As head of Willis Towers Watson’s Montréal office, responsible for over 300 employees and accountable for key client relationships, Elise Schroeter has worked with a myriad of local and global clients in many different industries. From banking to manufacturing, healthcare to logistics, she is committed to helping her clients achieve their goals by assembling the right teams to provide relevant, business-focused solutions and deliver high-quality service. Her career has taken her, and her family, across the world from West Africa to Europe to North America. It is this vast international experience that has shaped her career and life. She prides herself on being an advocate for change and inspirational leadership in the advice she provides to her clients.
“Saying yes to opportunities that might not seem easy and stepping out of your comfort zone can provide you with the greatest reward.”
How would you describe your role to someone who has no knowledge of what you do?
Office Leaders are the central point in linking clients to our internal capabilities and solutions to drive profitable growth. This includes responsibilities for growing revenue and managing a portfolio of clients across the various segments of our business, developing relationships within local markets, ensuring staff development and building strong client relationships. Another crucial aspect of my job work is to serve as a role model, coach and mentor to all staff, demonstrating the Willis Towers Watson values and fostering a collaborative environment.
What milestone kick-started your career?
When I decided to help a colleague and returned early from maternity leave to do a client pitch with her. It later led to me achieving partnership at the firm and taught me that it is valuable to be flexible. Just because I was on leave did not mean I could not take a day to support my colleagues, which ultimately led to a multi-year, high-value mandate that garnered me much success and recognition.
What was the boldest risk you ever experienced in your career?
At Willis Towers Watson, I would say it was when I took a leap and decided to move my entire family, including my parents, to Quebec. It was a new country, we needed to learn a new language and culture. It was a critical decision not just professionally, but also for my children to get exposure to new international experiences. I believe saying yes to opportunities that might not seem easy and stepping out of your comfort zone can provide you with the greatest reward.
What would you describe as your biggest accomplishment that you are the most proud of?
The multi-generational and diverse life we have established for our children. Since birth, they have had their grandparents in our home living with us. As a woman, I work and my German husband stays at home taking care of the family. I believe this is an example of diversity and embracing different lifestyles that teaches our children and people who know my family that there are all kinds of diversity in the world and we need to appreciate and seek to embrace all forms of differences.
How has your experience abroad helped you within your professional life?
My experiences in Africa, Europe, the United States and Canada have taught me that there are great people all over the world who want to help you. It has also taught me that despite my humble beginnings in Africa, I am capable of doing amazing things with the right people around me. Partnering with great people is fulfilling and can lead to immense success!
How did you envision your career before experiencing it within its current reality?
I had envisioned a very different career for myself, possibly working as a diplomat and international advocate for women. Today I realize that while my path was very different, my opportunity to learn several languages, live in different places and do diverse jobs has enriched my life and equipped me to be a better mother and mentor to my colleagues and the young people I influence. I try to approach my work-life each day with tenacity, passion and boldness. I aspire to live holistically by incorporating all aspects of my life into my career. My husband, children and parents have all been a part of my career decisions and I try to expose them to various aspects of my work, as appropriate.
“You cannot separate work and life, they are intertwined and if you open up yourself to the possibilities, you can have a profound impact on peoples’ lives – even in business.”
What was the best advice you ever received?
Do not let problems fester. Be bold, address them quickly and move forward.
What would be your best piece of advice?
Be open, say yes to opportunities, you will be surprised where those decisions could take you!
What is your management or leadership style?
I lead by example. Trust, motivation, commitment and challenging the status quo are key components of my approach to leadership. ‘Expect nothing but the best of yourself!’
Who has been your greatest mentor?
I have too many to pick just one – from my parents to my clients, colleagues and husband, they have all had a hand in my success. I am fortunate to have many people to thank for what I have achieved thus far.
Can you share an anecdote or a moment that strongly impacted your life journey?
What comes to mind is what we were able to achieve with a couple of my clients in my prior role. We started off as strangers working to develop a rapport and build trust. At the end of the day, we became trusted advisors and at the same time were able to expand our relationship in a very meaningful way. Most importantly, I can call these clients close friends today, who continue to counsel me and rely on my advice as well to help them achieve their goals, try new things and soar to new heights. This is why I believe you cannot separate work and life, they are intertwined and if you open up yourself to the possibilities, you can have a profound impact on peoples’ lives – even in business.
Elise Schroeter is the Managing Director for Willis Towers Watson in Montreal, a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company. She graduated in the top 5% of her M.B.A. class from Temple University, where she concentrated in HR administration and international business. She received a Master’s certificate in European economics from the Europa Institute at the University of Saarland in Germany and graduated with honours from the University of Benin, Nigeria, with a bachelor’s degree in economics and statistics.