The French Financial Ecosystem

Tomorrow I start my internship at Finance Innovation. As its name suggests, the company operates in the finance industry. Specifically, Finance Innovation was started by the French Public Authorities to provide resources and networking opportunities for fintech startups in France to secure funding, insurance, consulting, and other services that help accelerate their growth.  To that end, Finance Innovation hosts hundreds of events each year, where organizations can interact with each other and share what they are working on. Throughout my internship, I will be researching European projects in fintech, and I will be helping organize these events.

Success in fintech means you must be on top of the latest trends. Otherwise, you get beaten out by the competition. Luckily, that is my neck of the woods as a cryptocurrency investor since I was 15 years old. I am invested in technologies that employ blockchain to enhance processes such as storage and transaction. I have also lately been exploring how blockchain can be used to help finance companies without the need for intermediaries. I think emerging concepts from blockchain such as smart contracts may one day change the way we think about banking. Technologies like this are what I will encounter daily at Finance Innovation, and I cannot wait to learn much more about what is out there.

In finance, you also must be very analytical, since you must know when it is a good idea to make the investment. This is something that I practice on a regular basis at Panther Equity, the University of Pittsburgh’s investment fund. Using tools like the Bloomberg Terminal, I can value companies both comparatively and absolutely. I also know how to use Python to analyze data from external sources such as Google Finance. At Finance Innovation, I will need to be aware of the value of each of our members’ projects and distribute the company’s resources accordingly.

Lastly, in any part of the business world, it is essential to be able to build relationships. I have been practicing these skills during my international consulting project, where I was able to leverage my Spanish to build a relationship with the client. I have also worked in several executive teams in student organizations where I had to cooperate with multiple stakeholders to achieve success. However, I must acknowledge that it will be particularly challenging to do so in another language. I will really have to make sure to listen carefully and put effort into my communication to make sure that I can succeed.

There are also some cultural aspects that I will need to be aware of as I work for a French company. For example, French people have a specific way of speaking in the workplace. It is essential to respect superiors by addressing them as Monsieur or Madame. It is also important to use the vous form when addressing someone, which is not a concept in English, but it is a concept in Spanish, so I am familiar with it.

Feedback wise, French people can also be somewhat negative. I should not expect to hear a lot of positive feedback throughout my internship, as doing well is to be expected. It is also somewhat common for French people to say “no” to an idea or proposal, only to change their minds later. Arguments are also to be expected. French people may very often ask probing questions about ideas, as logic is very important to them. It does not mean they are angry, but it is just the cultural norm. Arguments may also involve subjects like politics, which is a tabooer topic of discussion in the United States.

I should also not be surprised if decisions are taking slowly. It may be the case that I come out of a long meeting and a decision has not been taken. French people study philosophy and are very keen on the idea of circular thinking, meaning that they must think about every step of a process before deciding. This differs from linear thinking, more common in America, where decisions are made in function of what can get you from Point A to Point B the fastest.

One other consideration is to respect work-life balance. Although it is true that the French work far longer than the advertised 35 hours (in reality, it is more like 50-60), it is important to respect their free time. If a company makes an employee answer emails and phone calls outside of business hours, they can be fined. Business close on time, and employees do not work later than they must. So, I should not expect my colleagues to answer questions outside of business hours, and I should not be working outside of business hours either.

At Finance Innovation, I will learn a lot about fintech and French culture. I will be surrounded by an amazing team and really get the chance to add value to the fintech organizations. I cannot wait to enter this new environment and hit the ground running tomorrow.