Sephora is Seeing the Beauty of Numbers

Alexis Rollier turns his financial acumen into an international career as he leads the company’s growth in the Americas

Alexis Rollier’s financial insight: “Always balance cautiousness and measured risk-taking. In other words, learn when to slow the car down and when to hit the gas.”

As CFO of Sephora Americas, Alexis Rollier finds himself in a coveted position. Known for mixing classic and emerging brands at a range of prestige price points, Sephora is a leading beauty retailer in the United States. Rollier’s impressive career, which began with one of the most luxurious brands in the world, makes him perfect for the job.

When Rollier was an MBA student, he won a contest in his native France organized by LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton, the world’s leading luxury products group. Each student was tasked with selecting a topic pertinent to an Asian country and developing a plan to boost the local economy. If chosen, the student was given money to visit the country and, as Rollier says, “realize their destiny.” It was an experience that would change his life, introducing him to key players at LVMH and enabling him to build relationships within the company.

“The more I met them and learned about the different divisions—including fashion and leather goods, wines and spirits, watches and jewelry, perfumes and cosmetics, and selective retailing—the more this industry appealed to me,” Rollier says. “I always felt this industry was a lot more than a business; it was truly one of the best ambassadors of France’s culture and know-how.”

When looking back at his storied career, Rollier says it was the nine years he spent in the perfumes and cosmetics group at LVMH that truly prepared him for his role as CFO of Sephora. Those years included six years as CFO of Guerlain, one of the most prestigious LVMH beauty brands. Even more impressive, Rollier was promoted to a CFO position when he was just 32-years old. “This gave me a solid understanding of the beauty industry from the brand side and an understanding of how to combine profitable growth and brand building,” Rollier says. “Joining Sephora two years ago was a great way for me to leverage my beauty and retail experiences into a single role, and my past international exposure helped me adjust easily to the US work style.”

It didn’t hurt that Rollier’s family—his wife and two children ages seven and nine—were very excited to move to the United States. “Without their support, this adventure would not have been possible,” the CFO says.

Rollier understands that not everyone reaches the career heights that he has, especially not at such a young age. This is why the CFO says that for him at least, part of being an international executive means first and foremost realizing how lucky one is to work in multicultural environments. “Not many people are given this opportunity,” he says. “This is such a great way to learn about other people, other countries, and other cultures. It is also probably one of the best ways to go beyond your limits and do things you never thought you could do.”

Because Rollier traveled so extensively at the starts of his career, his transition to living in the United States wasn’t too rocky. Rollier says he has maintained the initial curiosity that propelled him into the world of international business. This is not to say the work is without challenges. One of Rollier’s main challenges is allocating resources and prioritizing projects in terms of what will make the biggest difference in terms of the experience Sephora offers to its clients. “It is a challenge,” he says. “Sephora is a highly creative environment. We have a lot of great ideas, but not all can be done at the same time or with the same resources.”

At the end of the day, the most important understanding is that Sephora is more than a retailer; it is a brand. As CFO, Rollier must combine both the best of retail and brand financial practices, making investments not only for the immediate business and the profit it will deliver, but also with foresight, making sure that in the long run investments contribute to building the brand, its awareness, and image.

“The US Beauty market is very competitive and fast-paced,” Rollier says. “There are many retailers, from department stores and specialty retailers to online players and brands opening their own stores. There are new products arriving to the market every day. But Sephora offers the best selection of beauty products and the best client experience with the greatest service. Sephora has also been the first one to invest and win in the digital beauty world. As CFO, I want to ensure Sephora continues to lead in the beauty retail and digital worlds.”