Chairman, Lemantrust SA
Georges started his career as a civil engineer, after completing a series of courses in various industrial fields. He quickly realised that working in environments like coal mines wasn’t for him.
To get where he wanted to go he needed an MBA. “I applied to INSEAD and Stanford and was offered a place in both schools but didn’t know which one to choose. I decided to see an alumnus who lived close to my home and it was of course an INSEAD. I met with Yves Kempf (MBA’63), who told me that if I wanted to work in the US, I should go to Stanford, but if I wanted an international career, I had to choose INSEAD. I wanted to work internationally, so there was only one option – INSEAD”.
When he arrived at INSEAD, Georges was very impressed both by the hard work he had to put in, but also by the non-academic environment he was being taught in. At the time, lessons at INSEAD were still taught in Avon and in the Château de Fontainebleau. Georges recalls one episode at INSEAD that has remained with him and illustrates the true benefits of this mix. “My group leader was from the UK and had studied Classics at Oxford. I remember one day, we had a particularly difficult statistical problem and another member of my team, who had been to Ecole Polytechnique in France and was more prone to be able to solve this kind of problem, couldn’t. After some thinking, Chris, my team leader, solved it very easily. This showed me that you need a mix of problem solvers in your team and perhaps more importantly that it doesn’t matter where you went to school or what you studied.”
Another episode during his MBA also showed Georges the true value of INSEAD. “A guest speaker came to INSEAD to speak to us while I was there – a dynamic young French Finance Minister called Valery Giscard d’Estaing. His speech was so fantastic that everyone in the auditorium stood up and gave him a standing ovation. I knew at that very moment that I was at a very special school which had the incredible ability to attract such impressive speakers. “
Georges graduated from INSEAD and immediately joined a US industrial group based in Paris where he was promoted very quickly. “I would say that I was promoted by accident. My first boss retired, after which my new boss was suddenly taken seriously ill. I was the only one who could speak English aside from the top US manager. So I found myself managing 1,500 people at the age of just 27.” But the more Georges looked at his US boss who was tired from travelling and struggling to make a good living, the more Georges knew he wanted to do something else. So he left and went to Wall Street. He had no job when arriving but after just two weeks, he found a job in an Asset Management House.
At that time, in the 1970’s, there were very few Asset Management companies in Europe and with the entrepreneurial courage and strength he gained from INSEAD, Georges saw the potential of being a “forerunner”. Georges moved quickly back and decided to set up his own company in Switzerland. But he needed a business partner and who better than the alumnus who had advised him to go to INSEAD all those years before – Yves Kempf. Georges and Yves have been business partners ever since (for more than 40 years).
Georges and Yves sold their company in 2000 but as Georges says “Retirement is for people with hobbies and my hobby was my work, so Yves and I set up a family business.” Lemantrust, a trust company established in 1994, was bought and reshaped as a family office. “Before setting up our new venture we went back over our last 30 years in business and analysed everything we should have done differently or that didn’t work and decided that the ratio between added value and cost was not adequate. We transformed Lemantrust in to a company that would try to deliver high value for low cost.”
Lemantrust started out as a family office serving just the two founding families but has since grown serving a selected number of very wealthy families with a team of 10 professionals including both Georges’ daughter and youngest son. “I am very proud that I have always managed to balance my family life and my business life and that more importantly, each one still remain as important as the other.”
Georges has three ambitions for the future: “To serve families, as long as physically and intellectually possible; to transfer a successful company to my new team including my two children so they can run it fort the next 40 years, and to cultivate the relationship I have with my friends of many years.”
Georges has served on the INSEAD board since 1994 until January of this year and has been Chairman of the endowment management committee since 1996 where he remains as an outside member.
When asked how he would like to be remembered, Georges replied “as someone you could always trust.”