Moving to Paris

Hey Everyone

I'm an American 2nd year associate at a solid MM/UMM shop but I am looking to chase my dreams and move to the European market, particularly in Paris for the long term. Does anyone here have any advice or a similar experience moving to the European market? What is the best way to make this move? With a few years of PE experience out of undergrad but just a bachelors degree from a US university would I need to go back to school? I am a fluent french speaker and expect to be c2 level in 6-8 months. I realize I will likely take a significant pay cut from this change but am looking to follow my passions. It just does seem a little bizarre to be going back to school when I am already making probably more than people with twice my experience in the parisian market.


I interviewed with Société Générale in Paris and was rejected, I am based in the US and London (kind of always have been in those places).
If you are fluent in French you would have a significant advantage compared to others, but French alone won't take you to the finish line.
1) work permit/residency is one item to look for
2) prepare for the culture shock and learn as much as possible before moving
3) All I can say is... network to meet the right people. A simple application won't take you far if you don't have the right to live/work in the destination and you are thousands of miles away.

4) Use WSO folks as well, ask people for references and introductions.


Thank you I appreciate the response and it is very helpful as I think about this move. Do you think it would be worth while just to apply for HEC or something like that and do an MSF to get connections to the country/Residency? I think the residency situation is probably going to be the toughest for me at the moment IMO. There are a bunch of recruiters in France for the industry that I found online and I am fully willing to move downstream to smaller deals etc which would ordinarily give you some more leeway here in the US, but I am not sure how the french system works.


I love Paris and France, but I don't speak a single word of French and I have never lived there. So whatever I say on this topic has to be considered hearsay and amateur knowledge. I work in innovation/VC/PE/funds and these are just ideas.
- Approach French banks in the US and find a network, discuss opportunities and a potential global rotation scheme/mobility program
- Approach French banks in Montreal/Quebec and do the same, mostly for networking and getting an idea of what is out there
- Understand how recruiting works in "their" culture. Ask French people in your circle. Read on this topic.
- You need to understand whether "target" schools and comparable lingo/processes exist in France. Will HEC help you get into the right employers? Why? Why not? What are the odds? Will you be happy if it doesn't work out? Also understand the ceilings that exist in a different culture. We all want to believe that every nation and society treats everyone the same and we are one happy family. That is often not the case. Understand how your individual situation might influence your chances of success in Paris.
- Contact the French-American Chamber Of Commerce (and other, similar organizations), try to attend their events or at least phone up some of their members. French people are amazing people who are incredibly proud of their fascinating nation. Tell them why you want to do this, show them your passion and why you are in love with their culture and country. Ask for referrals.
- Be open minded. Maybe you won't land a job in France, but would you be ok with working for a French bank in London?And then transfer to Paris later on?
- And, at the end of the day, France is one of the most romantic countries in the world... if you are single.. also get to know a few French ladies who are based in the US or in France. Let's see what happens...
If Europeans are known for one thing, it is the fact they like others who appreciate their culture, language and country. Most Europeans are in a union, but still keep their individual identities that sets them apart from others. Show them you care about them and I am sure they will help you.


Are you looking to stay in PE? There are quite a few funds operating out of Paris 


To be honest, if it takes leaving the industry I am willing to do it for this move, but also am happy to get into growth or VC as well. I've seen a few funds operating online but I am not too sure how to get the foot in the door. I think there must be some Paris specific focused recruiters because I've done some outreach to the big london guys and they generally dont have too many roles in Paris.


The French seem to really stick to their own when hiring for French positions, even if you're fluent in French. Not impossible but will be incredibly hard especially for high paying positions that probably exclusively hire from the grandes ecoles and where personal connections matter even more than in the US. A MBA from INSEAD or MFin from HEC wouldn't be the worst idea ever.


French guy here,

French language is very important and I really encourage you to be as good as you can. French people generally do not want to make efforts to speak another language when it is not for professional reasons. Also in the MM space lots of companies will also require you to work in French (also true with some large cap clients, especially when the French state is involved). I've personnaly seen very few strangers working in IB/PE in Paris and they were perfectly fluent (studied in France or in French school in their countries). 

Regarding job openings, first you have to know that teams in Paris are generally quite small. Besides French banks (incl. Rothschild and Lazard), all other banks are like 40-50 people max, so there are few openings but senior associates and VPs are generally the most sought after profiles. I heard that BNP Paribas was quite open to hire foreigners (+ They have the biggest headcounts in Paris)

PE in Paris is overly competitive and a bit like musical chairs. Lots of French bankers from London and Paris are waiting for a spot to open, and being a girl is also an advantage. 

Graduating from HEC is very well regarded on the French market, if you look at profiles in top banks/PE funds, I'd say 80% are from HEC / ESSEC / ESCP. However these masters degree normally gives you access to the Analyst level. Given you are already experienced, I have no idea if it will really help you. Your full-time experience will have more importance than what you've studied or done before, they just wanna make sure you can actually do the job. That being said, it is also a particularity of French culture, they are quite pragmatic about hirings. Internship and entry-level interviews for example are much more technical than they are in London, and they do not care about "bull-shit personnality stuff". As a French student with 1 yr of internship experience at BBs in France, I was a bit shocked when I did my Summer internship and was told to focus on networking opportunities and inviting colleagues to coffee chats: at the beginning it seemed so unnatural for me and I was thinking "Why shouldn't I simply spend all this time at my desk showing them I can clean and efficient work?"

These were random thoughts coming out of my mind, hope it will help, I would be happy to answer some more precise questions


Don't want to hijack this thread,

But my situation is similar to OP, except I also have a french passport + Still am a student (incoming SA). 

I was thinking HEC, but you are saying that exits cap out at the analyst level and not assoc. like the states?

Also any thoughts on pay? Would be willing to take a fat pay cut obv, but how big is the difference.


A master's degree leads you to an analyst role, whether it is HEC or any other university in Europe. And HEC is the best one if you wanna work in Paris.

Is your SA in London, Paris or in the US?

Regarding pay, in Paris overall package is the same as in London, but with higher base salary and lower bonus. An Analyst 1 at a BB in Paris will have 85 base (not sure about bonuses since recent years were not normative, but somewhere around 30-35 might be a good estimation)


Lazard has been founded by French immigrants in the US and was initially doing import export between France and the US before starting their banking activities. 5 years later one of the 3 founding brothers came back to France to open the Paris office. The Lazard / Weill family is French, and the history of the bank has always been closely linked to the two countries. That's why they are so strong in Paris. So no it's not wrong to also consider Lazard as a French bank (or French American if you prefer)

Most Helpful

French national here - grew up and studied in France and worked several years for French banks (albeit mostly outside of France)

Truth is France is a sufficiently developed economy that they don’t really care about your shiny NY experience

If you’re VP and up it’s more about who you know (how many CFOs of the CAC 40 do you know is a question I got when I tried to return to France and I did that a couple of times)

The only exception to that is if you get hired by a French bank abroad and then ask for a transfer in 1-2 years. Citi also has quite a few non-French speakers there but that always baffled me

And the general expectation will be that your French will have to be perfect - i.e. conversational is not good enough. Memos are written in English but all meetings are in French

Hey back in the days the CEO of CACIB didn’t speak English and all committees were in French and there was always a few dudes sitting in those meetings who would understand nothing for 2 hours

Also be prepared to see your total comp reduce by half (yes half) - on the plus slide though, you get 9 weeks of hols if you work in a bank (yup)

PE / VC in France is insanely competitive as is the case everywhere but the added difficulty is that it’s a tiny industry where everyone comes from the same schools and rotate between different shops and know each other…. VERY difficult to break into as a foreigner 


To add to the above, French are definitely prestige whores so to the extent you went to Harvard undergrad and then Blackstone in NYC, it would definitely help. If you went to a top 50 school and no name boutique fund in Alabama then it’s not looking great.  

Good that you speak French, but as noted above France is a close networked environment so I would definitely advise going for HEC (perhaps more so than INSEAD?) for a Master’s degree or MBA. This will give you the chance to 1) get into the HEC network which is quite key in the French corporate world 2) get used to French culture a bit more 3) network for a year 4) Be “one of their own” - The French love the French, however if you speak native like French and went to HEC you’ll be seen as one of their own and may even have an edge because you’re the “cool foreigner” (a Brazilian friend of mine did just that). 

PS: despite whatever we say here, there are other things in life than working at a BX-equivalent fund and if your dream is to move to Paris then I’m convinced you’ll pull it off, people have done it in the past and people will do it agin. Taking a step off the prestige chasing college mentality of WSO, you have a good education, work exp and are bilingual, you’re already miles ahead of 95% of French citizens on the job market


Yes to the above, but we French will always view (rightly or wrongly) that Elite french schools >> Any other school in the US or abroad (not saying that this is true but that is the perception) 

And by elite school I don’t mean HEC (which don’t get me wrong is the best French business school) but I mean ENA, Polytechnique, Mines, Ponts & Chaussees, Centrale Paris, the grads of which include most French presidents (ENA), the team who invented equity derivatives (polytechnique) and most of CEOs / CFOs in France (CEO of SocGen and of UniCredit both went to Polytechnique the same year!)

Again, rightly or wrongly, French business scene and French business people will think Polytechnique >> MIT and Rothschild/Lazard >> American BB

I’m not saying that’s the case but just want to give a bit of a reality check of perception in France - that being said, I appreciate you may not care about any of this and may not want the “best” job France can offer but just want to move to France which is totally fine

Last think I would say, don’t underestimate visa requirements. I think for an American citizen you have to be sponsored which means you have to have a job first, which means it will be impossible for you to rock up and hope to get a sponsor on site, it would have to be a transfer from the US - worth checking though


Sorry but I am French and this is wrong. 

First of all, there is no point mentioning ENA and so on because he’s not competing against ENA. I wouldn’t say he’s competing against Polytechnique either (and if your biggest issue is competition from X then you’re in a good shape..). For gods sake he’s not running for president. 

Hes going to compete against HEC, ESSEC, EDHEC and so on. And while some firms won’t bother to look past that, the vast majority of decent firms will look at foreign backgrounds. Also sorry but thinking that the French think HEC/Centrale >> Harvard / MIT / Princeton etc is just wrong. If you can choose between the Centrale guy and MIT guy you take the MIT one. But it’s not even relevant given the few people from these schools vs the HEC guys. Actually I think you can leverage this angle to differentiate “look at all the HEC clones, I went to Princeton” 

Also thinking that anyone in their right mind would think Roth/Laz >>> GS New York is just ridiculous, people actually out of college don’t think that. But ok saying people think Roth/Laz >> Citi / Evercore / BAML would be correct. But even if that was the case, this guy went to a PE fund so it’s not comparable. 

Now if you’re telling me people will think Eurazeo/CVC > some MM PE fund in the Midwest, yeah that’s for sure. 


Before you give me shit, I would say the only US schools that would rival/outrank top tier French schools (ie equal or above HEC) are Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, MIT. 

The issue then is that people may have heard of Chicago, Berkeley, Wharton, NYU but will have no clue how good it is. 

As for Uni of Michigan, Boston College, UCLA and other good regional schools, yeah they will discount these vs. worse schools in France. 


Yeah on this point, do you think its easier to get something in like corp dev? To be honest, I dont need to be working at a KKR or something like that and am happy to go to a small lmm shop/VC/Growth/anything. I am just looking for something that will allow me to utilize my background/skills in order to live somewhat comfortably in France without eating hand to mouth.


French national here

I've worked for a french bank and I am now at a UK/US bank, both in Paris. 

I can tell you that in both my teams I had people from abroad and some with really poor French skills. That did not stop them from working and succeeding within a french bank and a french team. 

French banks are actually quite open to foreigners (think BNPP, CACIB, SocGen) and US banks and boutiques in Paris recruit from everywhere. 

While it is true that there is a large pool of talent, the market is hot for senior associates and young VP right now. My best guess is to (i) scout linkedin for offers and (ii) more importantly to get in touch with headhunters (Dartmouth partners, oakbridge etc.). These guys have a lot of mandate to fill associates and VP spots. 

Clearly no need to go back to school as you would be spending €15k to spend a year in school and end up in the same position you could be now. 

Hope this helps 


Hey Everybody thank you all for your responses, I never thought I'd see so much great advice. As far as headhunters, is it typically the same london guys who run the searches for continental europe/Paris? Yes let me get in touch with those guys. I did some outreach but my hit rate hasn't been great. I've also seen some french recruiters as well but I am not sure if they are legit or not. Does the french market typically go local for head hunters? I've been reaching out in english for now but I think I'm going to have to start sending intros to them in French. I guess one thing is that I can type up an intro in perfect english but inherently will make some grammatical mistakes at some point in French. The french have generally been good to me in that regard as my level is generally good for a foreigner.


Currently working in Paris as an An1 without speaking a word of French. 

You should definitely be able to find something here. PE will be a bit more difficult, but in banking there should be quite a few opportunities. You have to expect a cut in pay tho. 

Do not do a masters program at HEC or similar. French people are obsessed with their school, but you will find something without wasting a lot of money on that. Start applying, start networking, and be flexible with a starting date. 


What about a H/S candidate with a regional UMM background? Eg LGP, Berkshire, NMC, GTCR. How would you get a job as a VP in Paris? How would that be different if conversational vs. fluent?

I took 13 years of French and have been to Paris a dozen times, so have a good understanding of French geography, history, literature, politics, (eg read all of this in school in the original French texts) etc., but would need a tutor to become fluent again.


I think it depends if this is for a European fund (Eurazeo) vs. France focused. 

France focused might be hard (since you are not in the “circles”). In any case you need to be fluent. Once you are though, people will be impressed by H/S. They probably won’t know the MM fund if it doesn’t have an European office though. But it’s feasible although much harder than lateraling in the US. 


So if we are plotting tactical advice it seems like a Eurasie type European fund is a better bet than a France only fund. 

Even if my fund is unknown, will the door still be open, eg if they see 4-10bn last fund size plus H/S will that be enough to get interviews, assuming fluency?

Are VP roles in France hired in advance, or as needs arise? Eg is it like the US where you interview the fall/winter before starting the next summer/fall, or do you interview as needs arise?

Thank you.


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