General Manager, Client Strategy
Marina Lefkaritis is a General Manager in the luxury industry with an extensive background in client strategy for Burberry, Matches and most recently a move into the art world with Hauser & Wirth as VP EMEA.
Here, Marina shares how she navigated her journey from investment banking into the luxury world, and how Ecommerce has changed the nature of private clients.
Tell us a bit about your career trajectory? How did you manage to move from banking into luxury?
Having studied Economics and Finance, the obvious first career step to take was Management Consulting or Investment Banking. I tried both, first at Deloitte Consulting and then in the Equity Capital Markets joint venture between ABN AMRO and Rothschild (this partnership is no longer in place) after my Masters in Finance. The latter suited me a lot more than consulting did, as the department I was in sat between Investment Banking and the markets so the pace was faster. But as much as I learned by being in this sector and I still believed it was a great "school" to start one's career in, I didn't see myself there long-term, I wanted to do something much more creative.
Following in the footsteps of my older sister, who successfully switched her career from banking to media post-MBA, I decided to do an MBA at INSEAD. This enabled me to not only focus on my chosen industry of luxury goods in any project we had to work on during the course, but more importantly to do an internship at Louis Vuitton here in London. That then opened the door for me to join the business in a full-time role after my degree. From then on, my trajectory was much more straight-forward. Having joined LV in the year of the opening of the Bond Street Maison, I was able to be involved in that as a project but also to work on client business development. And the rest is history, as they say.
How has the world of private clients changed since the development and significance of ecommerce channels?
When I started working in luxury goods, our focus was on elevating service in order to make a great first impression to clients and on appreciating the follow up to clients after an interaction. All of this will always remain true in luxury, of course, but the first impression of a brand is often now done online with consumers using social media or own-brand websites to inform their purchasing decisions or multi-brand websites to compare products and be inspired by editorials. So the story is an omnichannel one now, not only for all of the consumer pyramid but for top private clients as well. They are very well informed and expect everything yesterday, so the pace is fast and the eCommerce customer journey has to be smooth and keep up with the pace as well, while maintaining the elevated standards that private clients demand.
How did you navigate going from the world of luxury fashion into the art world?
There are obvious synergies between these two worlds, namely the UHNWIs that buy luxury fashion are the same collectors in the art world but also the price point of modern art makes it a luxury good. In art, as in luxury fashion, collectors choose to spend on a specific artist over another one due to the beauty of the artpiece and the desirability of the artist for one's collection. This is a clear parallel to the fashion world where clients appreciate the craftsmanship and design of a product and they trust the quality of what they buy thanks to a brand's name.
Which moments in your career are you especially proud of?
The opening of the Louis Vuitton Maison on Bond Street in 2011 is a definite highlight as it was such a special project within a very apt time to be at Louis Vuitton. It was teamwork at its best, despite the long hours and crazy deadlines. And we had so much fun on the opening day, I remember the adrenaline rush and not being able to sleep the night after the opening despite my exhaustion.
Then at Burberry, I was honoured to have been nominated for the Icon awards, our internal recognition of staff members that went above and beyond. This was just before I left for maternity leave, so it was a very touching way to sign off.
Who’s been your most inspirational person to be around in the workplace?
As aforementioned, I've been very lucky to have worked with some truly amazing people over the years and they each were inspirational in their own way. How could I not be inspired to work at Burberry during the tenure of Angela Ahrendts but also to witness the clarity of mind and the confidence with which Marco Gobbetti presented his strategy to us. In addition to these names, I had the opportunity to work in Sue Whiteley's team at Louis Vuitton UK. Sue was so inspirational in her focus on product and her vision for the Maison. Another name I was honoured to have worked with is Tom Athron, who is now the CEO of Fortnum & Mason. Tom was such a human, empathetic leader at MatchesFashion thanks to whom we were able to survive the tough months of lockdown united as a team.
What advice would you give 21 year old Marina?
Well, the advice that everyone else would give to 21-year-old Marina (and the not-so-young Marina as well, still) would be patience. But I'd ask myself to pick one thing and focus on it. I am a very curious person and a generalist by nature (both left and right brain type of person) so I cannot easily choose one path to take. Perhaps this has cost me having a more straightforward and fast career path, but for sure I've learned a lot along the way.
How would you change the workplace for the better if you could?
I think the diversity awareness that we are all witnessing these past few years is so, so important but one area that I wish more employers made more time to understand and to adapt their roles and hiring processes for is neurodiversity. I believe Microsoft has a program to recruit neurodiverse people, but not many other companies do and it's such a shame considering how many neurodiverse people can be productive members of the economy, if they are given the opportunity. A lot more should be done here, for the benefit of all.