Fintech: Blockchain And Artificial Intelligence Startups Are Flocking To HEC Paris — Here's Why

There's a growing appetite for MBA talent, from 'disruptors' to bulge-bracket banks

Few topics get business schoolers' pulses racing like financial technology — from blockchain and cryptocurrencies to artificial intelligence, the fintech revolution has already made its way into a suite of MBA degrees.

And according to one top French business school, fintech start-ups like TransferWise or GoCardless now vie with investment banks and traditional financial services companies for digitally skilled, entrepreneurial recruits.

Spreadsheet-savvy MBAs may not seem like the type for fast-paced tech firms, but their growing appetite for MBAs was on full display at HEC Paris' second annual Fintech Talent Fair this month. From start-ups like Blockchain and PayinTech to larger financial institutions such as Bloomberg and BNP Paribas, companies representing the full fintech spectrum were out in force.

The roster of high-profile businesses will interest anyone considering a career in the nascent but rapidly growing fintech industry.

William Kunter works for N26, a German app-only bank that's backed by Peter Thiel and Li Ka-shing. Founded in 2013, it has 200,000 customers, 140 employees and this summer, it raised $40 million.

William left Goldman Sachs to join the start-up in September 2016, a few years after picking up a master's degree in finance at HEC Paris.

He was at this year’s Fintech Talent Fair, snapping up new recruits.

We asked William why MBAs should consider a career in fintech. This is what he told us:

Why should business students consider a career in fintech?

For a lot of reasons actually. First, fintech is probably one of the hottest and most dynamic sectors in tech today. It’s attracting a lot of interest and funding. Second, working in fintech gives you the opportunity to have a real impact on the day to day life of a very large number of people. Lastly, fintech start-ups deal with a fairly complex environment and designing simple products in that environment is a real challenge, and therefore intellectually stimulating. It requires knowledge of a broad array of topics — perfect for business students.

There's a perception that b-school students can be a little rigid for fast-moving tech companies. How has your master's degree in finance from HEC Paris helped you in the fintech industry?

I really think that’s a misconception. In my view, b-school students are not rigid, they are structured and that’s a big difference. A crucial point in the success of a start-up is how well it can execute. That’s why a lot of start-ups are looking for structured candidates, as they are at the very beginning of implementing the structures in their companies. B-school students, thanks to their educational background and past experience, have a clear advantage.

That being said, if you’re interested in joining a start-up, you also need to be flexible because you need to adapt quickly to a fast-paced environment and to the people you are working with. So for me, the best candidates are the ones who are structured and flexible at the same time. I think that’s exactly what my master’s degree from HEC Paris gave me. It provided me with the first building blocks of the professional I am today. It taught me solid business knowledge, strong analytical skills and also helped me to adapt quickly to various situations.

Is N26 hiring business school grads?

Absolutely! As we’re growing quickly, we’re looking to hire more experienced (MBA) as well as less experienced (master) business school profiles for internship and full time positions. We actually already have both profiles at N26. For instance our head of marketing as well as our head of product have MBAs. In that respect, I would encourage all business school grads with a keen interest in fintech and with prior experience in banking / consulting / start-ups to send us their CV.

N26 is probably one of the hottest fintech start-ups in Europe at the moment, backed by prominent investors. We’re trying to do two things: build the pan-European bank of tomorrow and build a fintech hub. All the while we always concentrate on creating a simple product that is easy to use and really makes banking enjoyable for customers. So if you want to work in the fintech industry, N26 is a pretty good place to be in as you get a large exposure to the space.

Why are you attending the Fintech Talent Fair?

The Fintech Talent Fair is a great opportunity to network with people from the industry and to meet talented students eager to work in the fintech space. We’re always looking for good candidates. We’re well aware that the success of a start-up really depends on its ability to hire the best and brightest. Such events are opportunities to do so. For us, a Berlin-based start-up, it’s also an occasion to increase our visibility, especially when we’re planning to expand in Europe within the coming weeks!

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