Even more evident than gender disparity in the general business environment, there are still few women making their way in M&A today. Leaders League chose women leaders in M&A, starting with Anne-Sophie Poirier, Head of Legal M&A for the French software giant, Atos. She described her role and characteristics of mergers and acquisitions in a software company. A woman’s perspective.
Leaders League. Could you describe your role at Atos?
Anne-Sophie Poirier. I lead a 3-person M&A team within the Legal Compliance & Contract Management department. We cover M&A deals worldwide. We support the group’s M&A strategy in line with the top management’s expectations. The legal and financial aspects are closely integrated at Atos: we work jointly with Alexandre Menais, Group Head of M&A and member of the executive committee.
Within the company I have three different roles. First, I am a member of the Legal Executive Leadership Team, where we define the department’s strategy and how to better serve the management and the operations expectations. Second, I focus on the development and management of my team, where excellence and teamwork is key and strategic to enable individuals to get recognition from our “internal client” and balanced life notwithstanding the time constraints and the highly demanding requirements specific to M&A. Finally, I am an M&A expert with 18 years of practice: I started my career in law firms before I joined Atos 3.5 years ago.
Leaders League. Women in M&A: what difference does it make?
A.-S. P. I strongly believe that M&A is a gender neutral subject matter! At the end of the day, we do not care whether the deal was handled by a man or a woman: there is no difference, women like men focus on the work and get it done.
Now it is true that M&A is still a very male-centric environment which rules have been historically established by men and which remains full of gender prejudices but this being said, I believe that women have some qualities just made for M&A. Our resilience, pugnacity, anticipation/adaptation abilities and discipline are obviously strategic in closing M&A deals, regardless of what others may think.
What makes the difference is much more what we can contribute to M&A as globalized surroundings. Indeed, our abilities and differences are invaluable tools. Far from imposing our playing field, and without losing our goals, we are easily adapting ourselves to cultural differences and way of doing business which is the best path to get a deal done. From that perspective, being a woman is strength.
Leaders League. Atos is a software firm. What is specific to mergers and acquisitions in the Information & Technology (IT) environment?
A.-S. P. M&A contributes to the strategy of most of the IT companies. M&A serves innovation, growth, and consolidation enabling to acquire and to consolidate new markets, new clients and of course, new technologies. We can say that deals contribute to the businesses of our (IT) company.
Indeed, since IT is a very fast-paced industry, M&A has and to help to keep up the pace! This also means that transactions have to be quite straightforward within this ecosystem.
Another aspect peculiar to IT is that lawyers have to be creative. The laws that we apply had been designed too quickly and continuously need to be both strengthened and updated, because the technology covered by “IT” evolves every day at lightning speed (big data, cloud etc...). Hence the need to contribute actively to the constant IT regulation changes.
Leaders League. Does the ever-increasing complexity of regulations have an impact on deals and more generally on the acquisition strategy?
A.-S. P. The difficulty does not really come from the increasing complexity of regulations, but from the coexistence of economic globalization and legal local specificities. The best M&A – legal - strategy has to remain close to the business goals.