Ex-HSBC Trader Scouts Financiers to Become Born-Again Coders

(Bloomberg) -- An ex-HSBC Holdings Plc trader who quit his job to learn code is persuading his former colleagues to follow in his footsteps.

Boris Paillard, who once developed equity and rates models at HSBC’s Paris office, is now co-founder of Le Wagon, a 9-week $8,000 boot camp that teaches computer code to a growing number of bankers, consultants and marketing types. 

Ex-HSBC Trader Scouts Financiers to Become Born-Again Coders

Those with a financial or corporate background make up about a third of students at Le Wagon, alongside new graduates from business and engineering schools, as well as entrepreneurs, Paillard said.

“There’s appetite at big companies for hard-tech skills to help automate tasks,” which is driving a diverse group to want to add code to their list of executive skills, he said, adding that in London there a growing number of financiers hoping to learn code as a way into working in the fintech industry.

A 32 year-old Frenchman who studied engineering and applied mathematics at Ecole Centrale, Paillard started Le Wagon 4 years ago in Paris with his brother Romain, a lawyer. The startup plans to expand its teaching platform globally beyond the current 27 cities, which include London, Berlin, Tokyo and the island of Bali in Indonesia.

Ex-HSBC Trader Scouts Financiers to Become Born-Again Coders

Their training is part of Europe’s attempt at establishing its own identity in teaching people how to code, a few years after boot camps were all the hype in the U.S. -- with mixed results. While the promise of “changing your life” is still at the forefront of Le Wagon’s website, the focus isn’t so much on learning to code to get hired at Google, but rather to upgrade your profile to fit the tech needs of companies including financials and industrials.

Traders, Dentists

Gauthier Vanderhaegen, with a background in marketing and auditing at Ernst & Young LLP, went through a Le Wagon training program last year, alongside a range of wannabe coders with different backgrounds. "One student who was a financial trader launched a startup at the end of our batch," he said. "A dentist, who was around 40 years old, joined him."

Vanderhaegen now works for French startup Mapwize. Rami Bakri, a former equity sales trader at Tradition and more recently a product manager at Tandem Bank, joined London-based payments startup Dopay in August. During his time at Le Wagon in mid-2017, Bakri studied alongside an M&A banker from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., a fixed income trader, and a financial analyst from Unilever NV.

"Typically those who went into finance are ambitious. But as an industry it’s mature. There are fewer promotion opportunities, due to top-heavy organizations, and salaries and bonuses aren’t what they once were," said Bakri. "So people are looking at the hot new industry, tech."

Axa, L’Oreal

Other industries, from insurance to retail, are also looking for candidates with tech skills. Le Wagon has teamed up with the likes of insurer Axa SA, cosmetics giant L’Oreal SA and industrial gas maker Air Liquide SA. Those companies, along with French financial markets regulator AMF and national postal service La Poste, are customers of Le Wagon for shorter tailored boot camps that fit their internal needs for coding know-how.

The startup hasn’t raised money yet and doesn’t disclose financials, but is profitable Paillard said. The coming months will be about recruiting more students to double the current 2,000 alumni, as well as diversifying revenue streams from the tuition-only model to company training and eventually selling subscriptions to universities for access to Le Wagon’s teaching platform. 

There are no plans to launch in the U.S., a market where competition is fierce. It’s proved tricky for fellow Frenchman Xavier Niel, a billionaire telecoms tycoon, who has exported his unconventional tuition-free software engineering school, 42, from Paris to Fremont, California.

"When you’re French or European you need to quickly expand internationally to reach a potential market with a decent size; faster than U.S. players," Paillard said. "That’s our goal and our challenge now -- to scale up each of our schools globally."

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