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EU Alumnus, Alexandre De Groote, on a Successful Career in Banking

Resource From EU Business School


Alexandre De Groote was born and grew up in Ghent, Belgium. His mother tongue is French, but he was educated in Dutch so grew up perfectly bilingual. After studying at EU, Alexandre completed a Master in Business Administration (MBA) in the U.S.A. going on to pursue a long and fruitful career in the banking industry, specializing in fixed income and markets. Now, he lives in Lasne, Belgium, due to its proximity to Brussels and Luxembourg, two cities in which he has previously worked.

What did you do after completing your degree at EU?

My first big move came after completing my bachelor’s degree at EU. I studied an MBA in Texas at the University of Dallas, with whom EU Business School had a partnership with at the time.  After completing my studies in Dallas, I moved to New York where I did a management training program with the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company, now known as JP Morgan Chase, the largest bank in the U.S. I later moved to Luxembourg, and what followed has been a successful career as a banker specializing in interest rates, fixed income and bonds.

How did you get into working with bonds?

I learned my job as a banker on the credit side, following the American companies in Belgium like IBM and Monsanto. Later, I was found by a headhunter to work for a stockbroker in Brussels who was active in bonds, and who wanted to develop business with institutional investors in Flanders. This company was well-known in Belgium and specialized in the in the fixed-income market with institutional investors. This is where I learned the difference between bonds and equities!

For nine years, I developed the institutional investors in Flanders and Luxembourg. After that, the stockbroker decided to sell the company and I bought 51% of it with one of my colleagues. We started a joint venture with Petercam, one of the largest independent brokers in Belgium. From 1995 until 2016, we were working together, and we created a subsidiary called Petercam Institutional Bonds (PIB), a brokerage house in the fixed income markets for institutional investors.

In 2016, Petercam was bought by Bank Degroof, a large family bank in Brussels and until 2020, I was responsible for the fixed income business there.

What did you like the most about working with bonds?

Every day is different. It’s a lot more interesting than buying and selling equities. If you buy an equity – for example, 1000 shares of Tesla – you simply multiply the price of Tesla by 1000. With bonds you have maturity, a coupon and a prize.

What are the newest trends in investing?

When you issue a bond, you must agree on the maturity and yield. You then return to the syndication, where you can look for other banks to help you with placing the new issue. It is very cumbersome because you must make a prospectus, organize roadshows and try to sell the bonds in the primary market. They are now trying to digitalize this process to speed it up, using digital platforms where you can carry out an auction. Also, the digitalization of government and corporate bond issuing is becoming more common.

The demand for ESG is also high, and banks are investing less and less in companies that are seen as negative for the environment. Furthermore, governments are now issuing green bonds, where money is used to improve facilities like railways to promote more sustainable transportation.

What does your current role entail?

Being on the board at Credimo, a Belgian insurance company, as an independent director – or what we call a non-executive independent director, means that I’m there to challenge management at the level of the CEO, the CFO and so on. I’m also a member of the Risk and Capital Committee, which covers everything relating to ALM [asset and liability management] and pricing depending on financial markets. I help them with things like risk capital, pricing, etc.

How would you describe the board’s role?

The main goal of the board is to share knowledge and bring something new to the table. It’s my job to assist them in perfecting their daily activity, while also keeping a careful eye on the future. It is a more challenging role. You have to have experience, and see how the company is evolving, but also challenge their ideas and make sure the company has added value.

What is your proudest professional achievement?

That people trusted me. As a broker, when you come into the office in the morning, you know everything about what the market has done the night before and you start with a blank sheet. You call institutional investors to explain what is happening, and to discuss buying and selling options. We try to bring sellers and buyers together, and we have the experience to say whether something is a good buy, or if it is the right time to buy. You call some customers three or four times a day so when there’s trust, it is easier to make a transaction. Trust is the most important thing in our field.

The main advantage that I had during my career was that I was also in contact with the media and financial newspapers in Belgium. During the big financial crisis in 2007 and 2008, I went on TV several times and it was interesting to explain how things work to people who were not active in the markets. Everything in our world today depends on interest rates: salaries, growth, inflation – the whole economy!

Do you have any advice for students who aspire to work in the banking sector?

It’s a very challenging market and environment. It’s not how it’s portrayed in movies like The Wolf of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio: it takes a lot of hard work, many hours of dedication often at the expense of your personal life and learning to manage stress and expectations. It is a very competitive business. But competition is a good thing – it helps you to stay on top and succeed.


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