Christophe Oleron (SKEMA 2005): an international career in finance

16 March 2021 INTERVIEW

After rounding off his technical background with financial markets training at SKEMA Business School, Christophe Oleron began his international career very quickly, moving first to the United Kingdom and then to Asia. Christophe now lives in Hong Kong, where he is a high-ranking executive at HSBC. He talks to us about his evolution in the world of finance and trading, his international career, and his experience at SKEMA.

Can you tell us about your educational and professional background?

After attending an engineering school in Lyon where I specialised in telecommunications, I interned at Alcatel in Cannes. This was my first experience of the French Riviera and it prompted to search for a course in the region. Since I was very interested in finance, I decided to join the six-month MSc Financial Markets programme on SKEMA Business School’s Sophia Antipolis campus. I was class valedictorian when I graduated with my master’s. I got the opportunity to intern at Société Générale in Paris and after four months that quickly led to a permanent position as trader assistant. I then worked at Natixis as an index arbitrage trader. Then, in 2007, I got the chance to join JPMorgan Chase in London, then Tokyo, and finally in Hong Kong as Head of DM Asia Delta One. These days I am still living in Hong Kong, where I have been Global Head of Index, Delta One & Stock Borrowing and Lending for HSBC since 2016.

What stands out the most for you about your experience at SKEMA Business School?

I have very fond memories of my time at SKEMA Business School. I especially enjoyed the very practical aspect of the programme, being apply to apply the theory, looking at real case studies, and having highly experienced and qualified lecturers. That really allowed me to learn about the reality in the field. The master’s was very focused on financial markets, with a significant IT component and especially a lot of coding. This enabled me to round off my technical background. I also learned the programming language used by banks and that has been useful to me in my career. Because the master’s is very technical and teaches highly useful professional skills, I was able to find work very quickly after my studies.

Has the SKEMA Business School alumni network played a role in your professional and personal life?

It’s thanks to SKEMA Business School’s vast alumni network that I joined Société Générale in Paris after my studies, because I was hired by an alumnus who had done the same course as me. The director of the master’s programme had sent my CV to several companies via the alumni network. As a result of that, I received three internship offers and one job offer when I graduated. At SKEMA Business School, there was also a real family spirit. The school regularly organises events around the world where its alumni can come together. With the alumni living in Hong Kong, we organise get-togethers, cultural events and evening meetups every three months to chat, mingle and network. I think they’re great and I try to attend as much as possible.

Can you tell us about your current role? What has your career progression been like at HSBC?

When I joined HSBC in 2016, I was in charge of Delta One trading and arbitrage, with about ten people reporting to me. I then took over responsibility for Prime Finance Trading in the Asia Pacific region, with a team of around twenty. Today, I’m in charge of global trading and I manage a team of about fifty traders in six different countries. Our job is to help the group to develop economically: we develop digital platforms and products and we make sure to promote the strengths of the HSBC Group around the world. We also manage large-scale international projects, like the group’s expansion in the Japanese market and, at the moment, in the Indian market. Drawing on my highly technical background, I create algorithms and digital solutions to automate processes and simplify the teams’ work locally and globally by rolling out more sophisticated models. Today, my activities are less focused on trading and a big part of my job is management. I manage the teams, I make hiring decisions, I create good group synergies... So I have developed managerial skills (people management, organisation, etc.) in addition to my technical skills. One of the things I am looking to improve is the communication between the teams at different sites as, like in many other big corporations and multi-nationals, it tends to be very siloed. I have set up a rather innovative project, with the creation of digital platforms and forums where the teams can interact, whether it is to talk about the clients, trading, strategies, or to give each other coding advice. 

What have your different expatriations brought you, personally and professionally?

I have always been pleasantly surprised by my expatriations. Every time, the integration has been really easy and I haven’t had any particular challenges. I have always loved to discover new cultures and I have learned a lot about myself and others through these different experiences. It is also very interesting to see the different cultural codes that exist in the workplace. In Japan, for example, people are very agreeable and polite, and they have a great respect for hierarchy. At work, there is a clear chain of command and strict rules: for example, while dozing off during a meeting is tolerated, sending an email directly to a more senior manager without copying in one’s direct superior is very frowned upon! These international experiences have also been very formative and, among other things, they have taught me a great deal about how to manage a globalised business. Working with multicultural profiles and being exposed to different cultures within a large international corporation has also helped me to become a better manager and to better understand different personalities and ways of thinking. In the world of finance, working abroad really helps to get ahead professionally: London, Hong Kong and China are the destinations that offer the best opportunities in this sector.

What advice would you give young SKEMA graduates wanting to build an international career?

I would really recommend joining a multi-national corporation quickly. These types of companies offer the most opportunities abroad. And I think the best way to get your foot in the door of a big company as a junior in the finance sector is to be recruited via a graduate program. I also think that you shouldn’t hesitate to approach people, to talk to them, to network and to build connections while you are studying and once you are out in the corporate world. Now that I have recruited people from all different backgrounds and from the top international schools, I can say that being a hard worker, curious, autonomous, and having common sense are the most important qualities. I think that many young graduates are still in a “school” mindset when they finish their studies. Once out in the professional world, they make the mistake of seeing work as an extension of their studies: they don’t show initiative and they want to be told what to do. That is why specialised master’s programmes like those offered at SKEMA Business School are so good: they focus on the reality on the ground and they are taught by experienced professionals who give you the keys to succeed out in the professional world.


Contact: Christophe Oleron, Global Head of Index & ETFs and Synthetic Prime Trading - MD at HSBC

Interview by for SKEMA Alumni