Interview of Christophe Pothier from Carmin Finance / ICFG France
The Philosopher and the Academic; that is undoubtedly who Christophe Pothier is and what underlines his approach to the many areas which fill his life, including a successful career in business and M&A.
Growing up in Lyon in France, between the Mediterranean Sea and the French Alps, Christophe was able to indulge in his love of the outdoors, enjoying the peace and beauty of the clear, summer mountains.
Intellectual stimulation drives Christophe. Not only is he a natural philosopher and thinker, he is also a keen astronomer. These two great passions would have been the perfect career choice for Christophe, but instead he fell into the world of business and M&A, as he puts it “by pure mistake”.
The Frenchman holds firm to the belief that one remains the same person inside, with the same values and passions, regardless of the chosen career. Working closely with him, Christophe brings an unmistakable thoughtfulness and contemplation to his business life.
Christophe graduated from high school and a preparatory business school in Lyon before heading to Paris, where he attended the ESSEC business school for 3 years, gaining an MBA.
Instead of carrying out his military service, Christophe opted to work abroad, so Paris made way for Peru in South America in the early 1980’s.
Christophe worked for 2 years at the French Chamber of Commerce where he was able to perfect his already comprehensive knowledge of the Spanish language to the fluency he speaks it today. He is also fluent in English and speaks some Italian and Portuguese.
During his spell in Peru, Christophe found time to return to France to get married. He met his wife at business school in Paris, and together they enjoy the happy company of their four children. They retuned to Peru after the wedding where Christophe continued his work at the French Chamber of Commerce. The country was going through a tough period at the time with terrorism and civil unrest which made it hard to conduct business.
In 1985 Christophe left Peru to return to France where he joined American consultancy firm, Boston Consulting Group which specialized in strategic consultancy, based in Paris. After 2 years Christophe left the consultancy firm to join one of their clients, Chargeurs Group, a diversified listed group active in various sectors ranging from aviation, to shipping, textiles, movie theatres and many more.
During 22 years with this Group, Christophe had exposure to a wide range of sectors and roles, including Marketing Director of a Commodities division, heading up a wool trading and processing operation in Spain and subsequently in China, overseeing both the M&A and Finance functions and finally ending his time here as the CFO for the Group.
His thirst for knowledge was satisfied by the diversity and pace the Group operated at, allowing Christophe to experience firsthand different industries in international markets through a variety of roles.
Chargeurs Group was an innovative and groundbreaking environment to be a part of, closing some landmark transactions towards the end of the 90’s in Securitization in France. International opportunities for Christophe were abundant, allowing him the chance to work in China, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Germany and the USA to name a few. Christophe found most job satisfaction from the operational roles he undertook on an international level, working on the ground with buyers, sellers, clients and staff. He is also openly passionate about the role he played in structuring inventive financing deals at Chargeurs Group, holding pioneering discussions and negotiations with banks, investors and lawyers. You get a real sense of the excitement and enthusiasm that being a part of something new and original held for him.Christophe left the Group in 2011, having steered the business through a financial restructuring as CFO following the 2008 crisis. The time was ripe for a new challenge. So, seizing the opportunity in front of him to create a business concept personal to his own passions and beliefs, Christophe initially spent a year working alone before eventually teaming up with 2 other business acquaintances in 2012. M&A boutique Carmin Finance was born.All founding Partners of Carmin Finance chose to capitalise on their own strengths and areas of expertise, fulfilling the philosophy of only being connected to their individual reality. Holistically the business has grown into a company where each Partner has focused on their chosen sector and area of specialism, building meaningful and long-term relationships with an intimate set of loyal clients.
The early challenges of working together as a newly formed business partnership did not inhibit the organic growth of Carmin to what it is today – an untypical M&A firm who prefers to work alongside their clients as a long-term financial partner. At its inception, the way of thinking behind the spirit of Carmin was to exclusively have Partners with a long corporate life, who had the right all-round experience to work alongside both the management team and the owners of a company, providing a more global view than a pure M&A partner could.2020 for Paris based Carmin sees a new Partner joining the business, 8 years after its inception.
The next natural step for them to take in terms of growing in a new direction with a focus on international markets and more innovation. And when Christophe is not working hard for Carmin in Paris, where would we find him? Now based in Lille in the family home where his children grew up, he still misses the sun and the mountains of his childhood Lyon. This is happily compensated by the house Christophe owns in the French Alps. Here he can relax in the peaceful space of the mountains, walk in the fresh air and take time to gaze at the billions of stars visible in the clear mountain sky.He loves spending time with his family, and specifically in the mountains where he climbs, cycles and runs as well as indulges in his hobby of astronomy. He is a great reader, which is not surprising considering his passion for philosophy and thinking. Christophe is puzzled by the world around him, and of his own place in it, as well as committed to changing and growing as an individual and a businessman.
He has been part of a philosophy group for a number of years, and when asked what the main topics are, he reveals that some discussions have been going on for over 30 years! The group meets regularly and is comprised of close friends who, like Christophe, enjoy delving into deep deliberations over various subject matters. Being aware of our limits and learning to live with the most amount of uncertainty are the main conclusions drawn to date. Profound and topical conclusions, considering the challenges 2020 has presented to the world so far.