Meet London Business School’s MBA Class Of 2021

Francois van der Merwe

London Business School

“Retired professional rugby player looking to transition into a successful career in financial services.”

Hometown: Bloemfontein, South Africa

Fun Fact About Yourself: I was lucky enough to meet President Nelson Mandela twice as a child.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), Actuarial Science

EDHEC (France), Finance

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: LOU Rugby, Lyon, France. Professional Rugby player.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Winning the French national rugby championship.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Ambitious; most prospective students I have met left their countries, families, and jobs behind to come and capitalise on the opportunities at LBS.

What is the best part of coming to London to earn your MBA? Being in close proximity to the city will help me get the practical experience I need to jumpstart my new career in financial services.

Aside from your classmate and location, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Coming from a non-traditional background, it was important to me to get involved with a programme that would allow me to get up to speed with the business world as soon as possible. Speaking with a number of alumni from similar backgrounds to me assured me that I could exchange the locker room for the classroom without a problem.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am most looking forward to participating in the LondonCAP module that is unique to LBS. It will be a fantastic opportunity to get real-life experience in global businesses, cementing my learning and creating value for organisations while using my strengths, namely teamwork.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I enjoyed the interview process, as it was another opportunity to meet alumni of the schools and, having prepared well, there weren’t any really challenging questions coming up. It did, however, make me think about exactly what I want to be doing with my life and how doing an MBA fits into that.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I recently stopped my rugby career and wanted to sharpen up my technical knowledge and gain some real-world experience before changing careers.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? HEC, Cambridge

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The factors that I particularly focussed on were a European location (preferably the UK or France), program structure and specialty, and student diversity; I wanted to feel at home coming from a non-traditional background. The best tool to evaluate the schools, I found, was to speak to current and former students and inquire about their goals and backgrounds. The schools’ admissions staff were also invaluable in organising these meet-ups and giving a window into the schools’ cultures.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? The defining moment of my life came when I was 24-years-old. On my way to qualifying as an actuary, I received an opportunity to go and play professional rugby for Racing 92 in Paris, France. I decided to put my studies on hold and embraced my new challenge. The new environment opened me up to new cultures and gave me an appreciation for hard work and determination.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I see myself and my family settled in the UK and myself hopefully having a leadership position in the financial industry.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.