As we suggested yesterday,consulting can be a good entry-point for a career in banking – particularly if you’re happy for your career in banking to be based around banking strategy as opposed to M&A or sales and trading. Now, Sébastien Guillo, head of strategy and planning for HSBC France, proves our point.
Aged just 30, Guillo became head of strategy at the British bank in September. It’s a role that entails a position on HSBC’s executive board. In a lengthy interview on our French site, Guillo says early promotion in strategy roles isn’t unusual – his predecessor also got the job when she was 30, and Daniel Klier, the group head of strategy at HSBC, isn’t much older than 35.
If you want to make it in banking strategy, it helps to spent some time as a strategy consultant. Klier is ex-McKinsey & Co. and Guillo spent three years working for Oliver Wyman in London, Paris, Germany and Italy. He says strategy consulting is, “an excellent preparation” for a career in banking and that time in consulting provides comprehensive and condensed exposure to a sector. In Guillo’s case, it helped that he was a consultant between 2007 and 2010, just as the financial services industry was going through the paroxysms of the financial crisis. “I was able to cover some extremely diverse projects,” he says.
Guillo was headhunted to move into banking. HSBC approached him for a position as senior business planning manager, a role that combined strategy, finance and corporate finance. He did that for two years before being promoted internally to head of finance for commercial banking in France, and then again to head of strategy and planning.
Guillo wasn’t always a strategist. Before undertaking an MBA at France’s Essec Business School, he spent six months as a corporate finance intern for boutique firm Oddo & Cie. So, why didn’t he go into corporate finance? Guillo says he wanted something a bit broader: “I was essentially putting pitches together for clients and executing two deals in M&A and DCM. It was a very useful and interesting experience, but as well as the financial vision, I wanted a more global view on banking from an operational perspective.”
Guillo has got to the top by job-hopping, albeit internally. Although he’s been at HSBC since 2010, he’s had three jobs at the bank in four years. And he spent just 36 months at Oliver Wyman. So, is skipping from role to role the way to get ahead? “It’s the result of opportunities that I’ve had, and a strong urge to learn,” says Guillo, admitting that he’s also strongly inclined to swap jobs every three years because doing different things is “healthy” and it allows you to quickly acquire “new competencies.”
If you’re a young person who wants to go into banking now, Guillo advises looking beyond the front office. Areas like risk, compliance, digital marketing, and technology are where the growth is. Big data is emerging as a whole new career. – Chief Data Officers who analyse client data and devise strategies based around their findings are increasingly popular. “Technical competency isn’t enough on its own,” he adds. “You also need to be passionate… Intellectual curiosity, personality and self-awareness are also increasingly important in banking.”