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Interview

Xavier Latcher (SKEMA 2019), Business Analyst at Pernod Ricard in London

24 December 2020

A graduate of the SKEMA Class of 2019, Xavier Latcher now lives in London and works for Pernod Ricard. He tells us about living and working abroad.


Can you briefly tell us what you’ve been up to since graduating from SKEMA?

At 24, having finished my MSc in International Strategy & Influence, I was looking to get some work experience overseas. I had wanted to work in the wine and spirits industry for a long time. So I pored over the VIE offers at Pernod Ricard and found a Business Analyst position. I was lucky enough to get the job. I left for London in August 2018 and that’s where I still am today. After a first year where I learned a lot in the EMEA Travel Retail division (EMEA stands for Europe Middle East Africa), I was offered a permanent contract in the same team.

 

Can you describe your education at SKEMA for us? What did you study?

I joined SKEMA for a Master 1 in the Grande Ecole programme (PGE) in 2015. Before arriving in Lille, I spent an undergraduate year in Groningen (Netherlands), where I obtained a DUETI (university diploma in international technological studies) in partnership with the Paris University of Technology (IUT de Paris - formerly Paris Descartes), following my DUT GEA, a two-year degree course focused on business administration, at Paris V.

After successfully completing my first PGE semester, I decided to stay in Lille for a second semester to study International Financial Analysis.

My gap year was pivotal to the next stage of my journey. I got to intern as a Business Analyst, first at Galderma International (a Nestlé subsidiary), and then at Chanel. These two experiences taught me more about the retail industry, and especially about the role of Business Analyst, which is still little-known in some companies and is midway between finance and operations.

After finishing those two very enriching years, I decided to specialise in International Strategy & Influence (IS&I) in Paris. This was a chance for me to learn more about strategy, discover the business intelligence that guides all modern-day organisations, and understand the extent to which any information can become crucial if it is analysed, matched and relayed effectively. So it was logical for me to try to put my interest in analytics and strategy to use in an industry I was passionate about: wine & spirits.

 

These days, you work at Pernod Ricard in London. What does your job entail? What does a typical work day look like?

I have been working within the EMEA Travel Retail Finance, Planning & Analysis (FP&A) team of about 12 people for over two years now. As a Business Analyst, my duties are varied and I tend to work on cross-functional analyses (not just financial) from which operational recommendations can be derived.

The role of a Business Analyst is to collect information from different sources, analyse it, and create decision support tools. Although I report to Finance, I work very closely with the sales and marketing departments. And actually, within the FP&A department, our team of four people is called “Commercial Finance”.

In more concrete terms, my work can involve working on the performance and analysis of our promotions, calculating the financial impact of the annual negotiations with our distributors, working on the elaboration of risk/opportunity scenarios, on producing results reports for top management, on developing tools and models to help the sales and marketing teams to make decisions that will take them in the right direction... What makes this job so interesting is precisely that huge variety of tasks we are assigned, because we get to step out of our 100% finance-focused role to discover other occupations and perspectives within the same company!

 

Which skills learned at SKEMA have proven useful in your career?

While the PGE’s core curriculum helped me to consolidate what I had learned in my undergraduate studies, particularly the International Business part, the semester on International Financial Analysis allowed me to develop my financial rigour and my penchant for figures, both of which are very useful to me now in my job, particularly when I need to identify the most relevant data in a large source of information. Then it was the MSc IS&I that enabled me to thrive in the field of business intelligence. In that programme I gained a solid grasp of strategic management, particularly on an international level, and this is very useful to me today in a context where the competition is fierce. And finally, at SKEMA I learned the importance of working as a team and of handling different personalities in a group in order to move forward and deliver the expected results; this is very similar to what we are exposed to in the corporate world now.

 

How long have you been living overseas and what made you choose the United Kingdom?

I left for London right after finishing my Master 2 in 2018, so it has now been over two years. I’d always been drawn to this city because of its international dimension, and despite the current health crisis and the looming Brexit, I have no doubt that London will remain London! Each part of the city has its own identity, but everywhere is dynamic and lively. It is also an incredibly cosmopolitan capital where (almost) all nationalities are represented, whether through cuisine, culture, or in entire neighbourhoods... Hearing different languages and accents everywhere when you are out and about contributes to this feeling of openness. And finally, it is quite easy to get a plane or the Eurostar back to France. So you get the feeling of living in a very different country, but it is actually not that far from home! 

 

What do you remember most about your years at SKEMA?

My two years at SKEMA taught me a lot, from an academic point of view first of all, thanks to the diversity of the programmes on offer and the different campuses where they are delivered. But also from a personal point of view, because over those two years between Lille and Paris I got to meet some great people that I am very happy to still have in my circle of friends to this day.

 

What advice would you give young graduates starting their working life and wanting to live abroad?

Go for it!

Going off to live overseas, whether it’s to study or work, is obviously a personal choice and it should only be motivated by very personal reasons. But the way I see it is that today more than ever we really need to try to open ourselves up to other ways of life, other languages, other cultures that are different to our own... Which is actually what SKEMA offers with its many campuses overseas.

I am lucky to live and work in a highly international environment and this multiculturalism is a constant source of enrichment for me. It allows me to work on my open-mindedness, on the way I react when I am outside my comfort zone, and on my adaptability. These are all assets that are important to companies these days!

A VIE contract provides a perfect opportunity to experience life and work abroad, and in general it also gives you a foot in the door at the company, with the possibility of being offered a permanent contract later on.

 

Contact: Xavier Latcher, Business Analyst at Pernod Ricard 

 

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