How did you end up pursuing the career you did? Did you originally intend to do something different?
I was born in communist Hungary, and back then I had quite a different idea of what I wanted to become. I played the violin and wanted to be a musician for a while, and then I wanted to become an archaeologist and an art historian. Impressionism completely enthralled me. In fact, I knew all the paintings and stories of Renoir, Monet and Manet.
At university, I ended up studying global history. I am very grateful for this because I learned how patterns and cycles repeat due to human nature. I often read Marcus Aurelius and Cicero to remind myself about this and remain fascinated about their sophisticated views on ethics.
I moved to the Netherlands in 1997 and after my MBA in finance, I started my career at MeesPierson Corporate and Investment Banking. I enjoyed the inclusive culture and entrepreneurial spirit of the organisation and fell in love with leveraged finance. It was a fast-paced environment, on the edge, and I was learning something new all the time. I went with the flow and have been in private markets since then.
What are your passions outside the workplace?
I love great food, great wine and great views, so eating out at a terrace in Ravello on the Amalfi coast or Capri would be heavenly. I enjoy travelling, exploring different cultures and finding out what drives people. Shopping in Rome and Milan, admiring the beautiful buildings of Barcelona, or listening to a violin concert by Nigel Kennedy are all pleasurable.
I can say I am passionate about appreciating beauty, be it very elegant or very simple. As da Vinci put it, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. This applies in finance as well, where we tend to overcomplicate things.
Where is your dream travel destination?
Short term, I would like to go to Tibet and Cuba. My travel list is actually long. There is so much to see. One life is not enough.
What’s the most unusual or challenging situation you have found yourself in?
Being pregnant and everything that happened to me during that time. It was wonderful and scary and challenging, all balled into one experience – and I am fortunate to have gone through it twice. It was the acceptance that you are losing control of your body, then immersing yourself with the life that is growing inside of you, then giving birth to a whole new person and the process of finding yourself again.
What’s the one gadget you couldn’t live without?
My iPhone. I get withdrawal symptoms after just 10 minutes.
What advice would you give to someone entering the private investment world?
Private investments are illiquid. When you close a deal, assume you are in it for the long haul. You need to plan for good times and bad. Back in 2000 as a young banker, I attended my first major restructuring meeting in Spain. The company had a covenant breach and required long-term financial support. At one point, I made a provocative remark about taking over the company. The 65-year-old owner threw his key at me and suggested I could run the company if I knew a better way to get out of its predicament. I kept silent for a minute, looked up and said: “OK, I get it. We need each other.” I believe you can move mountains with mutual respect and alignment rather than control.