HBA Woman of the Year 2012 - Pharmaceutical Executive

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HBA Woman of the Year 2012


Pharmaceutical Executive


Campeau's Debt Queen

Buck-Luce took yet another risk and went with Campeau. "Talk about leveraged—at one point I was managing so much debt our interest payments surpassed $1 million a day. We made a lot of promises to the bankers and after awhile I realized the strategy we had was not working. Bob disagreed and we parted company."

The next step was to establish her own firm, as a broker dealer in the man's world of Wall Street. It was a high-wire act, recruiting staff, trying to drum up business and impress scores of "type A" personalities. At the same time, family pressures—including a difficult divorce—were creating a struggle among dual loyalties: "Do I nourish my fledgling business or nurture my permanent family?"

A Unitarian Union

Buck-Luce chose the latter. "There was never a doubt my children were the priority." Divorce was followed by a controversial remarriage to the Reverend Forrest Church, senior presiding minister at the Upper East Side Unitarian church that was the root of Buck-Luce's intense spiritual life. Through the marriage, Buck-Luce inherited two older stepchildren—a son and a daughter—in addition to two boys of her own. It was apparent that balancing career and family meant that Buck-Luce would need to pursue a different line of work, where she could exert more control over her time and reestablish intimacy within a family unit that had suddenly doubled in size.

Peak years at E&Y

The solution was an invitation in 1991 to join Ernst & Young, as a partner with a simple assignment: build new businesses and develop people. This included the start-up of a national corporate finance unit; launch of a new Center for Strategic Transactions; building an e-commerce business; and coordinating strategic alliance work as E&Y Strategic Investments Officer. "In 2000, E&Y embarked on new strategy to have a large percentage of the firm's future growth come from non-audit work for clients whom we also did not serve as auditors."

The fact that few Big Pharma firms had audit relationships with E&Y was a gap waiting to be filled, so 10 years ago Buck-Luce volunteered to establish a profitable consulting footprint with Big Pharma, becoming senior Partner responsible for the global Pharmaceutical sector. Buck-Luce said, "I knew little about pharma—but from my background as a banker, I knew how to 'read' industries and to take their components apart. It's a bit like learning languages, too. And it turned out to be a valuable asset that opened doors for me in the 'C-suite,' because a major priority of pharma during the past decade has been to expand awareness of how things are done in other industries." Buck-Luce adds that her cross-industry background helped bring insights to her work as global coordinating partner for E&Y's relationship with Pfizer, the biggest of Big Pharma.

Throughout, her work on the Progressions series has proved to be a binding glue. "In Progressions, we were first to make the case for behavioral change—today, product success means providing a service that delivers value to many stakeholders beyond the traditional physician. The future of Big Pharma depends on it being a convener of communities, with the ultimate goal of improving health outcomes."

Yet it is in her role as a change agent within the firm where Buck-Luce feels she has made the most lasting contribution. When Buck-Luce joined E&Y, only four percent of the firm's partners were women. "One of the first things I did at E&Y was to participate in a team to draft a strategic vision to the year 2000. Demographics was a topic we looked at. It was striking that we had so few female partners even though more than half of workers coming into the firm at the time were women. We had a serious aspiration gap in the making, and yet I noticed anytime the topic of 'diversity and inclusion' came up among the partners the answer was always the same: 'it's implicit in everything we do.' That, to me, was the very problem."

Buck-Luce recalls one brave male partner who, after hearing that refrain yet again at a meeting in Chicago, asked colleagues to scan the room and relay back what they saw. There was a stony silence, but the point was made—a commitment to diversity isn't enough. You must be explicit about it being essential to winning in the market. After the meeting, then-chairman Phil Laskaway asked Buck-Luce to "speak her mind" on the topic at the annual partner's meeting, which she agreed to do—on condition that her recommendations not be subject to review.

Those recommendations led to the creation of a Chairman's Diversity Task Force, which Buck-Luce joined as one of four founding members; today, women and minorities account for nearly a quarter of the partnership total. "I am proud of that record and I am proud to be a partner at E&Y. Our strategy is simple: if we have the best people doing quality work, the result is we will have the best clients. In pharma, I tell my CEO clients it is all about innovation. If you devote your energy to discovery, development and life cycle management of the most innovative people, then you will have the most innovative products."


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