Author: Maïlys Tokarski, Employer Branding Manager at Qonto
At Qonto, there is one question we love asking: why? Why do we do things in a certain way? We believe that if we understand what we do, and if we use each obstacle as a chance to improve, we grow to become a better version of ourselves.
Among the many people who drove our growth in our first few years of existence, former consultants occupy a very special place. Working on strategic and transversal projects, they helped us identify the opportunities that shaped the company into what it is today.
Albertine, Taishi, Andrea, Dimitri, Massielle and Jordi (among others) all joined Qonto after kicking off their careers in consulting. We asked them ‘why?’ Why did they choose us and why did they stay? Here’s what we learned from them, and what they learned with us.
They enjoy problem-solving 🕵️
Improving Qonto’s Net Promoter Score from 54 to 71 through a complete rework of the survey process and a focus on the main customer paint points. Protecting our clients’ funds from negative interest rates all over Europe. Launching Apple Pay and Google Pay mobile features while coordinating the technical, commercial and regulatory aspects with multiple stakeholders. Overseeing a full rebranding, from typography to international art direction. Developing internal tools to keep Qonto’s ever-growing teams aligned. Last but by no means least, applying for a payment institution license.
The missions our ex-consultants piloted are as diverse as the backgrounds that brought them to Qonto. “Some of them work on transversal, cross-business unit projects,” says Albertine Lecointe, now VP Strategy at Qonto and formerly at Exton Consulting. “Projects such as revamping the onboarding experience or improving our payment card offering. It requires creating the best conditions for a cross-functional team to work efficiently in the same direction, from strategy to delivery. Others are studying new business opportunities in order to shape the future of Qonto: should we expand to a new country? Should we acquire a company to accelerate our growth — and, if so, which one? Should we launch a new product line? In-house or in partnership? What are our competitors doing?”
From McKinsey to Exton Consulting, from Sweden to Spain, from big traditional banks to the building and transportation industries, they all held rich and demanding positions before joining Qonto. Whether they spent one or seven years in consulting, traveled all over the world or focused on a few major clients in their home countries, they followed a steep learning curve and are now using their skills to help us drive our mission forward. In their minds, no challenge is insurmountable. They love problem-solving. The good news for them is that, as a young and ambitious scaleup, we have plenty of problems for them to solve.
They think in (decisional) trees 🌳
The day we met, Strategic Project Expert at Qonto and ex-McKinsey consultant Andrea Veronesi was just out of a “Cocotte” workshop. “It was a very pragmatic approach to better understanding the lean management principles and it also provided useful assets to ex-consultants,” he says. “As a member of the Strategic team, I work on many streams, with a focus on the Italian market — but not only. For instance, I help build the country plan, follow its performance, and identify and assess strategic opportunities in Italy. My experience in consulting mostly taught me how to structure complex problems and draw insights from complex datasets.”
For someone with a background in consulting, structuring a problem and breaking it down comes as second nature. “You learn to cut big problems into decisional trees,” explains Dimitri Gougoulis, ex-Exton Consulting and now Principal of Strategic Projects at Qonto. “You divide them into smaller pieces and attack each one of them to find a solution. It helps you segment it, analyze it, align everyone and structure your thinking. As an example, when we launched Apple Pay, I had to coordinate the initiative with many stakeholders: our internal teams, the external processors, Apple’s salespeople, Mastercard on the regulatory side… It was my job to juggle all of them to launch the new service, and then follow up quickly with Google Pay.”
The way we work at Qonto is similar to consulting in many ways. But there are differences. “In these firms, you’re taught that lean management is only for industry practice,” observes Massielle Colas, currently on a secondment contract as Growth Project Manager at Qonto, through McKinsey. “At Qonto you learn that it’s a basic way of working and approaching problems. You can use it everywhere.” We call it the Qonto Way: our model to create the conditions in which all of us can think and learn. “Mastery is a very important part of it. I work daily with people who are real experts in their fields, who want to do well and who ask themselves the right questions. And I learn a lot with them. Some consultants may be afraid of stepping out of the learning curve, but our environment at Qonto is very stimulating.”
They play Qonto like an orchestra 🎻
Expertise can only get you so far. Interpersonal (or “soft”) skills rapidly become the key to a smooth career progression. “As a consultant, you will often spend three weeks working on something, and then you get 20 minutes to share your analysis with a client,” recalls Jordi Gudiol, Chief Operations Officer at Qonto, ex-McKinsey. “It’s difficult to get everything across in so little time. So, it’s important to talk to as many people as you can beforehand, to get their feedback and shape your case. In any working environment, finding the right solution is only half the job; the rest is getting all stakeholders to align and get onboard.”
Having lots of data and good insights won’t be sufficient if you cannot present and convey the information clearly; you risk people walking away uninterested and wasting great analysis work. “Sometimes the people you interact with have very limited time,” points out Taishi Dezaki, Growth Planner at Qonto, ex-Monitor Deloitte. “You have to be clear on what you need from them and always be one step ahead, as cliché as it may sound. If you expect to need insights from a specific team in a given week, you should share your request the week before or else they will not have the bandwidth to support you.”
On the other hand, deciding from the top down is never as efficient as ensuring everyone in the team works in the same direction. “At clients’ companies, all members of the consulting team have to do their best with their own stakeholders; it’s the only way to get things moving,” adds Jordi. “It’s called ‘orchestration’. Socializing ideas and projects is something you learn in consulting, and something that will help you everywhere.” In this sense, consultants are born conductors. Analyze, structure, engage and align: that’s the recipe for rolling out strategic projects at a rapid tempo.
They need ownership. And a warm company home. 🏠
“Working for big clients, I didn’t like the dynamics: too slow, too rigid, too hierarchical. I was looking for a smaller company, where I could implement concrete projects and see the results short-term,” explains Massielle. “I do enjoy launching initiatives without having to go through a six-month validation process.* Qonto is a fast-paced environment where everything is always moving, with ambitious objectives. It was love at first sight.”
Taking part in a scaleup adventure also means engaging with the mission that lies at its heart. “You need to have the drive to be part of something,” insists Taishi. “You need to be hungry to build something that will not be built unless you make it happen. I joined Qonto when there were 250 of us and you very much felt then that your work mattered: you could not expect projects to move forward unless you truly made them move forward.” Let’s be honest: they don’t do it for the money. The salary cut from a consulting job is not unsubstantial. But in exchange, they gain ownership on their projects — and their time.
“Working in consulting was very stimulating and I owe great things to it. Nevertheless, you risk losing direction after a while,” adds Taishi. “You may stop caring as much about the projects you are involved with and not having the chance to witness the true impact of your work does little to reverse this.” It’s a point Jordi agrees with: “In consulting, your client is ultimately responsible for getting things done. It’s safer, but it also means you don’t get the same level of satisfaction you can have in a scaleup.” Top it with less internal politics and a much warmer environment. It brings the best of both worlds. What are you waiting for?
Join us! We are looking for Program Managers and Strategic Project Managers to help us grow and create the finance solution that energizes SMEs and freelancers in Europe. Alternatively, get in touch with our People team to discuss career opportunities for ex-consultants at Qonto.