How my finance education built the path to launching a company

Luca Andre Frignani graduated from EDHEC Business School in 2015 after completing the Master in Management Financial Economics Track and the MSc in Financial Markets. CEO and co-founder of Exaloan, he shares his experience on how his EDHEC education impacted his professional path.

Written on 22 Oct 2020.


 

Can you tell me why you chose the MSc in financial markets? 

Sure, I was really attracted to the programme because before joining EDHEC, I was working at UBS on the trading floor in fixed income sales and trading, and I wanted to make a conscious transition to the buy-side – that’s to say anything related to investing money, asset management. 

I particularly liked the MSc in Financial Markets because I thought the programme was one of the most competitive and it was certainly the best one tailored to my interests with a dedicated focus on asset management. I also liked the quantitative elements and programming elements, two areas that I wanted to develop in addition to my capital markets background. I thought the program was the best choice. 

 

You founded Exaloan, can you tell us about it. 

Exaloan is a Frankfurt-based tech startup. I am one of four Co-founders. Our company provides a global marketplace in which we connect institutional investors like banks, asset managers, and pension funds with digital lending platforms. We define these lending platforms, as any Fintech or institution which enables borrowers to apply for a loan online. The main reason we're doing this is that we're convinced that the trend towards a platform economy and process automation will persist in the digital lending market as there are a lot of benefits to digitizing these processes. But what we're seeing is that despite very attractive interest rates and returns that investors can earn from funding loans on these marketplaces, digital lending platforms have trouble finding enough capital to refinance and satisfy all the loan demand. When you put it in numbers, then actually only about 15% of all the applied and approved loan applications get funded, so not even a 5th of the demand is satisfied. The main reasons for this are that investors do not have the right tools, nor enough transparency, and there is no standardization in this market in order to be able to invest in scale. So that's why we want to bring these players together: institutional investors with fintech lenders. We develop software to digitize the funding processes for innovative lending platforms and to tap institutional capital at scale. Our mission is to build the technological bridge to close the global funding gap for individuals, entrepreneurs and SMEs.

 

How did the MSc in Financial Markets prepare you for the launch of your company? 

That's a great question. I would say it was the combination of quantitative elements and specific topics like the state of the art investment solutions, advanced fixed income, as well as alternative investments. Also, the technical part like programming was the key to getting the right tools to come up with a new idea, to also develop prototypes, and then also, to get into some roles before founding the company. Basically, doing the MSc enabled me to transition from an investment banking background to roles in Fintech and in quantitative asset management. Then, during my last job at a quant hedge fund and hanging out with one of the partners, the idea for Exaloan was born. 

 

What is your biggest accomplishment so far? 

I would say having found an amazing team and 3 great co-founders to help build Exaloan from scratch and successfully closing two funding rounds this year. So you will hopefully hear a lot more from us going forward! 

 

What is your best memory of EDHEC? 

I enjoyed the whole experience. I really liked the campus in Nice and the flavor of having a very interesting and challenging program. But at the same time, being in a cool region and being able to enjoy the good aspects of the Riviera life apart from the curriculum itself. 

I also have fond memories of some of the professors who definitely made some of the topics very interesting. One of the fun memories is definitely some classes, like fixed income and investment solutions since it's my passion. Also, I enjoyed the applied angle that the University takes. And then the graduation ceremony was of course also pretty cool.

The graduation still feels like it was yesterday, so I was shocked to learn that it has been five years already and some gray hair since then. 

The EDHEC community is strong and I’m genuinely glad the school reached out to me for its welcome session. I was happy to share my 2 cents of experience and some advice.

I signed up in the alumni network. There is a bit of a community in Frankfurt, but it's something that I would love to be bigger and I hope it grows going forward. I still keep in touch with a couple of alumni who are currently in London or Zurich and I’m trying to keep track of some of the old mates.

On another note, I had a fun discovery earlier this year. I spent quite some time in Singapore because our company has a second office there. In one of the meetings downtown, I realised that I was actually visiting the same building where EDHEC keeps its campus - I didn’t have the time to do a tour, though. So hopefully there will be a bit more touchpoints with the Asian branch going forward. 

 

During the FE Welcome session, what advice did you share? 

I think a lot of students have the impression that you must have a job at a big bank or any large corporate establishment in order to be successful and build a career. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I would say that the learning curve can be significantly steeper, in smaller companies because you can get a lot more exposure to various topics, which I think is key to building your skillset.

There is a big shift going on in the market, job roles are evolving and startup ecosystems are thriving. So my advice to the students was to do the things that you really like, that you enjoy doing. Let your passion guide you to the specific field or domain and go where you think you can make the most impact. Also, I encourage those graduates who prefer to build something new, to just go ahead and create their own company. You have nothing to lose and there is virtually no downside to being brave and trying something different.

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