenticeship in vision and leadership by working beside the Chairman. »

Air France gave her the international career she sought, from high-flying negotiations for international offices of American key accounts, to her landing at the General Management of the Swiss subsidiary, via a touchdown in America.

Seven years gaining altitude, with management, strategy, and institutional relations.

In 2003, she had zero jet-lag, but was suffering from a bug caused by drinking water, when she was running her first marathon in Los Angeles. One of the staff members saved her life, fell in love, and invited her to come back and... ended up marrying her. She joined one of her Swiss clients, UBS, and bought a one-way ticket for wealth management in California. « I immediately felt at home in America, fascinated by the world of Wall Street. My international experience suddenly became totally relevant. »

She looked after wealthy, sophisticated clients, who are aesthetes, philanthropists, and who travel all over the world. She progressed in leaps and bounds, and was named by Barron’s magazine in 300 Woman Circle of Excellence, and spotted by the so-powerful Merrill Lynch.

Just like an athlete, she changed category, taking her team and her portfolio with her. If today she manages $500 million, she has set her sights on the highly exclusive club of women who "weigh" a billion. « I'll get there; this job gives me so much pleasure and freedom, all I have to do is to broaden my network, and do a good job in guiding my clients. »

«Women can have it all »: Marie-Hélène Dray-Steinman is sure of that, and is the living proof.
She is still preserving some energy for her recent mandates as Administrator, for example like the one she has for the Science and Business Alliance between Centrale Lyon and EMLYON. « I used to be really career and performance focused, but at the age of 40, something switched. I wanted to give, to share my experience, to get involved in a different way. »

Er... Did somebody say “over achiever“?!...

EM Lyon: Programme Grande école 1995
Translation : Carole Bausor, ILTC
Date de parution : 12/09/14