Fida Bou Chabke
From electrical engineering and finance, to becoming CEO of a winemaking consulting and equipment company, to then moving to Asia (without ever setting foot on the continent!) Fida Bou Chabke—Managing Director of Hong Kong and Taiwan—proves that hard work opens uncommon career paths at Rémy Cointreau.
Your foray into the wine and spirits business?
I grew up in Lebanon and studied electrical engineering and French literature in parallel. My mom—who taught literature—introduced me to literary works at a young age, which made me want to study the subject. I then moved to France after being accepted to the HEC French business school in Paris, where I majored in finance and worked for a large French bank, and then took a role in management consulting. A friend of mine said they were looking for someone to head the consulting division of the Oeneo Group, involving wine, the South of France… I was intrigued. I met with the Rémy Cointreau Group family shareholders François and Marc Hériard Dubreuil. I thought they would not hire me, because I never worked in the business and certainly wasn’t a wine expert, but they did! They believed in me and weren’t afraid to take a risk. I became the CEO of Vivelys, part of the Oeneo Group, of which the Hériard Dubreuil family is the primary stakeholder. I did this for two years, and then was approached to take on my current role.
Why did you choose to leave France to work in Hong Kong and Taiwan?
The opportunity was proposed to me by our Global Talent Development team. I had no idea what to really expect, but I found the proposal extremely exciting: it was the opportunity to discover a region I did not know. It was never a destination that crossed my mind, but I was open to it. I love to discover new places: how people live, how people think … I really like challenges, that’s why I left France to come and live in Hong Kong. There is a big, almost jarring, culture difference; it is fascinating to see how quickly things move here. You have to experience it to fully understand. I will admit that it was challenging considering being that far away from France and Lebanon, my two homes. Of course, Rémy Cointreau was extremely supportive with the visa and logistical details for me, my husband and my son. Now, each day entails exploration: cuisine, culture, as well as the language. My son and I are learning Mandarin, and we meet interesting people, too.
What does your role as Managing Director of Hong Kong and Taiwan entail?
All aspects from strategy and operations, sales, marketing and brand activations… There are a lot of evolutions happening within digital and social media as well. I also have to alert my team of the link between company strategy versus on-the-field execution. Whenever there is a problem, people come to me to help them solve it. In a bigger picture prospective, I have to keep the talents I have on my team, because turnover is high in this region.
What do you find the most challenging about your role?
It’s challenging to look after two countries at the same time because you have to travel very frequently, but for me, it is also the most interesting aspect. Both Taiwan and Hong Kong are so different, in terms of pace of life and mindset, so working with both is really eye-opening.
What sparked your desire to join Rémy Cointreau?
I am very proud to work for Rémy Cointreau and showcase our brands. I personally like each of our products and appreciate working with the passionate teams that are behind them. Valérie Chapoulaud-Floquet, our CEO (the interview was made in 2018, ed. note), is another reason why I decided to join the Group. She has a clear strategy, and cares about people and the work that we do. We’re a smaller scale—maybe more human—than some of the larger spirits Groups, and we have a lot of room to grow. Joining the Group gives you the opportunity to experience things that you wouldn’t elsewhere. Take my case: someone who has never set foot in Hong Kong ends up being Managing Director of Hong Kong and Taiwan. Based on my experience at Vivelys, Rémy Cointreau believed in me and decided to take a chance.
What is so special about our Group?
Our signature style is driven by our Global Talent team (who helps us manage our careers), the Hériard Dubreuil family and top management, who are very supportive of giving opportunities to young people who don’t necessarily have experience in spirits. They are extremely open-minded.
Since her testimonial, Fida has been appointed Managing Director for the Caribbean & LATAM and then CEO of Global Travel Retail.