MFM London Study Trip 2019

On the 14th of January our entire MFM class traveled to London to visit a series of top tier companies in the financial field. Five intense days of fascinating talks, networking events, and worthwhile to mention, some time was preserved for us to explore the vibrant city in all its glory. A sincere thank you to all the companies for hosting us.


To kick off our 5-day International Study Trip to London, we were invited at the J.P Morgan Asset Management offices right next to the Thames. No better way to start a study trip like that in London, right? After the registration and check-in, we gathered in a prestigious restored conference room which used to be part of an elementary school in the beginning of the previous century. The two speakers, Vincent Juvyns and Tom Vermeulen who is a fellow Belgian and is working for J.P Morgan for a long time now, prepared a presentation consisting of two parts, i.e. a company presentation and an economic outlook for the coming year.

Unfortunately, Vincent Juvyns could not join us because of a conference he had to attend in Rome. Nevertheless, J.P. Morgan assured that we could listen to the interesting outlook for coming year given by Vincent by setting up a live video connection, it was as if we were in a real conference call! It was perfectly set up without any glitches, which happens a lot in other companies even when trying to set up a normal presentation. During the economic outlook, Vincent tackled a lot of very interesting subjects such as low-interest rates, the trade war between the US and China, Brexit, and the monetary policy of the different central banks. During each subject, he explained the current situation and what the firm expects to happen during the coming year.

To end the presentation, Tom gave more information about the history and the current operations of firm and how to apply for internships at the firm. Regarding the internships, he gave more information about what the firm values and where it looks at when going through the CV or during interviews.



After an interesting visit at JP Morgan we were welcomed in the Flanders House for a company presentation of both PwC and Fiduciam. Although, Fiduciam might be relatively unknown it is far from a boring company. The core strategy of Fiduciam is in fact to fill the lending gap between banks and SMEs. With their flexible, efficient and competitive approach in lending, they are growing incredibly fast. Where traditional banks most often are only willing to lend against fixed properties, Fiduciam also accepts receivables, properties and other types of real assets. Fiduciam itself is primarily funded by pension and other related funds.

Fiduciam is currently active in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, and France. The main clients can be found in the real estate, financial services, manufacturing, agri-food, hospitality and healthcare sectors. Bridging, refurbishment, development, business, and trade loans are provided ranging from 250k and 25m (GBP).

Fiduciam was founded in 2014 by the Belgian Johan Groothaert and Henrik Takkenberg. In this short period, Fiduciam was able to provide loans for an amount of 210,846,014 GBP. This amount represents only a fraction of the ambitious growth goals in the upcoming years.

The main advantages of Fiduciam can be summarized as follows:

  • Transparent terms
  • Fast approval and execution
  • A trusted partner
  • Relationship instead of internet
  • A sustainable funding model
  • A highly efficient process

After this interesting presentation, we moved on to the presentation of PwC. At the end of the event, we had some time for Q&A during the networking reception in the Flanders House.

 Next to the exciting talk about Fiduciam at the Flanders House in London, we were privileged to attend a very interesting lecture from Strategy&, a management consulting firm part of the PwC network. The lecture was quite informative. First, Inge Cajot shared her personal career path with us, all the way from her graduation to today. What career chances she ever had and how she made her choices at those moments. They were not only interesting but also quite enlightening. Then she introduced the PwC consulting team they have now, e.g. their business areas, major clients, the colleagues and how they do business. A very funny aspect to this evening was that Johan Groothaert and Inge Cajot happened to be friends. They shared us some anecdotes which made it even more fun. It was quite interesting to see them exchanging ideas on the stage, which definitely gives us a bigger picture of the business field. At the latter part, she gave us a few examples about their collaboration between different branches, how they work together with their Chinese colleagues in Shenzhen to solve the local problems and their future expansion plans. In general, it was quite impressive.  In the end, the speech ends up with free chat and drinks. I believe everyone in our trip had a lot of fun and a great evening.


What matters to Bank of America Merrill Lynch is “hunger” when it comes to human capital. At a first glance, this might seem unusual, or maybe even frightening, but, that’s the secret of their 105 years’ existence. In order to survive you need a strong, persistent and dedicated member in the “house” – an allegory used to refer to Merrill Lynch.

Besides, if you are determined and talented, nothing else matters. The characteristics like gender, educational background, nationality – do not matter when a candidate is passionate. The company does not limit you – so do not do it either!

The best way to make a company choice is through understanding its corporate culture. During the presentation, Merrill Lynch simulated a live interview with its diverse employees that gave MFM students priceless experience – to listen to the stories and the real-life cases.

Merrill Lynch is the company that smoothly catches up with the fast-developing Economy. The company has already prepared itself for the Brexit, unlike Europe itself. A significant reorganization and a human capital flow to Paris – is the solution to deal with the uncertainties and heavily regulated political changes.

The hummingbird presentation was held in the impressive building of Blackrock. It was Barend Van Den Brande who entertained us for an hour long. Hummingbird is a venture capital fund located in London and Antwerp. The fund is involved in companies like Deliveroo, Showpad, Taxibeat, MarkaVIP etc. Hummingbird Ventures vision is to ‘builds the tech companies of tomorrow by empowering exceptional entrepreneurs with swift access to essential advice, radical candor, funding & organizational design expertise’. Barend Van Den Brande is the founder of Hummingbird Ventures and started the fund in 2010. Barend himself has already 15+ years of venture capital experience.


During the presentation, Barend let us participate in a quiz he gave to potential investors in Hummingbird to see if they have a similar vision and the nose a little bit in the same direction. In between the questions, Barend told us a lot of anecdotes which gave the presentation an extra dimension and the opportunity to have a sneak peek into the life of a venture capitalist.


After our lunch break, we made our way to the London headquarters of Blackrock in the financial heart of the city. We gathered in the impressive lobby in front of, how could it be otherwise, a big wall covered with black rocks. After a one-hour deep dive in the world of venture capital and private equity by Hummingbird, the presentation of Blackrock took off. We were welcomed by an enthusiastic lady explaining were Blackrock, as the world biggest asset management firm with more than $6 trillion assets under management, stands for. She carefully explained how their business is composed and which direction they are heading. She made clear that asset management is heavily changing in the current environment of AI and technological disruption, making companies like Google one of their biggest competitors on the job market of quantitative profiles. In the second part of Blackrock’s presentation, Tom, a Belgian asset manager working in London took the floor. He explained to us what he does daily in the European fixed income department of Blackrock, which he calls himself a beast of an organization. Although the presentation was quite technical compared to the presentations at previous companies, we were able to learn which factors drive the prices of bonds and how Blackrock tries to outperform the market. After the interesting early afternoon at Blackrock, we had still some time left in the afternoon to do some sightseeing in the city before we needed to head back to the hostel to catch some sleep for the next intensive day.


ESCP Business school gave us a unique opportunity to take part in a trading room simulation. Starting with a portfolio of 10 million euros, we could trade our way to success. Some of us succeeded, some of us not. Anyhow, this was an enriching experience. Furthermore, at ESCP we attended a very interesting presentation given by Danny Goh, founder of Nexus FrontierTech, about artificial intelligence.



After having an interesting visit to ESCP business school, we rushed directly to PIMCO. PIMCO is an investment management firm primarily investing in fixed income securities. After coming to the company office, we had some coffee and tea as usual before starting the session with PIMCO. Company representatives talked about the PIMCO in general, about the different portfolios they manage and how they differentiate themselves from other investment funds that engage in similar activities. In general, they offer diversified structured fixed income products customized to customer needs and risk tolerance. Furthermore, they talked about new investment trends in the fixed income markets after recent developments and uncertainties about Brexit, volatility in equity markets and other recent economic trends that might affect their business and economy in general in the near future. They explained that they actively exploring to expand in emerging markets as it might be difficult to sustain reasonable returns in current investments of developed market government and corporate bonds. Next, two analysts that recently got hired shared their experiences and answered our questions. They told us all the right reasons to start our careers at PIMCO.

Is there something you would like to insure but it is so special that there are not policies for your need? Then Lloyd’s is the right place to look for it. During the third day of the London Trip, MFM students visited the modern Lloyd’s building in order to get a better insight of the biggest insurance market in the world. That’s right! Not the biggest insurance company, but the biggest market. And why? Because Lloyd’s is a market where members join together in a “group” (syndicates) in order to insure or reinsure a certain type of “special” risk. From this group, there is a “leader” (underwriter) who is the subject matter expert of the risk to insure, and she or he will be on charge to write the proper policy for the risk and also to charge the proper premium for it.

But, how “special” these risks could be? Well, underwriters at Lloyd’s have written insurance policies for Neil Armstrong’s life insurance for the Apollo 11 mission, Lady Gaga’s voice, Cristiano Ronaldo Legs, Gene Simmons’ tongue, etc. These policies are tailor-made depending on the case. And, what happens if one of these risks materializes? Simple! As the Game of Thrones’ Lannister family, “Lloyd’s always pays its debts”, so once you have an insurance policy from a Lloyd’s underwriter, you can feel safe that you will be covered.

During the tour around the building, which was built in 1986 and designed by Richard Rogers, the students could see the paintings of Terrence Cuneo, which portrait different events that occurred in previous Lloyd’s buildings, such as a Queen visit and a painting of a normal day at Lloyd’s, where you can spot a small mouse painted next to a trash can (lol!). They also could enjoy the incredible city view from the glass elevator that it’s outside the building. But the cherry of the pie was the opportunity to visit the ground floor, where you can see the traditional Lloyd’s bell and all the activities that underwriters do every day in their working time. It was definitely one of MFM’s favorite visits during the trip.

In the evening of our busiest day, we arrived at William Blair. It’s an American investment bank located in the Broadgate Tower with an impressive view of London. During a standing and rather informal presentation, one of the partners informed us about the company and their activities. Quite remarkable: William Blair is still a partnership and is not considering an IPO. They also use the concept of a global P&L for incentivizing global collaboration. 95% of their transactions are sell-side. And their business works! The bank is a true success and employees are dedicated to stay there, a lot of the partners actually started as an analyst.

After presenting their business, two analysts explained the internship programme. Of all companies we’ve visited, the internship opportunity at William Blair was presented in a very concrete way. During three intense months, interns get exposed to the business and some also get an offer at the end of the track. But prepare yourself! Interns have an average schedule starting at 9am until 2am. So who’s in for this challenge?

We would like to thank William Blair for this nice presentation accompanied by exquisite canapés and some nice drinks.

 After a free morning, we arrived at Cardano. Cardano is a company specialized in risk management, investment management, research, actuarial, investment advisory and fiduciary management. After being warmly welcomed, the CEO took his time to elaborate on the history of the company, the current trends in the industry and the community help the company is engaged in. Furthermore, three Vlerick students had to prepare a case study upfront which they had to present during the company visit. The very challenging case was about a hostile takeover: the presenters were challenged during the presentation through critical questions asked by an employee. They did a very good job! Later on, the philosophy of Cardano was highlighted: it’s all about knowledge and diversity! It’s important to be aware of the biases people have about the world as well as of the importance of group thinking. Lastly, life at Cardano was well explained by two people from the HR department. They explained the internship and job opportunities at Cardona in a concrete way. Overall, this company visit was well organized. It was very clear that the company had put a lot of effort into it. Thank you for having us Cardano!

The Bloomberg building is unique in its form, style and atmosphere, visiting it is a true experience. Upon entering the building, we were emerged a beautiful open space composed of wood. Every detail of this building is one of a kind, and so is their reception area. Next-up we took a completely see-through elevator that is pushed up instead of pulled up. We arrived in the heart of the building, a gathering area for all employees with the most astounding view over London and with a very extensive pantry. In the spirit of connecting and respecting nature Bloomberg has a wall build with 4000 living plants on it. This is to bring nature into the office. For the rest of our tour we used the famous staircase, which crosses the entire building. After a visit to the Bloomberg news studio and a thorough explanation of the complete building we ended our tour on the 8th floor. There we could ask Christy Ling Chan, a former MFM student currently working at Bloomberg, questions regarding life at Bloomberg. It was a truly amazing visit!

Our final visit was to the office of ING. We started off with an informal round of presenting ourselves. Then we got a presentation regarding the structure of ING and the activities of ING in London, which was very interesting. We got to know about all the opportunities of starting our career in London, in investment banking and more specifically within ING. Then, we continued with a business case where we had to calculate the enterprise value of a company, starting from the market capitalization. We were divided in different groups and worked on the case. We ended the visit by having a look in the trading rooms of ING. Two of the employees of ING were so kind to give us a tour and explained all the details of what they were doing as traders as well as researchers. This was very exciting to see! It was certainly a good end to our trip to London!

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