The winger also picked up several caps for the French 7’s team before pivoting his life away from playing and into the world of finance. Now, after an MBA from HEC Paris, he’s about to launch a new career with Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
BusinessBecause caught up with Jacques to find out more.
From professional sportsman to the HEC Paris MBA
Jacques was raised in Paris and after playing rugby throughout his childhood, he turned professional at the age of 18.
During a span of 12 years he was a world cup winner, played multiple times for France’s 7’s team, and experienced professional life on both sides of the Channel. From Montpellier and Bath, to Brive and Biarritz, Jacques was constantly exposed to high-performance situations and teamwork in abundance.
But not resting on his laurels, he always had one eye on his post-rugby career. Between 2008 and 2011 he completed a masters in entrepreneurship and small business operations at Montpellier Business School.
He continued to play for the next five years, before leaving the professional game at the age of 30 to take up a role in mergers & acquisitions (M&A) at KPMG France. He was the company’s head of sports advisory and an M&A analyst. There he created, developed, and led the firm’s Sports Advisory Practice, closing deals in the sports sector.
He worked with decision-makers, CEOs, funds, and learned about the politics of finance and strategy projects.
“KPMG helped me to develop and think about the sports industry,” he says. “I helped structure and develop their sports business while I was there. I worked on club deals, found a new owner for Toulon, worked with FC Girondins de Bordeaux in soccer, sports enterprises, and startups. It was pretty cool.”
Jacques is also a rugby commentator for RMC Sport, and the founder of a startup that works out of Station F, the world’s biggest startup incubator. FITERS combines tech and sport and provides clients with sports coaches and health strategies—they’ve worked with the likes of Bouygues Telecom, Vinci, Huawei, and AXA.
Three years after he stopped playing, Jacques was keen to further develop his business knowledge, which is when the MBA came into the picture. His objective was to pursue a career in banking and private equity funds. HEC Paris was the perfect choice, he says.
“HEC is the biggest name and school in Europe. I wanted to learn from the best and it’s important to have a great school on your resume when you want to work in finance.”
How to approach your career during the MBA
When you arrive in the MBA classroom, that’s when the work begins. Have an objective, but don’t sit on it. You must have a strong focus on the process. That advice comes from Marie Courtois, the former director of the Career Center at HEC Paris.
“The mistake Jacques hasn’t made for someone undertaking an MBA is to be blinded by the objective. He had a step-by-step approach. He researched, he identified his weaknesses and his strengths, and he networked a lot,” she explains.
He made the right connections and over time developed his understanding of what the finance field was looking for. He was very self-aware from the get-go, Marie recalls.
Jacques attended career workshops and utilized the services of the HEC Paris Career Center. Students can take part in CV reviews, mock interview sessions, and company career talks. Jacques did all of that.
It’s the ideal approach to your MBA career, Marie explains. Follow the step-by-step process and bring the right attitude.
So, what can other MBA candidates learn from Jacques?
Marie says he brought modesty and charming soft skills that meant he treated everyone from cafeteria staff to his professors with equal attention.
“He had a very positive attitude and I think this is the extra mile that got him where he is now. Not just the skillset but the interpersonal competencies, that extra 10% made the difference.”
Jacques out the box
Jacques’ approach to the MBA landed him a full-time offer with Bank of America. He starts in the summer of 2021 and was offered the role after a successful MBA internship with the firm as an investment banking summer associate.
He starts the role after completing a second six-month internship with a private equity firm in London—a position he landed through the HEC Paris alumni network.
He’s proved that anything is possible when you push yourself out of your comfort zone and utilize the vast network the HEC Paris MBA provides. He was also able to bring key skills into the business world from his professional sports background.
“When you play rugby or any sport at that level every day you have to be 100% committed to win your place on the roster, then to win the game at the weekend, and then secure your place for the next week. I did that every week for 12 years.”
He had also honed his teamwork ability. “I lived through many stressful situations, and from that I brought to the classroom the ability to manage when you need to deliver high standards in a group.”
His professional attitude is what eventually led to him landing the MBA internship with Bank of America.
He would wake up at five in the morning and spend all the time he wasn’t in class focusing on his banking applications, preparing for interviews, and networking with alumni to understand the different strategies needed for each bank, and how their teams worked differently.
He also leant on his professors. Professor Ferdinand Petra is a former banker at JP Morgan—he challenged Jacques a lot when it came to the technical parts of his banking application. And Professor Denis Gromb, a “corporate finance star”, gave Jacques the knowledge he needed to thrive in the industry.
Jacques’ MBA journey has one key lesson for prospective candidates looking to follow in his shoes. Commitment and a positive attitude are tantamount to career success.
“The MBA gives you all the tools to succeed, but at the end of the day it’s all in your hands.
“You need to be really committed in your application, and spend time applying. The job starts when you start to do your applications, you need to have the same commitment as you would have at your desk.”
I have met the most competent and diverse batch in this school. These people not only thrive on their own but also makes sure that you are doing it with them. The professors will take your had and walk you through all milestones and make sure you are not left behind. I have found their extracurriculars extremely engaging. There was always a room to have social life after academic life. The only hindrance is the location of the school, it is slightly outside city and living in city is expensive.
Internationality and diversity of opportunities
About my programme I would say it is very international and flexible: we have the opportunity to choose exactly the courses we want. But at the same time, the frame of the campus is crucial in students' life and enable us to create friendships.
Great selection of people
While HEC's MBA is highly selective, I really enjoy the type of people HEC's selects to make sure everybody gets the best out of their MBA experience and networking opportunities. Not only it's an incredibly diverse pool of people (~60 nationalities) but most importantly they make sure to let in friendly empathic and curious people.
Best in France for Grande ecole
A prestigious business school. Languages are important. It is better to have a scientific baccalaureate with excellent grades in high school and good assessments. The courses are well designed as per the latest trends and practicality of learning in stressed upon. Overall, a very good experience.
Diversity and quality of fellow students
Very international and interesting place to be and opens a lot of opportunities, however the administration is very french and facilities are subpar (gym, classrooms) meaning the academic affairs is pretty much useless and lastly we are graded on a curve which can create a toxic environment because of the competition. With that being said the pros outweighs the cons by far.
The quality of the teachers, the campus, the clubs
The school is very international indeed, we have courses with international students and share things with them within the extra academic life (in the social clubs especially). We have great career prospects if we prepare ourselves well - however, the global curriculum is still very finance-oriented, which is a pity for other interesting domains of the company world, which does not rely on finance only. The social clubs are good practice for the management and for now, are quite independent.
HEC Paris awaits you
HEC Paris is really a nice place to do a master's in business. Many classes are useful and interesting (corporate finance, financial accounting, contract law…), some are less - but the curriculum is to be reviewed in the year to come. Regarding the student life, it is incredible, with about 130 clubs, lots of great parties with even greater people. The Jouy campus offers a lot of opportunities to do sports, and you can breathe fresh air every day. HEC also helps a great deal to find an internship or a job.
A dream institute
Enrolling in the HEC MBA was by far the best decision I made for myself. The people and faculty are great, with lots of opportunities to meet people and expand your horizons. Very nice campus where I have had some good running sessions. The alumni network is superb and very helpful. It also has a good support system for entrepreneurs. Would definitely recommend it!