tv Bloomberg Businessweek Debrief A Conversation With Justin Trudeau Bloomberg December 14, 2018 6:00pm-6:31pm EST
david: now when you are the head of the imf, do people recognize you? christine: it is a lot of ego food, which i take and store for the hard days. david: how did you get to be the head of the entire firm? christine: it is often in those situations that a woman appears. david: so with synchronized swimming, you became a member of the national team of france. christine: yes, but i did european championship and many international events.
david: did you experience a lot of discrimination? christine: when i interviewed with law firms, where i was told back in those days that i would never make partnership because i was a woman. >> would you fix your tie please? david: well, people wouldn't recognize me if my tie was fixed, but ok. just leave it this way? all right. david: i don't consider myself a journalist. and nobody else would consider myself a journalist. i began to take on the life of being an interviewer even though i have a day job of running a private equity firm. how do you define leadership? what is it that makes somebody tick? many people don't know what the imf actually is. christine: the international monetary fund was set up 75 years ago by 44 men who decided that -- david: no women? christine: there was no woman in those days. so 44 men in 1944 on the eve of the end of the second world war with a view to avoiding major economic crisis, major instability in the world, which in their view led to the war. so that is the intention. david: where do you get your money?
christine: from all the membership. every member, 189 members, every member contributes to the financing of this common pot. david: it seems to be an informal understanding that the world bank would be headed by an american and the imf by a european. that has been the case ever since. am i correct? christine: i want to believe it will be headed by someone who has the competence to do the job. it is my observation it has been an american at the world bank. i think that is how they cut those arrangements in the early days at a time when the world looked a lot different. david: well, the world looks different today. for example, asia is much more significant, so do the people from china and japan say, what about us? christine: the emerging market economies are very interested in the institution, and china is certainly extremely interested as well. china has a representative on my management team. there is a managing director, that is how i am called, md,, and there is the first deputy managing director who is an american, and i have three deputy managing directors.
one is chinese, one is brazilian and one is japanese. so there is a lot of diversity on the management team. david: let's go back to how you actually came to this position. you grew up in france, i assume. christine: yes. david: and what did you -- what did your parents do? were they educators? were they in government? christine: they were both professors. my father was professor of english literature at university. my mother was teaching french grammar, latin, and ancient greek. so that is the universe that populated my childhood. a lot of literature. david: so when you are growing up with parents like that, i guess you are really good at languages? they make sure you know all those languages? christine: no, i was hopeless. i was really bad, actually. david: i doubt that. i assume you were a very good student. you were also interested in synchronized swimming at that time?
can you explain what synchronized swimming really is and how you came to be on the national team of france? christine: the athletic activities had to do with the riots that we had in france in 1968. you know, students were taking to the streets. my parents were terrified that i would do that too. so they allowed me to go to the swimming pool of the club so i could skip school and spend all my time by the pool. and i enjoyed swimming at the time. and gradually you know, one day after the other, i became really interested in synchronized swimming, which brought together girls, so it is teamwork, that required music and a liking of music, and i had always liked music, and discipline and methods. so i joined the team at the time. david: so with synchronized swimming, you became a member of the national team of france. were you on the olympic team as well? christine: no, because it wasn't an olympic sport at that time. david: i see. christine: but i did european championship and many international events.
david: do you still do swimming? not synchronized, but do you swim a lot? christine: yes, including this morning. david: wow, how do you have time for that? christine: i get up at 5:00. david: oh, that probably helps. [christine laughs] christine: the pool doesn't open until 6:00, so i have to do a bit of gym before that. david: so let me go back. what did you study in college? christine: i had a very classic education. i studied, you know, the basic subjects, as i suppose everybody studies, which is french, math, english, geography, history, chemistry, and physics. plus some sports, which were not so important in those days in france. david: but very often, leaders in france go to certain schools. and they go to these great, prestigious schools. did you go to one of those schools? christine: no, i failed miserably. david: because? christine: well, because the first time, i was in love with somebody who was going to become my husband, and i did not study very hard. and the second year, i did study really hard with a group of others who studied equally hard. and i totally missed the date of
registration to actually take the various exams. david: so you became a lawyer though. and what propelled you to want to become a lawyer? christine: the death penalty. i wanted to participate in abolishing the death penalty. when i started law school, the death penalty was one of the tools of criminal law. and for personal, religious, and other reasons, i wanted to participate in eradicating this penalty in the legal arsenal of france. david: and well -- christine: and unfortunately, when i finished my law school, and when i graduated and could have joined that group, the death penalty had been abolished. david: all right, but you nonetheless stayed as a lawyer. christine: yes. david: and did you practice in france? christine: yes, i practiced in france for a few years. and i was doing, like so many young lawyers in those days, you had to do tax, you had to do
corporate, you had to do antitrust, you had to do labor. now luckily, the french president to be elected was mitterrand, a socialist. and that government came out with lots of very, very hard labor law rules to benefit the unions, and the workers, and all of that. baker mckenzie, most of our clients who are international corporates, are american companies that had invested in france. and i was really busy. david: were there many women lawyers in france in those days? christine: no. no, no, no, no. one of the reasons actually i joined baker mckenzie was because the managing partner of the paris office was a woman. and she was then a role model for me. david: now, for those who don't know, baker mckenzie was for many years one of the largest law firms in the world. christine: it was the largest, yes. christine: and it was based in chicago. so at some point, how did you
get to be the head of the entire firm? you are a woman, it is a male firm more or less. you are from france. it is a chicago-based american firm. so how did you get elected to be the managing director of the entire firm and move to chicago? christine: again, i would love to think that it is pure merits and quality of the work i was doing. i think it's -- you know, it's interesting, actually. so i became managing partner of the paris office. and gradually i was doing a decent job. i was picked up by the nominating committee, who selected me to join the executive committee. and i was the first woman to be on that executive committee. and then i went back to practice, happily, but they came back to get me. by that time, it was a mess. the i.t. budget was completely out of, out of order. the knowledge management system was a complete disaster. and management was not really trusted.
so the nominating committee had a tough time selecting somebody. and it's often in those situations that a woman arises. david: ok. christine: so i was selected as chairman of the firm. david: imf managing director position opens up. did you really want the job? christine: so many things in my life happened sort of out of the right timing, the right people, and my sense of, all right, let's try it, let's do it. ♪
david: ok, so you are the head of baker mckenzie. you are living in chicago. was it like a foreign situation? because you were really from france. christine: chicago was a fantastic city. i have lots of friends and still have many of them today. i truly enjoyed my six years in chicago. david: ok. all right. so you were doing that, and all of a sudden nicolas sarkozy gets elected president of france.
did you know him? christine: it was the year -- it was two years before that. it was, chirac was still the president, and the prime minister was in charge. david: ok. christine: and he is the one who called me. david: he called you to be minister of trade? christine: yeah. david: so he called you to be minister of trade, and you went back and served as minister of trade for a couple of years. christine: yeah. david: and how did you like the job? christine: i loved it. i really loved it. it was a massive change in my life, geographically, socially, financially, as well. david: i assume the income was not the same as you had before? christine: it was like divided by 10, that's what it was. but i loved it because -- i think it was the job i most enjoyed in government, actually, because i was selling france around the world. and i think president chirac, he knew that i was this strange animal coming out of private sector and private life and corporate life. but i think he had a lot of respect for me, and i had a huge respect for him.
david: then sarkozy does get elected president of france. christine: and he asked me to be minister of agriculture, which i had no clue about. but i was prepared to learn. david: but you did that for just a few months. christine: i did that for two months because then he asked me to become minister of finance. i think he asked me to become minister of agriculture because he knew that it was going to be a hot wto potato, and he wanted somebody who was acquainted with difficult international issues. david: you are promoted after two months. or you did such a bad job that after two months, they said give her another job. one of those two. probably you did such a good job they gave you that -- christine: it was a reshuffling caused by elections. david: were you the first woman to be a finance minister of a major company in western europe? christine: yes. yes. i was the first finance minister of a g7 country and of many countries, actually. david: so, you were a lawyer by training. and all of a sudden, you are in charge of the finances for france.
did you have any background? are you worried about not having that kind of background? or did your job before as minister of trade help you? christine: i think the whole background helped. but i recognized right from the get-go i was going to have to learn enormously and learn from the team, from the treasury department. i had to work very hard. david: ok, so you did a good job there by all accounts. and then an imf managing director position opens up. did you really want the job, or did you have to be persuaded to move back to the united states? christine: it is, you know, so many things in my life happened out of, out of the right timing, the right people, and my sense of "all right, let's try it, let's do it." you know, when i returned back to france as a minister, i had not thought for a second about my pension, my compensation, the reporting lines, how it would work out. i just wanted to do it. i just wanted to help the country. as finance minister, i don't think i anticipated at all that two months into the job, the beginning of the financial crisis would loom as a result of
the closure of the two bnp accounts. but you just roll your sleeves and work, and team up with people who know what they are doing and have a good moral compass. i think it is a combination of all that. david: you have done a very good job at the imf by all accounts. one of the things you have to worry about is not just countries that are not doing that well and need some money, but the economy of the entire
because your job is to help promote stability, development, and also employment. how do you think we are better prepared around the world for another financial collapse of the type we had 10 years ago? christine: no, i think we are better prepared. we are better prepared because at least in certain areas, we have learned the lessons. when you look at the banking system, when you look at the ring of supervisors, when you look at the set of regulations that apply, i think in that particular sector, we are much better prepared. you know, the banks around the world, almost solid capital ratios, liquidity ratios, leverage. and on all those fronts i think we have made significant progress. there are areas, though, because risks tend to sort of travel to the fringe. and if you look at other areas, you know, asset management, pension funds, fintech developments, those are areas where i am not sure that we have the same, the same added security that we have developed in relation to the banking sector. now, there are other numbers that are much more worrying. when you look at debt, the weight of debt on corporate sovereign and household has gone up by virtue of the stimulus and the indebtedness that had to
develop as response to the crisis. david: now when the euro was created, it was thought by some at the time that it might become a reserve currency. why do you think it really has not? christine: i think because the job is highly unfinished. it is very advanced, and i think the great financial crisis has moved the euro and its institutions in the direction of consolidating. you know, with a stronger backstop, with a stronger set of institutions, and with more unity amongst the 19 members of the euro area. but the job is not finished yet. the banking union is not yet completed. and there is still too much uncertainty in the fiscal policies that should be common to all, or at least should share the same objective. david: now let's talk about brexit for a moment. when do you think that will be resolved? christine: i think we will know on march the 30th, 2019. because that's the cutoff date when either there is a brutal exit, which would be extremely
costly and detrimental to both the u.k. particularly and the eu to a lesser degree, or there is an arrangement that deals with the period of transition into this new regime, which can be a variation of free trade agreement between the u.k. and european union, which can go from the norwegian model, to the swiss model, to the canadian model, and which will have to respect one thing which is a big red line for many, and that is the average border, which was agreed in the good friday agreement. david: if great britain does get out of the eu, do you think it deteriorate the european economy in any significant way? christine: i think it will be negative in all cases. the variability of net will depend on the brutality of the exit. the more brutal, the more negativities. and i think it will be in any circumstances, more severe for the u.k. than it will be for the rest of the european union. and within the european union, you have a few countries that would be more exposed than others, those that deal frequently with the u.k., such
as ireland, probably belgium, probably the netherlands. david: so have you noticed that when there is a very difficult problem, the men don't want to do it, so they give it to a woman to do? christine: you said it, not me. david: the prime minister of great britain is a woman, and none of the men seemed to want to take that job, because they know it is very difficult, no no-win situation. christine: no, they are probably prepared to come and take the job afterwards. david: yeah, probably the case. now, when you are the head of the imf, do people come up for selfies, do they bother you? do people recognize you? christine: they recognize me, they ask for selfies, and it is very nice. and it is a lot of ego food, which i take and store for the hard days. ♪
david: ok, let's talk about another part of the world, china. do you worry about chinese growth going down? do you have worries about chinese debt or not? christine: chinese growth has gone down regularly for the last 10 years or so. remember the days when it was at double-digit? it has gradually come down. and every time it was moving from a 10 to a nine to an eight to a seven, there was always trepidation. i heard so many times that china was going to collapse. it hasn't collapsed. it has certainly held a great deal of the global world economy at the time of the financial crisis. because it was certainly one of the first, if not the first, country to come out with a huge package of stimulus in order to kickstart the economy. so yes, it is heavily indebted, yes, they are trying to rein that in. but at the same time, it is a country that has a huge population, which has massive
transition issues to deal with, and where the necessary reduction of growth that we are seeing by virtue of the size of this economy now has to be monitored, has to be under control in order to tame any risk of conflict. that is how i see it. david: and what about the tariffs? president trump has been talking about imposing tariffs, and has imposed tariffs in china and in other parts of the world. do you think that is a plus for the global economy, or you think it is not? christine: i think that tariffs are not a good idea in general. if they impact trade to the point that trade no longer plays the key role as an engine for growth, what do we see in the last 30 years? we see trade growing faster than growth. so it has been a driving engine for growth. we see lots of people taken out of poverty.
we see the cost of living in advanced economies, including in the united states, lower by virtue of cheaper refrigerators, cheaper television sets, cheaper telephones and so on and so forth because they were made in countries where costs are much lower. so there have been huge benefits. not only benefits, but there have been huge benefits. and i don't think we can dispense of those benefits going forward. so my take on that is fix it, don't break it. because trade needs fixing. there is no question about it. i think that president trump has put the finger right where it hurts. there are issues about the trade rules and organizations that need to be addressed and dealt with. david: let me ask you this. you have spoken about the fact that women should be in corporate boards more than they have been. corporate boardrooms and ceo's, and do you think you have made a lot of progress? and why do you think women should be more represented in these positions?
christine: i think there is a very clear economic case now that more women on the board, more women on the executive committees and management teams, actually generate better returns, better results, and better profits. so even if you have a very, very cold heart, no moral imperatives and no sympathy for women and for the principle of inclusion, even if you were that person, you have to consider including women and bringing them to the table and to all the tables. have we made progress? some, yes. and when i look at numbers, it tells me that we have made progress altogether. do we still have a long way to go? yes, as well. david: now did you experience a lot of discrimination because you were a woman as you were rising up in your career? and do you feel you are still experiencing it today? christine: i did experience discrimination.
yeah, from, from the, you know, the first day when i interviewed with law firms, where i was told back in those days that i would never make partnership because i was a woman. or when i was regarded by japanese clients for instance in those days as a, as a woman who can serve coffee when i was actually a practicing attorney drafting contracts and negotiating for them. and there are still instances when, you know, i walk into a room full of men, and i can just tell that there is this little smile about their face which is either "here she goes again, she is going to talk about women" or "wonder what she has to say." it is less so the case, sure, but when you are in a minority, that is what you experiment. david: what is the greatest pleasure being the head of the imf? christine: working with the teams. david: and what is the worst
part of it? christine: having to sit through meetings which endlessly repeat the same things and end up nowhere. david: ok, well, at least you didn't say interviews that ask the same questions. you were nice enough not to say that, because i am sure you have been asked these questions before. but just before we wrap up, you have said you are going to finish your term here. when you do finish, you will still be relatively young, by most standards. so have you thought what you may do when you finish your term? christine: no. i will come and talk to you, david. david: ok. christine: you will give me some good advice. david: now, when you are the head of the imf and go to have lunch or breakfast in a restaurant in washington or other famous cities, do people ask for selfies, do they bother you, or you can go where you want to go without being bothered? christine: no. no. i'm -- david: people recognize you? christine: they recognize me. they ask for selfies. they are very -- most of the time, they are very, very nice and flattering and complimenting, and it is very nice.
and it is a lot of ego food, which i take and store for the hard days. david: any regrets about your career? christine: no, no regrets. like piaf would say. david: ok. well, thank you very much for taking the time with us. and thank you for the great job you are doing at the imf. christine: thank you, david. ♪