Entrepreneurs Forever 2015 | Version française

Salma Benaddou

Associate of Burj Finance

She created her own investment bank in Morocco.

By choosing for her investment bank the Arabic word which expresses the robustness of citadelles, Salma Benaddou has communicated her optimism and her determination to build a company which is both different and long-durable.

She grew up in Morocco, and went to school at the Lycée Français in Casablanca. After taking her Baccalauréat, she went to the Maths Sup class, all alone, in Paris. « I stood it out for two days. An engineering course on boilers killed off my vocational project! » She tried out one more day in the Business Schools Preparatory class … and carried on right to EMLYON.

She began her career in Corporate Finance at the prestigious French business bank Lazard. « It’s important to choose your first job well; an environment which trains and inspires you is more important than the brand reputation. When you have both, then it’s perfect! »

When you create your own company, freedom is a relative concept: you are both your own master and slave; responsible to yourself, to your teams, and to your clients. But the wonderful lightness of the blank page, the power of making your vision come alive, the hope inside you; all that is sheer magic!

A year later, to live nearer to her family, she went to work for CFG, a Moroccan business bank which had hosted her internship during her studies. Ten years later, the young junior Analyst became a Partner. « I experienced some intense moments, and wonderful relationships, in those demanding operations where you work, cut off from the world, almost 24H/24. »

In 2012 her entrepreneurial gene started getting itchy; a gene she shares with her brother, founder of the first Drive chain in Morocco, and her father, who created a textile company at the age of 50. « I decided to leave without really knowing where I was going. The only thing I knew clearly was that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I often make quick decisions, to be aligned with who I am and who I want to be. »

Salma Benaddou was 33 with two young children when she finalised her project of an investment bank. She quickly rented a whole floor of office space, set up a staff-room with four interns, started prospecting energetically, forbidding herself to contact her old clients. « When you really believe in what you’re doing, and do tireless work in the field, it always ends up paying off. »

In January 2012 she signed her first contracts, recruited a junior in the spring, an EMLYON graduate in the summer, and enlarged the team in the autumn, for her first big operation. But in the winter, her father died, leaving his plant in great difficulty. She organised its reorganisation and set up a new management team, at the same time as starting up Burj Finance. « I was really in a bad state, finding it difficult to concentrate, and results suffered. I became aware of how very vulnerable the intuitu personae really is. »

Three years later, Burj Finance consolidated its foundations. Two new partners from Paris and Casablanca brought their own cornerstones, and the company, which today has a staff of eight, is recognised for its high degree of expertise, and start-up mentality: it stands out positively in a profession which is often highly conventional. « We work in an activity which has big emotional ups and downs! I try to make sure that everyone is able to act and thrive in a spirit of pleasure, excellence, solidarity, and humility. That’s how we manage to create and implement different, totally bespoke solutions. »

She imagines the next step will be as strong as a fortress. « I am preparing the next big jump so that Burj could work without me, whilst still remaining human sized. »

With the same enthusiasm, she runs the Moroccan branch of the EMLYON alumni network, and takes time to enjoy, with her children – the third one will have been born by the time this book appears –, the beautiful wild beaches at Essaouira, where she goes as often as possible.

EM Lyon: Programme Grande Ecole 2003 / Msc in Management
Translation : Carole Bausor, ILTC
Date de parution : 01/06/15