Ariane de Rothschild, a free spirited, atypical and rebellious banker

Right from the start, her laughter fills the room as her blue eyes check you out. Ariane de Rothschild, a visionary and passionate banker, (president of the Executive Committee of the Edmond de Rothschild Group), welcomes you into her office, which looks just like her: bright, far from classic standards. A rather lively place, colourful, with symbols, paintings, sculptures, Amazonian feathers, antique necklaces, breathing her sensitivity, her passions, and sparking your curiosity. Face to face with Katya Pellegrino.
Ariane de Rothschild

Zoom on the past

Born in El Salvador, with a German father, executive in a multinational company, and a French mother, Ariane de Rothschild lived in Colombia, Bangladesh, and Belgian Congo until she was 18 years old. After studying in Paris and New York she decided to stay in the US and landed her first job as an analyst at the SG (Société Générale), to be followed by positions in major international banks and finally working for an American insurance company, AIG (1990). Passionate, combative, she loves challenges and sees failure as an opportunity to rebound. Her credo? "Solving problems" is what gets me going, she says! Entrepreneurial at heart, she has the courage to take risks which might involve overruling established codes. No wonder
she became the chairwoman of the Executive Committee of the Edmond de Rothschild Group since January 2015 and is the only woman in Geneva to run a private bank. Besides she is also Vice-President of the Edmond de Rothschild Heritage, which includes among others the Compagnie Vinicole with more than 500 hectares of vineyards in France, South Africa, Argentina, New Zealand and Spain, including Château Clarke, Château Laurets, Rupert & Rothschild, Flechas de Los Andes, Rimapere, and Macan. Finally, on December 15th 2017, she opened the Four Seasons Hotel Megève on the domaine du Mont d'Arbois, part of the Canadian Four Seasons brand. This hotel is composed of a set of luxury chalets featuring 41 rooms and 14 suites, reflecting the Art of Living and the preferences of Ariane de Rothschild, all orchestrated by Pierre - Yves Rochon.

Four Seasons Hôtel Megève

You have travelled the world with your family when you were a child, studied in Paris and obtained an MBA degree in NY and have now become a banker and president of the executive committee of the Edmond de Rothschild group as well as vice-president of the Edmond de Rothschild Heritage. What has sparked your interest in numbers and a financial career?

Ariane de Rothschild

Since my childhood, I have been immersed in the business world, by my father, who already started discussing the latest business news at the breakfast table. It fascinated me. Which undoubtedly explains my professional choices and my taste for business (smile). I grew up in countries that exposed me to the extreme poverty and suffering of certain populations, which made me aware, at a very young age, of my privileged situation.

What qualities do you need to preside the executive committee of the Rothschild Group?

Firstly, emotional qualities and it is on this level that artificial intelligence will never fully take over. I think that humans are at the centre, the undeniable entry point. Secondly, you need to be flexible, to be able to adapt to the company in a world that is constantly changing. And finally, being curious and open-minded is necessary to be able to understand the company and the challenges it might encounter.

Has working in a male-dominated environment been a challenge for you? How did you manage to impose your style in this traditionally masculine and regulated territory?

Ariane de Rothschild

For a woman to be respected in this complex bankers’ environment with all its codes and regulations, you indeed need to adapt. And even more so when adding ‘wife’ and ‘mother’ to your curriculum. But things have positively evolved. Furthermore, I’ve always had a clear strategy for the Edmond de Rothschild Group, with strong values and determination it helped me to be respected.

Art seems to be important in your life, is that correct?

Art is in the DNA of my family, we are collectors and I also contribute to this by enriching our XVIII century French paintings and furniture collection. But I also create my own collections with glasswork, modern art and modern Chinese art. With our foundations, we also organise programs to support artists.

If we look at your career, from numbers and the Art of Living, to the creation of the Four Seasons hotel Megève? What’s your motivation?

Four Seasons Hôtel Megève

For me it’s clear that a heritage needs to be further developed and enriched, otherwise it will stagnate and disappear. For the Edmond the Rothschild Group, business must be sustainable. As you know, we are philanthropists by tradition but since a couple of years very engaged philanthropists. Regarding the new Hotel Mont d’Arbois, there were several issues. First, I wanted to perpetuate the Mont d’Arbois. Ensure the constant quality of the offer, whatever season and allow the personnel to evolve. Then, I wanted to bring a new experience, give a new dimension to the stays of our customers in the mountains. With the Four Seasons Hotel, we’ve been careful to keep the typical Megève ambiance while bringing the Edmond de Rothschild Art of Living and the contemporary codes of the Four Seasons. The standards of hotel excellence should not be imposed at the expense of this Art of Living that we distil for so many years.

Julien Gatillon, 2 stars at Four Seasons Megève

The Art of Living holds a prominent place in your family. What are the values you defend and express in the Four Seasons Megève?

Art collection at Four Seasons Hôtel Megève

I wanted to enhance the aesthetic and multicultural experience, while giving an impression of simplicity. Which is always the most difficult to obtain but which symbolises true elegance. As such, Pierre-Yves Rochon, the interior design architect who deals a lot with the Four Seasons, fully understood the issues. Together we have defined three main lines of expression: art, gastronomy and well-being. At the Four Seasons Megève, objects have not been chosen solely on the criterion of intrinsic beauty but also for what they express about a country or culture. It’s was important for me to spark our customer’s curiosity, making them want to go further, beyond their stay in Megève.

Art Collection at Four Seasons Hôtel Megève

You’re vice-president of the Edmond de Rothschild Heritage which includes wines, a farm, nurseries and of course the hotel business with the Mont d’Arbois, the Four Seasons and the 8 restaurants including “Le 1920”, 2 stars in the Michelin Guide, golf and 2 spas. Do you have new projects and the desire to create a hotel under the Rothschild label?

It’s too early to answer this question. I’m indeed focused on the sustainability of the project, with a solid economic foundation. The most important thing for me today is to gather opinions and feelings of our customers to allow me to adjust my vision and envisage the future.

How do you see luxury evolve in 10 years?

For me, the most important thing about luxury is the ability to tell a unique and authentic story. This presupposes an irreproachable quality of products and services, as well as respect for people and products.

Do your four daughters follow in your footsteps?

For the moment, the most important thing is that they follow their own path, that they live their experiences to the full. They are in the middle of their studies: we will see in a few years …

The Compagnie Vinicole is located in the Bordeaux region, as well as in South Africa, Argentina, New Zealand and Spain: do you have plans to buy other vineyards in the New World or elsewhere?

Château des Laurets wines
Wineyards in New Zéland
Rimapere Rothschild Property

Over the next two years, we will consolidate existing vineyards and continue to optimise the quality of our wines: this involves working with renowned oenologists like Eric Boissenot and embracing new technical challenges.

You have acquired of which you were a majority shareholder. What is your vision and how should a magazine like this evolve?

We were minority shareholders until 2008. I like this innovative and qualitative digital platform. We currently have the majority but I want the independence of journalism, and it’s our responsibility to deliver quality information.

What is your definition of luxury?

Apparent simplicity. A simplicity made of ingenuity, thoughtful, which hides the complex and elaborate work that had to be done to achieve it.

What is ultimate luxury for you?

Being able to do what you love.

The luxury you can’t do without?

To build
Septembre 2019