Damien Teisseire, head of reward, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and India at investment bank Goldman Sachs, comes from Bordeaux, one of France’s wine regions. But although he works in an industry that has come under a great deal of fire lately, he is refreshingly free of sour grapes.
Teisseire is more concerned with seeing best practice in reward and benefits, an aspiration supported by his membership of several associations. For example, Teisseire is a member of WorldatWork, a US-based non-profit organisation dedicated to knowledge leadership in compensation, benefits and total reward. He also belongs to the Society for Human Resource Management and the Association of Taxation Technicians.
Teisseire also takes part in quarterly informal meetings with around 10 other senior reward professionals from various business sectors. “It does not matter what industry they are from, so long as they are senior reward professionals who can influence the industry,” he says. “We are focusing on better governance and better regulatory framework. It is all about the good, it is not about finding ways of [carrying out] tax avoidance.”
With the executive remuneration of bankers very much under the spotlight in the last couple of years, you might take the view that an emphasis on good governance is hardly surprising. But Teisseire is adamant that, for the financial services industry at least, it is a case of: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
He explains: “One thing that I find very interesting is that the Financial Services Authority and the Federal Reserve [America’s central bank] came up with their rules, but we have, in mind and in practice, done things in a very ‘good governance’ way. I could not do my job otherwise, because that is the way I work.”
Strong governance and an in-depth knowledge of pensions, among other things, have been the cornerstones of Teisseire’s career, which began at accountancy firm Arthur Andersen in the role of tax and executive compensation manager.
His wide experience has proved an asset during his career. “I have been in the market a long time,” he explains, pointing out his understanding of market intelligence and ability to engineer reward systems so they are adapted to the needs of the business.
It is an oft-repeated message that the case for reward has to be understood by the leaders of each particular business, and Teisseire concurs with this view.
However, he is keen to draw a line of demarcation between the terms ‘compensation’ and ‘benefits’, even though the two are often lumped together by HR departments.
“Benefits are not performance-related, they are level-related,” he says. “The [economic] crisis has been good in terms of making people realise what value there is to their benefits.”
To this end, Teisseire is keen to see technology enhanced over the next year to 18 months so that benefits strategies can be communicated more effectively. “We need to ensure benefits are communicated appropriately in order to remain competitive,” he adds.
Teisseire, who comes across as a very driven, focused individual, will be at the forefront of Goldman Sachs’s efforts to attract and retain the best talent as the UK pulls slowly out of recession. Only time will tell if this son of Bordeaux can help the bank to celebrate a new vintage.
- 2008-present head of reward, EMEA and India, Goldman Sachs
- 2007-2008 global head of reward, Unicredit Group
- 2003-2007 head of pensions and benefits, EMEA, Citigroup
- 2001-2003 head of reward, Europe, State Street Corporation
- 1994-2001 tax and executive compensation manager, Arthur Andersen
- What is your career goal? To influence the market in terms of making sure reward truly becomes a function, like finance. Number two is to set up some best practice models, which will help people see the value of reward.
- Do you have any hobbies? Tennis and classic cars. I am part of a classic car club and have a Jaguar. I play tennis and another hobby is my family: I have four kids.
- Who is your role model? Charlie Thorp, a US-based guy at [pharmaceutical firm] Bristol-Myers Squibb. He was one of the instigators of reward globally. I have got lots of leaders and mentors that I look to every single day.