When Céline Vaessen graduated in Management Engineering from the SBS-EM in 2002, she was offered a post as a teaching assistant to the late André Farber, who then became her mentor. “Not only was he the one who made Finance so important in our School, it was also he who gave me and a whole new generation of financiers the resolve to start a career in finance”, explains Céline Vaessen. “He soon became my mentor and, with his experience in Chicago, was able to disseminate a new approach to what, in essence, is not the most human-friendly of subjects”, she adds.
After four years as a teaching assistant, she was offered a post as lecturer on the EMF degree course (Executive Master’s in Finance, run as a part-time adult course) in 2007 – a position she still holds today, while also lecturing to Master’s students who want to gain a deeper understanding of Finance in the AMF speciality module (Advanced Master’s in Finance). “I don’t know whether teaching is a vocation. It might stem from long exposure at family gatherings as many of my relatives are teachers. Perhaps this triggered some sort of curiosity in me. So, when the opportunity arose to teach here in such exceptional circumstances, alongside André Farber, Hugues Pirotte and Ariane Chapelle – who became a female role model for me – I seized it”, she continues.
In 2006, while continuing to teach at SBS-EM, she decided to join an investment bank. “I wanted to get to grips with business and I couldn’t have done so at a more interesting time – joining in the middle of the financial crisis that created a wave of panic in the sector. It gave me the chance to see how things can go wrong because of bad decisions and also a unique opportunity to provide added value to my classes. I believe that thanks to these years of experience and my current job I have a good understanding of this field and can provide my students with valuable, tangible examples.” Aside from her job as a lecturer, since 2010 Céline Vaesen has also successfully been advising the Belgian State as a member of the FHIC (SPFI-FPIM). This 100% state-owned company is in line with the philosophy she was taught by her former mentor, aiming to support Belgium in investing in and managing holdings for financial return. But that’s not all. Her scope ranges from using her expertise with state-run companies such as Bpost and Belfius to supporting the management of funds for investment in innovative SMEs in cooperation with both private and public companies. “Our operations are not aimed solely at generating high financial profits. There’s also a whole societal strategy which means that we consider the impact investments may have on employment rates and also on developing centres of excellence here within Belgium and making it attractive to the world outside”, she explains. “This approach has become a must given the humanitarian crisis facing us today. We’ve begun to realise that simply being rich isn’t as much fun as it might seem”, she concludes.