Olivier Martinez (MS, 1996): the journey of a financial advisor in North America

02 October 2022 Interview

Montreal, London, Brussels, Luxembourg, Seattle… For some 20 years now, Olivier has moved from country to country for his work as an independent financial consultant. Now a wealth management advisor for a prominent American bank, this SKEMA Business School alumnus shares his rich journey in finance.


Can you tell us about your educational background? Why did you choose to study at SKEMA Business School?


After a year doing a preparatory course for business school, I completed a two-year undergraduate degree (DEUG MASS) in maths and computer science, then a Master of Business Informatics (MIAGE) at Université Paris XII. 


I was already very interested in finance and I felt that to work in this sector it was essential to acquire business informatics skills first.


While studying for my master’s I did several internships in finance at SICOVAM (now Euroclear France), a clearing house responsible for the recognition of transactions between banks and brokerage firms. At the time, SICOVAM was one of the partners of SKEMA’s Master of Finance and several SICOVAM employees had graduated from the programme and also taught within it


I chose SKEMA Business School not just for its good integration with the finance world, but also because it was one of the first schools in France to have a trading room set up on its premises. It was an incredible programme, with learning supported by experts from the Paris finance world.

Tell us about your career progression after SKEMA Business School? 


After SKEMA, a job opportunity arrived at the school and the head of the master’s programme advised me to apply.  That is how I got the chance to start working in the trading room at Caisse Centrale des Banques Populaires. I was in charge of presenting the financial risks and results to the head of the trading room each day.


Since I’d always dreamed of living overseas and had been drawn to North America from a very young age, after two years I decided to move to Canada.


Once in Canada, I took the time to improve my English and obtain the licences I needed to work as a financial advisor. I learned about asset management and began to grow a local client base for the first time


After the 2001 crisis, which was a huge shock to everyone in finance, I returned to Europe to do an MA (French DEA) in International Finance and Economics at Sciences Po Paris. I then decided to offer my services as an independent consultant for ten years, in trading rooms across Europe (Paris, London, Luxembourg, Brussels, etc.).


As a consultant, I was able to choose varied and innovative projects in trading rooms. Because I had a passion for investments, I was often able to choose longer-term contracts in asset management, for companies like Axa Investment Management, Société Générale Asset Management, and for hedge fund managers… I was often called on to manage any conflicts or friction that arose between the different desks or the different trading room departments (front, middle, back office, auditing and accounting).


In late 2010 I arrived in Seattle, in the United States, to join my American partner.  


Despite my experience as a Canadian financial advisor, it wasn’t easy to find a company to sponsor me so that I could obtain American licences to work as a financial advisor in the US.


In the end, I found an American insurance company and worked there for six months. I had to obtain a battery of insurance licences (house, car, life insurance, annuity, etc.) and I was also able to obtain my first American financial advisor licence. Before that, I didn’t know anything about insurance and it was a completely different experience from what I’d been doing previously!


The following year, the investment firm Waddell & Reed offered me the opportunity to join them as an independent financial advisor. My insurance experience served me well there, because in the USA insurance is a considerable part of the financial planning I offer my clients.


What does your current work involve? 


I work as a Wealth Management Advisor / Senior Portfolio Advisor at Merrill Lynch. I’ve now had my own private wealth management clientele for eight years and in the past three years I’m proud to have taken them with me to one of the best investment firms in the US: Merrill Lynch.


This is a step up from my financial advisor role at Waddell & Reed, because here I handle my clients’ assets but also their liabilities. So I manage their investments (in stocks, bonds, annuities, permanent life insurance) and also offer them debt management solutions (credit, loans, mortgages, etc.).


I work with my clients to minimise their risks, grow their savings, plan their retirement, and secure their children’s future... To do this, I assist my clients with their personal and professional dealings with accounts and notaries, for example.  


I get great satisfaction from seeing the constant improvement in the financial situation of the clients I’ve been working with for many years! 


Are you involved with SKEMA Business School in some way? 


Yes, I’m a board member for SKEMA Business School’s American foundation, which I co-founded three years ago. It was very important to set up this foundation to support the school’s development in the United States and make donations to fund research, the creation of certain programmes, and to help the students. It’s also a way to connect SKEMA’s alumni who are based in the US.


For several years now I have organised annual dinners with SKEMA’s alumni in the US. In fact, I always invite students who are doing an exchange on the US campus to participate; this gives us an opportunity to chat with them and they tell us how the school is evolving!  


How did your move to the US go? Was it easy to adapt to life over there?


I really enjoy meeting people and discovering new cultures. I see myself as a bit of a chameleon that takes on the colours of wherever he is! So I try not to compare the country I’m in to the one I come from or to other places I’ve lived. Every destination is unique; each has pros and cons!


I’m very happy here. Seattle is a city that is bursting with energy and changing at breakneck speed! The presence of giants like Amazon and Microsoft is prompting other groups like Google, Facebook and Twitter to set up here.


Over the last five years, Seattle has been the fastest-growing city in the country! There are constantly new buildings sprouting up; neighbourhoods that were once industrial are now being transformed into business districts... It really is an ideal place to work as a wealth manager.


Contact: Olivier Martinez, Financial Advisor, Assistant Vice President - Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

Interview by for SKEMA Alumni