Bringing multicultural perspectives to various industries has been a topic of interest for many years now, but in recent years, it seems that several key industries have been taking useful steps toward increasing diversity, especially in positions of power.
Dalton Investments CEO Sarah Alfandari is uniquely suited to incorporate multicultural perspectives in her work, as she has been moving between cultures her entire life.
Having grown up in both France and the United States, Alfandari was exposed to differing perspectives from an early age, and throughout her career, she has demonstrated an impressive commitment to recognizing and discussing multiple viewpoints.
Alfandari joined Dalton during the incredibly turbulent year of 2020.
Prior to this position, Alfandari co-founded Longchamp Asset Management, where she was Managing Director, Head of Non-Investments, and was also responsible for marketing and asset raising. She led the company to break even in just eleven months and created numerous jobs.
As she mentions in the interview, Alfandari also worked with Morgan Stanley, where she was Head of Marketing and grew a regulated platform to reach a total of 12 HF (close to 700M USD upon leaving for her next endeavor).
Below, you’ll find Alfandari’s responses regarding multiple perspectives in finance and how she manages to lead teams to further success.
Is it true you grew up in the United States? Was this an exciting time for you?
Yes, although I was a child when I was living in New York. I don’t think I truly realized how exciting an opportunity I was given until I was older and back in France.
Do you think it was beneficial to your career to get early exposure to another culture?
Yes, tremendously. To start with, it has always been rather easy for me to connect with people, no matter where they came from. Having been brought up in a fairly international environment, I quickly learned to appreciate people’s differences and perspectives. In the workplace, aside from having no language barrier, I think that my ability to navigate different cultures has helped me understand how to gather people and encourage cooperation across the same project.
Have you gained valuable insights from every place that you’ve lived so far?
Definitely, although the places where I have lived are probably some of the more international cities, especially today. I genuinely look to learn from wherever I live. It has been helpful in developing my people and soft skills and therefore managing larger groups and projects.
Finance is inherently multicultural and international. Is this a principle you’ve integrated into your work?
Absolutely. Looking back, I think the red thread in the building of my career has been my thirst for exposure to a blend of multiple perspectives and backgrounds. I started working in the derivatives space for a French bank and quickly moved to New York.
The trading floor predominantly consisted of French people, given our strong engineering skills which are usually required to trade these types of instruments. Moving back to Europe to join Morgan Stanley and subsequently creating my own asset management company was the first step in my transition to the “buy-side”. Both experiences were unique opportunities to broaden my network as we developed relationships with US-based investment advisors and raised assets across some of Europe’s most sophisticated institutional clients.
My childhood, combined with the past 10 years, has certainly helped my transition to the West Coast where I started my CEO role with Dalton Investments, a global investment management firm with unique expertise in the Japanese, Asian, and, more generally, Global Emerging Markets.
Do you think that your specific upbringing and training have given you a distinct perspective on finance today?
Yes, all the more since my father was a finance professional with a career built on sales and trading of global equities. I remember visiting some of the trading rooms where he worked when I was a child and thinking to myself that there was a very special energy that I wanted to be part of. I never really had to think about what I wanted to do, it was so obvious from my very early days that I would end up working in this type of environment.
Do you think diversity will continue to play a vital role in the world of finance?
As mentioned before, I think that adding more women and, overall, more diverse backgrounds to the table is very beneficial, whether it be in finance or any other industry.
How often do you look to other people, or other perspectives, for insights that may influence your professional decisions?
Often! I have been lucky to have amazing mentors throughout my career and have learned immensely from them. In my CEO position, I always seek to listen to my teams and understand their perspective before we can settle on a direction. I also value my peers and clients. I am convinced that no one really owns the truth and that there are different ways of reaching an objective. I generally look to create consensus, although I do not shy away from my own convictions and believe I know how to voice them in a respectful yet incisive way.