Serving the community via finance
06 February 2024
Juliet Dow-Madu has comfortably settled, over the last ten years, into the glass arch of the European Investment Bank (EIB) where she now works as Head of Unit for Manufacturing, Energy and Transport within the Corporate Finance Advisory division. Born in Nigeria 42 years ago, she left the country with her parents following the advent of a military regime for Essex in the United Kingdom. “The English countryside is lovely, but I wanted the bright lights of the city. So, I left for University College London to study chemistry and then ended up working in finance.”
With a degree in hand she entered the world of finance, starting her career at a hedge fund. Step-by-step and organisation-to-organisation, from Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (Commerzbank), and Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, she discovered the world of finance, endured the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, and ended up leaving the ‘City Bubble’ somewhat by chance. “I first saw Luxembourg by flying over it when I came here for my interview. I saw the small villages near the Capital and thought it was idyllic – similar to where I grew up. Ten years after landing here, I still find this is true.”
Now a married mother of two, she has found her life in Luxembourg and at the EIB suit her well, providing a positive work-life balance that was almost impossible to achieve working in a very large city.
What does your team at the EIB do?
We’re a team of seven financial advisers, assisting large companies and SMEs looking to develop projects relating to climate change, particularly in the field of clean technology. We help them gain access to sources of finance by working with them to put together a financially-sound dossier, and this can involve applying for EIB funding, European or national subsidies, obtaining a bank loan or bringing in private investors.
Another part of the team carries out thematic studies to identify needs in the market, funding gaps and shortfalls. From there, we can work with the European Commission to fill these gaps, but also encourage commercial banks to finance these projects as the EIB is limited by policy in terms of the percentage it can commit to a given project.
What were the reasons for you to leave London and join the EIB in Luxembourg?
In 2013 I was working in the project finance team at the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi in London analysing a project file relating to the construction of a bridge in Greece and I saw the EIB’s name on the file. I researched the organisation and saw a number of factors that appealed to me and subsequently applied for a job; however I believed the job to be in London and not Luxembourg. It was surprising to me that you could work at such high levels of international finance in a country like Luxembourg rather than being in a large city like London or Paris.
Initially I was hesitant to accept the offer, however my then-fiancé convinced me to come, saying “it’s a three-year contract, if we don’t like it we can always come home.” Ten years later, we’re still here.
It was surprising to me that you could work at such high levels of international finance in a country like Luxembourg rather than being in a large city.
What were the factors that attracted you?
Up to that point I’d predominantly worked at traditional investment banks and the EIB’s ethos more than anything attracted me to the bank. It is not profit driven: our mission is to serve society and long-term social interests. Some of our projects may not be highly profitable, but in terms of contribution to society they are important.
From a personal perspective, the chance to gain a better understanding of Europe and immerse myself in the centre of European life was attractive. My years in Luxembourg have only enforced this view – the emphasis on family and health, the balance between professional and private, it is something I hadn’t experienced before moving here.
What is career development like at an institution such as the EIB?
There’s definitely room for development, probably more at the junior levels. Not everyone wants to move up, but if you feel the need to progress there are opportunities to grow and training is readily available to support this.
Ten years ago, I started in the transaction management project finance team, and I was given a portfolio of investment projects in Greece, which in 2013 was a hot potato given then the crisis that the country was going through in that period. After six years I moved out of project finance and into the innovation finance advisory team. I am always looking to learn new things and whenever the urge comes for me to move in a new direction, with the bank being so diverse I feel confident that there will be plenty of scope to develop in another part of it.
The chance to gain a better understanding of Europe and immerse myself in the centre of European life was attractive.
Why should young talent consider a career at the EIB?
I don’t think there are any other institutions that are as dynamic and far-reaching. We work with 27 Member States, as well as the vast majority of countries outside the EU. We cover numerous sectors of activity and deal with a wide array of subjects. This is not necessarily true of the private sector where banks often only focus on certain sectors and geographies.
We also try to remain a step ahead and focus on the horizon. Seeing the next big thing is really our job. For example, the EIB issued the world’s first green bond in 2007 and has been financing climate projects for some time. Well before it became mainstream in the private sector.
Finally, given that we do not have profit-driven targets, we are able to focus on issues that commercial banks would be reluctant to tackle, meaning we can really make a difference on a large scale.
Working in Luxembourg is also unique due to the international nature of the country. Of course, at the EIB we cover all EU nationalities, but the country and financial centre are also so globally focused, in terms of both the financial activities that are undertaken as well as the people who work and live here. It’s easy to bump into people from all different walks of life.
We also try to remain a step ahead and focus on the horizon. Seeing the next big thing is really our job.
Finally, what has been the biggest investment in yourself thus far?
I attach a great deal of importance to education in the broadest sense. On the one hand, there’s education that allows you to strengthen your professional skills, to develop and flourish at work rather than stagnate in repetitive functions. On the other hand, travel is also a critical part of education to me. It allows you to learn a great deal about other cultures and people, to see life from a different point of view and to consider new ideas. Both of these factors undoubtedly helped me take the plunge and join the EIB in Luxembourg and adapt with ease.