France must develop its financial sector to match its top-notch financial education, says Christophe Mazurier

Article published on Dec. 14, 2014
Article published on Dec. 14, 2014

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

According to a recent study published in the Financial Times, France is the best nation in which to study for a Master’s degree in finance. No less than six French institutions rank among the top 15 schools worldwide for a pre-experience Master’s degree in finance.

HEC Paris, ranked No. 1 business school worldwide for the second consecutive year, has long been considered the elite master’s program in Europe.

By comparison, the top 20 institutions included just one school from the United States, the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T., which ranked 10th.

The methodology behind the rankings takes into account two major factors. First, it considers the school itself, determining the quality of its professors, geographical origin and demography of the enrollment, and the depth and breadth of courses offered. Second, it considers the employment rate of graduate students, and how well the school prepares them for the social and geographic mobility of a job in international finance. In both of these categories, French higher learning reigns supreme.

Schools like HEC Paris, Edhec Business School, Essec Business School and Skema Business School, all based in France and ranked in the top 10, have demonstrated a willingness to venture abroad (especially to the burgeoning Asian market) to both attract prospective students and prospective employers once those students become graduates. Their curriculum now includes classes taught in various languages, and the schools encourage a grasp of global financial institutions rather than expertise in only those of France or the European Union.

With the excellence of French business programs all but solidified, Christophe Mazurier, a noted European financier, wants the French business sector to follow suit. If France’s higher learning can adapt to a new, globalized world, why must the French industry and finance remain trapped in the 20th Century?

It is a question being asked in many different ways, all across the flagging European nation. France’s unemployment rate rages above 10 percent -- its worst-ever margin -- and the youth are disproportionately affected. French industry, once one of the nation’s calling cards, has dwindled. The public has more or less declared revolt on the financial sector, blaming the country’s inability to recover like neighbors Germany and the U.K. on their ineptitude and irresponsibility.

In a recent editorial for French website Les Echos, Mazurier endeavored to remind France of “the inherent strengths of our country”, which include excellence, adaptability and persistence. The institutions behind France’s surge to the top of the business-school rankings got there using these qualities, and the financial sector will need much the same to convince the French people to get behind them and industry to return their operations, jobs, and GDP influence back to the domestic sphere.

If France can indeed turn the economy around -- and Mazurier has said Hollande’s recent appointment of pro-business centrist Emmanuel Macron as economics minister was a huge step in the right direction -- then it will have a further positive effect on its excellent financial institutions.

Because while schools like HEC Paris are among the world’s elite centers of learning, many of the graduates go on to take more lucrative, comfortable positions in more promising financial centers, like Beijing and New York City.

Mazurier thinks that if the French economy can rebound, there already exists a local population of talented business whiz kids to contribute further to the recovery. Those students just need proof that they will be welcomed, and treated as well in Paris as they would anywhere else.