As a child, Ophelie’s answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” kept evolving. “At one point, I thought I’d be a lawyer,” the Paris native says. “And then I watched Grey’s Anatomy, and I was convinced I wanted to be a surgeon.”
It wasn’t until Ophelie entered business school at HEC Paris, one of the most prestigious post-secondary schools in France, that she discovered her true passion. “I chose finance classes at every opportunity and knew almost immediately that’s what I wanted to specialize in,” she says. “A finance job combined what I loved—the rigor and rules of mathematics—with the ability to be creative and innovative."
Today, Ophelie is an Associate at Morgan Stanley Paris in the Investment Banking Division, a role that encourages the same types of thinking and problem-solving that drew her to study finance originally. “One of the most interesting aspects of this job is that I’m challenged to be strategic, analytical and technical, often all in the same day.”
France has its own unique post-secondary education system. What did it take for you to earn your master’s degree in finance?
After high school, I did three years of what we call prep school, where students prepare for entrance exams to France’s Grandes Ecoles, which are part of our university system. Students who take the exams are ranked nationally, based on their scores, so it‘s quite competitive. I then received my bachelor's and master's degrees in finance from HEC Paris. I also spent a semester at New York University’s Stern School of Business, where I took classes in market finance and mergers and acquisitions, and had the time of my life.
My job is to advise the management of large enterprises on the best way to buy other companies; sell a part, or the entirety, of a business; and to raise capital, all of which can help management drive growth, create scale or even enter a new line of business. We bring clients opportunities—often ideas they didn’t see previously—to help them achieve their strategic vision.
As an Associate, my role is important to the coordination of a transaction. I just finished working on a deal with more than 100 people on it, and I was partly responsible for ensuring everyone was working in coordination with one another. There’s also a highly analytical side of my job: I help determine the valuation of companies by creating complex financial models. As I take on more responsibility, my role has become more strategic and involves more client interaction, all of which I really like.
The one-week Spring Insight Program was my first introduction to Morgan Stanley. We learned about all of the divisions at the firm in just a few days, and I left wanting to know more. After that, I had two internships with the Investment Banking Division, one for six months with the French Coverage team and a summer internship in London with the Media and Communication group.
I didn’t understand this before coming to the firm, but during my internship, I saw how creative we are for our clients, which really impressed me. I knew early into my first internship that I wanted to come back to Morgan Stanley fulltime if I had the opportunity.
I was staffed on a $2 billion deal starting on my very first day at the firm, and to be honest, it was pretty scary! Initially, it felt daunting. Then, I just started to take it one task at a time and my colleagues were there to help me at every step. It was amazing, because the more I got into the transaction, the more my team trusted me, and the more responsibility I was given.
To this day, that first deal is still my favorite project of my career. The transaction demonstrated the full capabilities of Morgan Stanley. We led all aspects of the deal—the financing, hedging, and equity and debt raise, and we provided advice on the acquisition itself. I was included in all of the work streams on the project, so I learned about every area of mergers and acquisitions, and financing.
The first thing that comes to mind is that it’s very collegial. You can reach out to colleagues all over the world—Australia, the U.S., Hong Kong, or anywhere. We take the time to help and to teach one another. People are happy to share the best of their expertise; it’s a huge part of our culture.
I’m very interested in wine and French gastronomy, and I love to cook for my friends. My specialty is a killer chocolate cake. It’s my secret recipe, but I can tell you that the most important ingredient is a lot of salted butter.