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Ex-HSBC trader scouts financiers to become born-again coders

2 February 2018
An ex-HSBC trader who quit his job to learn code is persuading his former colleagues to follow in his footsteps in order to fulfil the appetite of organisations for hard-tech skills to help automate tasks

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.

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 four years ago in Paris with his brother Romain, a lawyer. The start-up plans to expand its teaching platform globally beyond the current 27 cities, which include London, Berlin, Tokyo and the island of Bali in Indonesia.

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.

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

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

Other industries, including insurance, are also looking for candidates with tech skills and Le Wagon has teamed up with Axa, the French multi-national insurer. Axa, along with French financial markets regulator AMF, is a customer of Le Wagon for shorter tailored bootcamps 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. "When you’re French or European you need to quickly expand internationally to reach a potential market with a decent size; faster than US players," Paillard said. "That’s our goal and our challenge now – to scale up each of our schools globally."

[Bloomberg]

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