Interview with Mr. Jean-François Hanczakowski, First Vice President, Internal Audit, National Bank of Canada, Montreal
Mr. Hanczakowsi plays a key role in a major Quebec-based financial institution. In addition, he is responsible for delivering the IFSID’s training on derivatives-based back office operations. The Newsletter has conducted with him the interview that follows.
The Newsletter: Thank you for meeting with us, Mr. Hanczakowski. Tell us more about yourself.
J.-F. Hanczakowski: I actually started my training in a scientific track, and I completed my scientific-profile French Baccalauréat. However, I rather quickly changed track and completed my business school training at EDHEC in Lille (France), with a specialization in finance. Interestingly, I did not complete my Baccalauréat in France but in the U.S., at Lycée Lapérouse in San Francisco to be precise. I also did a training session in Seattle during my EDHEC training. All this contributed to vastly open my perspective, in particular as regarded North America and job markets that were different from those I knew in Europe.
So, in 2004, my spouse and I decided to take the plunge and try our luck in North America. Another key element was that, instead of taking a direct flight, we took a very indirect one, we went around the world, fleet foot and fancy free, while the paperwork for our acceptance by Canada was being processed. And believe it or not, we were on Lake Titicaca, in Bolivia, one of the highest lakes in the world, when we learned that we were accepted by Canada. The rest, as they say, is history…
My spouse quickly found an interesting position in Montreal. I had worked for Accenture in Paris for close to seven years (working on major consolidations in the European insurance sector) and wished to remain in the area of financial institutions.
After arriving in Canada, I looked for consulting positions; however, those in finance were Toronto-based whereas we wanted to make Montreal our home. I then met ‘the right person’ at National Bank and this led me to start there as project manager in brokerage (at NBCN to be accurate).
My first projects allowed me to learn in depth the specifics of the brokerage industry. I then led an important system decommissioning project (related to treasury and financial markets). This was a fascinating project for me; it allowed me to discover new interests, in particular structured products and front office support. This is the track I followed from then on, namely, operational support of derivatives.
Ironically, through all this, the financial crisis has turned out to be an important training ground. It allowed me to acquire significant expertise regarding the institution’s processes, as well as a great culture of risk.