Zurichsee Connections May-June 2017 Influential Woman
Simi Schaerer, head of Options Group Switzerland, was born and raised in India. At the age of 18, she moved abroad and has since lived and worked in numerous countries, before settling in Switzerland in 2002, where she raised her two children. Her outgoing personality, experience in the hotel industry, and ability to integrate into new environments and cultures led to her career transition into executive search. What started as a part time job has become her life’s calling. Today, she runs the Options Group Zurich Bahnhofstrasse office, which she established in 2008. She focuses on private banking search, and specializes in placing senior private bankers in their ideal roles across the globe from Singapore to Dubai to London to Zurich.
- Simi, tell us about your childhood and upbringing.
I grew up in a loving family in Kolkata (India) and was brought up in a very sheltered and protective environment, where love, respect, and hard work was always the ‘mantra’. My parents have always been my role models and my guiding light. Education was a priority in our family and to me, this is the biggest gift any parent can give their children. In a nutshell, I would describe my childhood as happy, secure, and comfortable, but at the same time challenging. Family was important then and continues to be my cornerstone in life.
- When did you start working in the financial industry?
I started working in the financial recruitment industry in 2004. My first job after post-graduation was in the luxury hotel industry where I was privileged to learn the best in service marketing from Mr. Oberoi, veteran hotelier from the Oberoi group of hotels. I’ve always enjoyed working with people. After a ten year career break focusing on being a mother, moving to recruitment was a natural transition. I took to executive search instantly and enjoy every day of my working life. This is in part thanks to Options Group and its outstanding global presence, which offered me the ideal platform to jumpstart my headhunting career.
- Finding the right candidate requires …
Finding the right candidate requires patience, hard work and commitment. Each institution has a certain culture and each individual has a certain skill-set; matching the two is like joining together the pieces of a puzzle. A perfect fit only occurs if, as a headhunter, you give equal focus to both your client and your candidates’ needs. I am strategic in selecting when to stand firm and fight and when to step back and look at the big picture with empathy.
- What is success for you?
‘Success’ to me is a very holistic term. Success cannot be measured in quantitative terms alone and in my job I define it as the moment when I can mentor my candidate to make the right decision, and also strategically guide and assist my client to see the big picture. It is not always an easy task, but when I can align the clients’ needs to the expectations of a prospective candidate, it is to me a ‘successful’ journey.
- Why are people not happy in their jobs?
There has been a big shift in the landscape of the financial industry. I work predominantly in the field of private banking search and due to consolidation, regulation, and cross-borders controls, the environment has become very stringent. People lose their flexibility and creativity in such a controlled environment, and combined with the uncertainty around their jobs, the happiness index has dipped.
- What is a ‘dream job’ according to a headhunter?
A ‘dream job’ is a job that allows you to envision a long term horizon to grow, develop, and make a difference. It must be challenging but at the same time enjoyable. It should make you wake up each morning and feel the buzz!
- Are mentors important in a career?
‘Mentors’ or ‘gurus’ are a guiding light at any stage of your career. It is important to have a trusted guide who can help you stay on track and navigate around both the opportunities and the challenges in your career path.
- If you were not a headhunter what would you be?
If I were not a headhunter, I am sure I would be running a restaurant or a hotel. My passion of working with people translates well into the hospitality industry and one day I hope to run a Bed & Breakfast up in the Alps. I am passionate about cooking and gardening, but for now I love what I do and am happy growing old as a headhunter. Options Group is a great platform for me and has allowed me to fly; with the ever expanding tools and developments in our firm, I am a happy camper!
- What do you do in your spare-time?
In my spare time I would mostly be seen golfing on some beautiful courses, experimenting with my spices in the kitchen, or enjoying a getaway in some part of the world with my lovely family.
- Where would we find you in Switzerland?
In Switzerland you would find me on Bahnhofstrasse (working, not shopping!) On weekends, I would be spotted on some amazing golf courses in the alps or down in the valley, exploring sunsets! … and on Friday mornings at the gorgeous farmers market buying flowers and fruits.
- What would we find you in your fridge?
In my fridge you would always find ginger. I am great believer in Ayurveda and to me ginger is a miracle root that does wonders for our body! My kids always rely on my miracle ginger cure for their colds and my son always insists I should patent this remedy!
- What item identifies you?
My wedding ring and a silver bracelet from my aunt identify me. I never leave home without the two! Both are symbols of true love. My aunt loved me to the moon and back and even though she is up in heaven, this bracelet makes me feel very close to her. My wedding ring makes me believe in love all over again, as I got very lucky the second time.
- What are you proud of?
I am proud of my children, Akriti and Sunny, who inspire me every day of my life. Both have reached pinnacles in their student careers by making it to prestigious institutions like LSE and LBS and have through all obstacles, kept their feet on the ground while striving to reach for the stars.
- Do you have any advice?
To all the powerful women out there, here is my advice: never give up, fight for your rights, stay true to yourself and always remember to make time for your family and friends. And remember that it is never too late to find your passion in life.