Even before he started business school in France 16 years ago, Jean-Philippe Verdier knew he wanted a job in finance.
As an ambitious 20 year old, he began looking for the grande école programme that would lead to his diploma, these days known as the masters in management. His choice of Reims Management School worked both educationally and personally, he says.
On the educational front, the school had a strong reputation in banking, auditing and the capital markets – it teaches students up to level three of the CFA (chartered financial analyst) qualification – an international outlook and strong league table ranking.
On the personal side, the school was also the one he warmed to the most – a difficult admission for a born and bred Parisian.
But then Reims has an obvious student attraction: it is in the heart of the famous wine-growing region of Champagne. Moreover, the business school is supported by the local chamber of commerce, which is filled with local champagne growers. “You drink champagne non-stop – I’m not kidding!” laughs Verdier.
When he enrolled at Reims in 1993, he stuck to his goals, choosing electives in finance and being an active member of the finance club.
The school’s internship programme also gave him a further leg up in the world of banking and finance. He spent six months at Crédit Commercial de France (now part of HSBC) working in fund management and completed a three-month internship in auditing at Deloitte.
To bolster his experience, he also took part in an exchange programme with Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management. “I liked it because you could choose different topics at different levels – psychology, for example.” Verdier says there was a real contrast between the two business schools: Solvay was more theoretical; Reims more practical.
Verdier then went to work for BNP Paribas in Singapore. Although he had the opportunity to stay on, he decided against it. “I wanted to come back to Europe and continue to work in an Anglo-Saxon [banking] environment.”
Having enrolled on BNP Paribas’ graduate trainee scheme, Verdier worked in the bank’s corporate finance team before switching to Deutsche Bank, where he was an analyst and later an associate.
In 2004, Verdier was headhunted by Greenhill & Co, the independent investment bank. The decision to move, he says, was due to the firm’s size. “It’s a smaller environment, which means you can make more of a difference.”
Like many business school graduates, Verdier argues the value of the experience goes beyond teaching. The contacts he has made have been invaluable, with many still among his closest friends in London, where he has set up the alumni chapter for Reims and helped develop the school’s alumni website.
“I decided to go full time: I didn’t think that I could do an EMBA and a job in the City,” he adds.
As part of his qualification, he will study electives in entrepreneurship. “I think it will give me a different profile and open up horizons,” he says.