From strategically transforming a business to discovering a flourishing company and solving a complex problem, the operations that lie at the heart of Argos Wityu have one thing in common – and it is not their financial nature. It is that they are all the result of human choices. They were born out of the daily brainwork, passionate discussions, innovative ideas, and tough negotiations undertaken by the people of Argos Wityu with their partners. This deep dive into the many roles, stories, and personalities of four of this investment fund’s employees reveals the roots that underpin their shared culture. Enjoy this closer look into what has made Argos Wityu so unique for more than 30 years.
Anna-Karin Portunato, Investor Relations | Switzerland
After a 25-year career at Argos Wityu, Anna-Karin Portunato, 55, is now in charge of investor relations within the group. A mother of two (29 and 31 years old respectively), Anna-Karin is intimately convinced of the importance of teaching – which fuels her involvement in an association working towards educating the youth in African countries. Another of her characteristics: she is fluent in no less than 6 languages (French, English, Italian, Dutch, Swedish and German).
If one had to choose one person in Argos Wityu’s 50-strong team to represent the European dimension of the fund, it would probably be you.
Quite possibly! With a Swedish mother and a Dutch father, I was born in the USA, but grew up in both Belgium and the Netherlands. I had a real Scandinavian upbringing, but since then I have developed a strong Mediterranean bias: I have been married to an Italian for 35 years now. And I’ve been living in Switzerland for nearly 30 years. So yes, I naturally feel deeply European above anything else.
What does your role as Director of Investor Relations entail on a daily basis?
I am responsible for the commercial aspects of fundraising and investor relations for the entire group. Remember that while Argos Wityu’s core business is to make investments to acquire majority stakes in SMEs, these are financed by third parties, mainly of international origin. Our investors commit for an average period of 10 to 12 years. It is up to me to convince them to invest and then nurture these relationships over time. Backed by a team of three people (two in Paris, one in Geneva) in constant contact with the six Argos Wityu offices, our role is to answer any type of questions, help to find solutions for their needs and always illustrate the added value we create.
Your key role stems from a career in constant evolution within Argos Wityu.
I began my career at Argos in 1996, working in administrative roles two days a week, so as to have time to raise my two young sons. I have been lucky in the sense that the managing partners truly understood what I was looking for. They gave me an opportunity to grow alongside them by setting new challenges that helped me move forward. And when any opportunity presented itself, I think I was able to rise to the challenge.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
If I had to choose one thing that really motivates me at Argos Wityu is passing on the knowledge and expertise that I have acquired to my co-workers. Rather than managing, I prefer to provide support for them on their journey so that they can benefit fully from the experience I have acquired over the years, and in turn grow themselves. I see a sense of intergenerational transfer and a desire for dialogue that are central to the relationships that Argos Wityu’s teams foster with its broad community. The people we partner with are entrepreneurs who don’t have the financial resources to invest by themselves. They need a partner that can provide this financial support. Beyond the money, it’s a sparring partner. Someone ready to share their experience, their expertise, and their network.
Andrea Pavesi, Director | Italy
Andrea Pavesi has been with Argos for three years now, working in the Milan office. At 41, this committed husband, and father of two, has not lost his appetite for adrenaline: from kitesurfing in Brasil to playing football a little too hard, Andrea lives life to the full – and that translates into his work ethics every day at Argos.
What part of your job as Director do you enjoy most?
To me, negotiation is one of the most exciting times. When there is a sense of uncertainty as we work out how to achieve our goals. We are driven to find the right solution by that spark of emotion that comes with closing a deal. I also immensely appreciate working as a team: here, in Milan, I prefer trying to define an overarching vision of current projects, rather than assigning specific tasks. Of course, it is not always easy. Sometimes it would undoubtedly be easier to do things myself. But it is a choice I want to uphold, sharing a lot with my team, who are all professionals and capable of growing independently in their careers, and responsible for their own work.
This openness and trust extend to your relationship with the CEOs you support, as well.
Indeed. In the conversations I have almost daily with the CEOs of the companies I work with, there is always a strong sense of collaboration and willingness to engage in dialogue. It is a fascinating part of my job: sharing our thoughts and challenging our beliefs with highly competent, intelligent people in order to reach the best decisions together.
Your role can be very demanding and intense: how do you find balance in your life as a whole?
It all goes back to teamwork. Spending the majority of your time at work, it is important to like your colleagues. Having common ground, being able to solve problems together in a constructive manner but also sharing lighter moments and touches of humour, all of this is crucial – otherwise, it would make for very long days in the office! In addition, it is vital to take a few breaks, make time to do what you like. Having a family and two young children has helped me in that regard. Now, I try to make every moment count, both in and out of the office.
Rainer Derix, Partner | Germany
Rainer Derix, Partner in the DACH region, is a man on the go: from Munich to Düsseldorf and from Hamburg to Berlin, he is often travelling to meet with advisors, potential vendors, and investors (Covid-19 restrictions permitting). This father of three boys – two of whom are twins – is also in daily communication with people from all over Europe, both within Argos Wityu and beyond.
You seem to place a particular emphasis on international relationships, especially within Europe.
In my view, Argos’ continental DNA, and above all the blend of local presence and international openness are two of the fund’s great strengths. When recruiting new employees for our Frankfurt office, I noted that a young, high-level talent has a marked preference for employers offering a multicultural environment. Many people from this new generation do not want to speak just Italian, French, or German all day long. They want a career with an international atmosphere, where they can switch from one language to another. That is exactly what a typical day at Argos is like.
Can you tell us more about your work on a day-to-day basis?
It is generally a great blend of discussions with intermediaries, following up on companies we support, vendors, debt financing providers and carrying out administrative tasks within the group. What I appreciate more specifically in my job are all the opportunities to find solutions to complex problems. This complexity makes solving our challenges even more interesting. We need to take the time to untangle seemingly inextricable situations and craft practical solutions to successfully transform the companies.
What makes the Argos team unique in its way of working?
In a way, we are all very down-to-earth people who value a practical approach to our work. The mutual trust between our six offices, which have their own distinct cultures and different languages, has been a decisive part of our success. As partner, I travel quite often, so it is essential for me to have complete trust in the employees in my office. Rather than keeping a tight rein and micro-managing everything, I prefer to empower my team by giving them targets to meet. They are extremely competent people and we need to draw on their ideas and their strengths.
Olivier de La Gueronnière, General Secretary | Luxembourg
Olivier de la Gueronnière, 34, is General Secretary of Argos Wityu. As a Frenchman, Olivier enjoys the cosmopolitan nature of his adopted country, Luxembourg, with its 170 nationalities. A former videogame enthusiast and a keen biker on his free time, Olivier is also the newly minted father of a little boy.
What is the role of General Secretary at Argos Wityu?
I view my role as that of a facilitator. For instance, one of my missions consists in finding legal solutions that meet each country’s specific legislative and regulatory requirements, including for brand management, domain names, and data protection. I provide support to Argos Wityu’s six European offices located in France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. This highly international approach brings its own fascinating challenge, which requires us to adapt not only our technical skills but also our behavioural skills. You quickly learn that you don’t use the same communication style with an Italian, a German, a French person, and a Brit!
Beyond this international dimension, what do you appreciate most in your job?
The fact that we are always learning – but on the ground, not from books. I am constantly confronted with new situations. When four different experts are unable to agree on a solution, I try to be the pragmatic who finds the way out of a given situation that satisfies everyone. That is the aspect of my work that gets me out of bed in the morning.
Do you think your personality helps you meet this challenge?
It could, indeed! I have always been someone who feels comfortable talking to new people from any background. Leave me in a room for half an hour and I will come back with three new acquaintances! I see this as the best way to avoid getting stuck in a rut – to continue to learn and move forward. That is also why I particularly enjoy visiting the other Argos Wityu offices. It’s the best way to have access to information and, even more, to an overarching vision, which can be difficult to pick up through e-mail or during Teams meetings. People’s mentalities, methods, and the general atmosphere are all different. And yet you can find a real Argos identity wherever you go. They are all different… but they are all Argonauts.