Why make a move to a start-up. An Interview with Francois Tual, CCO at Habito

An Interview with Francois Tual : Chief Capital Officer at Habito (UK’s leading digital mortgage broker) and Ex Director at BNP Paribas. Discussing how to enter and excel in the financial sector and the differences and potential advantages of making the move to working at a start-up.

Would you mind introducing yourself?

My name is Francois Tual, I’ve been a banker for most of my working life and just switched to a start-up two years ago called Habito. I’ve worked for two European and one US investment bank where I started as an asset manager before ending up as Director of Asset Finance and securitization at my last firm.

What did you study at University and how did that lead into your career in finance?

The French system is a bit special where you essentially do two years of prep school and then do this competitive exam, leading you to one of the available business schools. I took this path and chose a general course where I could eventually specialise in a wide array of industries including marketing, strategy, finance etc… and through the first year of general courses, I developed an affinity to Finance. This affinity was developed from the people I was friends with, the courses I enjoyed, the internships I took and (although we don’t usually admit it) the lifestyle factors that come with working in the industry.

Could you briefly detail your career path since graduating?

I applied to the graduate program for one of the large US banks and managed to get an offer (admittedly I also applied to many other graduate programs). I stayed with the bank as an analyst in M&A and then joined a Price Equity and Advisory business where we basically worked on the back of the Lehman Crisis, securing a bunch of financial institutions across Europe — I did this for five years. I felt tired of the travelling and joined another Investment Bank in London where I worked a lot more on securitisation where I covered a lot of financial institutions including the new wave of FinTechs which leads me to actually joining one just two years ago.

Application tips

For CVs, all of them are essentially the same and I always recommend you to find a way to differentiate yourself a little. Most likely, a generic CV will get you through the first stage of applications but for the interviews you’re going to have to bring stories of yourself to the table, for example, are you interested in Stock Trading, especially with the current day apps where you can basically turn yourself into a day trader, if you’ve done a consulting project as part of the business school, if you’ve had a summer job etc… Having said all this, just coming from a good university is most likely to get you through the first round.

Networking

Back in the day, we didn’t have sufficient knowledge about all the jobs you could find in a bank, everyone was either working in the markets or M&A when going into finance. I recommend that you reach out to people working in the roles that you want to go into, quiz them and really work out for yourself if it’s something you envision yourself working in or if it’s just something everyone else is striving for. It’s always good to listen to other experiences to figure out if there’s anything that may fit you better.

How do we cater our experiences to fit entry level jobs in Finance if we’ve had no prior experience in banking?

Of course, it’s good for you to be able to talk to the interviewer about the finance modules you’ve already undertaken but what is more important for an interviewer is to test your capabilities to analyse a situation and react. You don’t necessarily have to be quantitative; you just need to learn how to overlap the skills you have to the job description of the jobs you’re applying for.

Why did you decide to jump ship and move from finance into Habito? (UK’s leading digital mortgage broker)

I had reached a point where I was ready to try something different, there’s also a really large start-up presence in the UK so it’s always something good to consider. Having said this, I wasn’t really looking to change anytime soon but throughout my career and projects, I found my CV looking more and more favorable to FinTechs and ended up getting a call from Headhunters for the firm I’m currently working for. At first, I didn’t really consider the offer seriously but I got to meet the team and was really interested by their passion and high caliber profile so decided to move. The first month was definitely an adjustment but the job is definitely a lot more diverse and keeps me on my toes.

Try to be as diverse as possible, speak to everyone, in all departments and then after that feel out what suits you best.

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Gaurav: www.staytouch.com/@gaurav

Founder & CEO, StayTouch