Boss of firm where 19 women quit in months asked if ‘women can do job’

Boss of firm where 19 women quit in months asked if ‘women can do job’

‘Can women even do this job?’: What boss of ‘aggressive male-dominated’ city firm where 19 females quit in six months asked staff before analyst ‘quit due to his advances on her’

  • IFM Investments is facing allegations of harassment and unfair dismissal
  • Nathalie Abildgaard, 27, said she had to resign from £94,000 a year post to avoid working with the 50-year-old executive director Frederic Michel-Verdier 
  • Former analyst said director sexually harassed her at an office party in Madrid   
  • She said number of female colleagues felt bullied by senior male staff at the firm

A City firm that invests billions of pounds has an ‘aggressive male-dominated culture’ and saw 19 women quit in just six months, an employment tribunal heard.

IFM Investments is facing allegations of harassment and unfair dismissal from former analyst and associate Nathalie Abildgaard.

She said she had no choice but to resign from her £94,000 a year post plus a bonus to avoid working with executive director Frederic Michel-Verdier.

The tribunal heard that on top of her bonus Miss Abildgaard, 27, would receive a ‘100 per cent’ bonus, boosting her income to nearly £200,000 a year.


Nathalie Abildgaard, left arriving at the tribunal today, claims she had to leave her £94,000 a year post at IFM Investments to avoid working with executive director Frederic Michel-Verdier, right today, and that she’s been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 

She says 50-year-old Michel-Verdier made lewd comments to her in a nightclub including ‘I know more about sex’ and ‘I could teach you a lot of things’ last March.

She claims he told her: ‘If I were 20 years younger I would have been all over you’ and sent her messages inviting her to come to his hotel room.

In a witness statement, Miss Abildgaard cites a report from IFM Investments that states 19 out of 25 resignations during a six month period in 2017 were women.

Of the 19, 14 of the resignations were deemed as ‘regretted’ exits, the tribunal heard.


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Miss Abildgaard told the tribunal that at a recruitment meeting just before the incident at the nightclub last year, a female colleague questioned why a list of potential candidates did not include any women.

Mr Michel-Verdier is said to have responded: ‘Can women even do this job?’

Miss Abildgaard said she had spoken to a number of other female colleagues at the firm who felt bullied and belittled by senior male staff.

She said a commercial director at the firm worked with Michel-Verdier on a project and said he had told her: ‘Don’t be so emotional’ and also ‘Can you read?’

Miss Abildgaard, pictured today arriving at the tribunal in London, said that when a female colleague questioned why a list of potential candidates for a job did not include any women, Mr Michel-Verdier responded: ‘Can women even do this job?’

Miss Abildgaard said she had been looking for new employment from September 2017 up until her resignation and had received a job offer from Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) just over a week before the nightclub incident.

But she said she had not signed any contract or agreed to take the job as she did not want to leave IFM until August 2018 – when she would receive her bonus.

Miss Abildgaard said: ‘In March 2018 I had met with Annabel Wiscarson, the former European head of investor relations and the most senior woman in the London office, to discuss GIP – which Miss Wiscarson had recently moved to.

‘Miss Wiscarson told me that she perceived there to be cultural issues, such as aggressive male-dominated culture and limited recognition and promotion of female staff in the London office.’

City analyst Miss Abildgaard said she was left feeling ‘degraded’ after Mr Michel-Verdier allegedly told her that if he was ’20 years younger I would have been all over you.’

The incident is said to have happened at the Bling Bling nightclub in Madrid and she quit her job with London-based IFM Investments a month later. 

Mr Michel-Verdier, pictured arriving at the tribunal today, denies the allegations against him

Ms Abildgaard also claims Michel-Verdier stood ‘inappropriately and intimidatingly’ close to her before telling her: ‘You do not understand, I’m so much older than you.’

She says he added: ‘I know more about sex. I can teach you a lot of things.’ 

Mr Michel-Verdier is also said to have messaged her his hotel room number so ‘we could have some fun’ on the same night in March last year, which was organised to celebrate the closing of a deal. 

Miss Abildgaard said the incident at Madrid nightclub Bling Bling left her feeling anxious and she suffered panic attacks when she started a new job at the rival firm in July.

She was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and signed off from work – which she hopes to go back to in March this year.

The Danish-national told the tribunal: ‘It will take time and effort for me to recover from my anxiety before I will ‘feel like’ working in such an environment again, but it is my intention to do so.

‘I felt like years of hard work on my career were wasted and it took me a long time to accept that I was unable to work.

‘Once I stopped working I went into a period of depression. I isolated myself as I was unable to appreciate the company of others and was exceedingly short-tempered.

‘I had trouble sleeping with frequent nightmares and I suffered intense panic at seemingly insignificant events.’

Mr Michel-Verdier denies the allegations. The hearing at Central London Industrial Tribunals continues. 

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