Last year’s Fortune Magazine Top 40 under 40 in Finance had a familiar face for faculty and staff at Princeton’s Bendheim Center for Finance: Céline Dufétel, a 2004 graduate of the center’s Master in Finance program.
Sixteen years after graduating, Dufétel has earned the title of CFO of T. Rowe Price, leading the firm’s financial activities, corporate strategy, enterprise risk, and global investment operations, as well as a team of over 700 worldwide.
“A member of the firm’s C-suite for the past three years, Dufétel is one of the few female CFOs in the largest financial institutions in the S&P 500 (and the only one under 40),” Fortune wrote.
What contributed to Dufétel’s meteoric rise? In this short interview, Lindsay Bracken, BCF’s Manager of Career Development, Alumni Relations, and Corporate Affiliates, talks to Dufétel about her career path since graduating with her Master in Finance in 2004.
If you’re a Princeton BCF alumnus who’s reached a milestone in your career, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out to Bracken (email@example.com) to stay in touch and tell your story.
Bracken: Congratulations on being named one of Fortune’s top 40 under 40. Your career history is quite impressive. Looking back, what are some of the key decisions you have made since graduating from BCF that have enabled your success?
Each decision in my career has been the result of a conscious effort to build the skills, experiences, and relationships I would need toward not just the next job, but the roles that I wanted to obtain down the line. And then of course, there’s hard work!
I was recruited to join McKinsey & Company upon graduating from BCF, which was an instrumental learning experience. I learned the art of communication – written and verbal, which has been critical as a senior leader. McKinsey also had an intense focus on professional development, coaching, and 360 feedback. I learned just how important it is to understand areas of improvement and to address them. And lastly but just as critically, McKinsey forced me to handle an incredible breadth of topics and to come up to speed very quickly – another important skill, especially in my current role.
After a decade at McKinsey, I wanted to make the pivot from strategy to execution, which led me to join Neuberger Berman as the head of client service. I worked with an amazing team from whom I learned so much while transitioning from practice to execution. I also learned to drive meaningful change – including people.
Joining T. Rowe Price has been an incredible journey and opportunity. It’s a world-class firm and there is so much to do as our industry evolves. The pandemic is also teaching me new things every day: how to lead through a time of crisis, the importance—now more than ever—of leading with authenticity…
One thing that is clear is that good leaders never stop asking questions and learning. I think one of the keys to success is being open to continued learning, to know your weakness, to work on them and also to build teams that are complementary to you – and to each other. It’s also important to bring others along on the path you forge.
I’m a big proponent of helping support aspiring finance and investment professionals, and I especially think this field needs more diversity – ethnic and gender.
Bracken: What courses or experiences at Princeton BCF have been particularly useful to you as your career has grown?
My undergraduate degree focused on mathematics and economics, so the corporate finance subject matter in the BCF curriculum helped to round out my skillset and open new opportunities – and not just in quantitative roles.
There was not just one course or experience from BCF that gave me the knowledge and skillsets to move forward in my career. I am grateful to have experienced an interdisciplinary curriculum that complemented my mathematics and economics background and previous service as a navigation officer in the French Navy.
Bracken: Can you tell us more about why you decided to pursue a Master in Finance? Why did you choose Princeton BCF?
As I mentioned, I studied mathematics, economics, and finance in France at École Polytechnique, so the BCF program seemed like a natural extension of my undergraduate studies. The balance the program offers between analytical mathematics and corporate finance and strategy built upon my areas of strength while offering new areas for growth.
I originally had my eye on Wall Street. The BCF alumni network coupled with the proximity to New York was appealing as I thought of job prospects after the program.
Additionally, as a French native, I appreciated that the student body represented a global perspective. My classmates came from around the world and now work for leading firms and organizations in North America, EMEA, and Asia Pacific.
Bracken: What advice do you have for current or future Master in Finance students as they look toward the next step in their career?
I alluded to this earlier, but when choosing jobs, the best advice I can give is to think about the job you want three jobs from now, not necessarily what is most appealing right now. What roles will offer experiences that will broaden your skills and better position you for those future roles? This could mean taking a role that isn’t your favorite – it might not be the most exciting or the highest paying – but, more importantly, might be a better building block for your skills and career.
Bracken: Looking ahead, where do you see the most opportunity for BCF students?
One of the great things about a degree from BCF is the breadth of opportunities post-graduation due to the rigor and breadth of the program and the school’s alumni network. I went into strategy at McKinsey, but there were opportunities in Investment Banking, Investment Management (Quant or Fundamental), Private Equity, and Venture