• ESSEC’s Master in Finance guest speaker reiterates the value of character over qualifications.
  • ESSEC students are well-poised to rise in the Asian financial world.
  • Encourages constant upgrading to remain relevant and employable.

The high stakes and intense competition in the finance sector may make it seem like an enterprise designed for the cold-hearted.

That is unless you speak to Frank Troise. As Managing Director and CEO at a Singapore-based fintech investment bank, SoHo Advisors, he describes his work as supportive and “puts people in a position where they can realize their aspirations.”

“Are there people who are cutthroat in the industry? Absolutely,” he declares. “In financial services, you have people who would carve your heart out. And let’s be candid—when you have a lot of money, the easiest thing to do is wrong.”

Pitting Money Against Morality

“You can’t go into it with a naive expectation that everybody’s going to do the right thing and everybody’s going to take care of each other because they don’t. That’s just not the case,” Troise elaborates.

Yet, in the decades he has been in the sector, most of which was spent at the parent company, SoHo Capital LLC, Troise has consistently fought the stereotype.

Notable moments include post-9/11 and again during the Great Recession when the business took a huge hit, with revenues collapsing by up to 50 percent in the latter.

Arguably, layoffs would be expected, understandable—self-preserving, even, but for Troise, there are no grey areas regarding right or wrong. He and the team chose the path of excellent resistance. Nobody was laid off.

In another test of his convictions, Troise was hours away from completing a massive transaction for his company when he received news that his father-in-law had passed away.

“I got up from the meeting; I told everyone ‘I’m done. I’m not going to be able to finish this. I need to be with my wife and my family.’ And I left,” he recalls.

Unfathomable, though it may be, he stands by this decision: “There are certain things more valuable at the end of the day than the money.”

Be Inspired to Make a Difference

These are values Troise hopes ESSEC Master of Finance students take away when he shares at the school’s regular industry talks.

After all, these talks, which invite guest speakers from established financial institutions, are an opportunity to network, learn about the finance industry, and be inspired about how they can make a change.

Troise’s experience with ESSEC has convinced him the students are set up for success with its strong curriculum, stellar faculty, and the advantage of being located in Singapore at the fulcrum of global changes.

Beware the Cloak of Complacency

Yet he cautions against hubris, matter-of-factly stating: “The reality is, it doesn’t matter how senior you are; you have got to reinvent yourself constantly. And you can never assume you’re safe in this industry ever.”

When he started his career, a coveted job for “Uncle Goldman” often left people in an unfortunate catch-22 situation.

“You might have a minimal job doing a particular thing where you could make a lot of money, but you could also be laid off with 30 days’ notice. And because you were making a huge salary, you couldn’t get another job,” he recalls.

With increasingly commoditized specialized roles today, finance professionals must constantly upgrade to avoid the “golden handcuffs” trap.

Above all, he advises students to stay true to their convictions, as a career reputation built over 20 years is easily lost in a mere 20 seconds.

“I don’t think anyone can tell you what my GPA was or remember what my major was in. But they can tell you who I am as a person,” Troise declares. Similarly, when he hires, qualifications are just the baseline. Character is what counts.