Ricardo Román Gonzales has spent almost his entire career working in his native Peru. But a few years ago, his strong social conscience led him to want to try and do more for his country. As a result, he joined the Masters in Finance Full-time programme and travelled to London with his family, looking for the skills and knowledge to make finance more accessible for everyone. Here, he explains why he chose London Business School and how the programme has accelerated his career.
I’ve been around entrepreneurship since I was very young. I grew up in the late 80s in Peru, a period of economic and political crisis, both of which were large factors behind my mom quitting her career as an economic engineer. Instead, she began a business in our small town near Lima, and watching the transformations she empowered was hugely influential in setting me on the path I’m still on today. She created jobs, impacted the local community, and through her business helped others build better living conditions for their families.
I have always been a firm believer in self-improvement, and my choices from a young age have reflected that. I was good at maths and traditional hard skills, which often saw students in Peru choose to study engineering or medicine. But seeing the impact my mother’s self-made business had on her community made me conscious of the huge potential lying in every city across my country, so instead, I chose to study business.
I was accepted into the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas – one of the top five business schools in Peru – which I funded through a mixture of academic scholarships and full-time employment. After graduating, I began working in the public sector, helping to launch my country’s first massive public transport system, “El Metropolitano”. Choosing to study business at university, I hadn’t expected to enter this side of the workforce, but seeing the enormous impact this system had is what led me to dedicate my life to finance. I subsequently moved to work at Peru’s largest bank, Banco de Credito del Peru (BCP), which is where I spent the next 11 years.
However invaluable my time at BCP was, it was my final three years working as a Digital Product Manager that led me to LBS. I had spent the first eight years working in wholesale banking, so when I found myself designing, launching and scaling digital platforms for micro and small businesses – those like my mom’s and the people she helped – this connection to my origin through microfinance and digital helped me clarify my career path. I have found that throughout my career, a series of events has helped me become more laser focussed, and this was the most recent one – from business, to finance, to digital finance. But a part of this adjustment was realising the limitations that exist in my country in terms of financial exclusion, and I quickly understood that to make finance more accessible, you need more than finance, tech or business skills.
That’s what led me to look for a university that could help me broaden my horizons to help not just myself, but my community. This took me two years of research – speaking to colleagues, searching online, and looking for the exact programme that would provide me with the knowledge I needed. I was looking for a specific intersection of finance, technology and social science, but almost no university offered this mix. Some universities offer social science, while others focus on business or tech – very few combine all three. I was also limited by personal circumstances and finding a top programme that would offer me financial assistance was essential. I eventually discovered the Masters in Finance Full-time programme – it offered me the flexibility I was looking for, with about five core courses and plenty of choices for electives. Even better, it was part of the funded programmes of the Chevening Scholarship, which I was awarded and allowed me to bring my family with me to London.
It would be no exaggeration to say that I enjoyed every day I spent at LBS. As a very outgoing person, I took every advantage that the programme had to offer, starting with the electives. The Power of Networks has been a game-changer for my career – studying in-depth how information flows through people, particularly as someone who is trying to make financing more widespread, has been essential in helping me to scale faster. I was also blown away by the FinTech module. It was one of the more technical options and one of the main reasons I chose to study at LBS. The module examines the intersection of finance and technology and explains the power behind each of the FinTech business models. One of the most influential modules I took was The Business of Longevity – studying how the world is transitioning to an older society and the challenges this brings. This module not only taught me the science behind the subject, but it changed my whole perspective on why we should be doing business. Furthermore, the entire journey of the MiFFT made me reflect on the role of finance in society and the knowledge acquired in the programme allowed me to embed my passion for digital microfinance into a broader concept: Sustainability. This shift would be a cornerstone of the next steps in my career.
But of course, life at LBS isn’t just about the courses you study – there are also so many different clubs to join. One of the cornerstones of my life is productivity; I start my day at 5 a.m. to make sure I can get in everything I need to keep my mind, body, and soul fit. So, finding the Wellbeing Club, and meeting and discussing with like-minded students who appreciate personal growth in the same way as me, was amazing. I also became VP of the Nourishment Club – again, an amazing experience that helped alleviate some of the stress we all felt at times around finding jobs and studying. Then there was the Parents’ Club, which was brilliant for me and my family. I’m so appreciative of my wife's understanding and belief in the opportunity I had to join LBS, to the point where she moved across the world for us. As a student, I had the chance to meet peers in classes and clubs, but it can still be quite isolating for families in our position. The Parents’ Club put on activities and gave my wife and daughter the chance to be part of the LBS community. And this doesn’t end when you graduate either. The LBS alumni community has helped me build relationships with people at BCP since I returned to Peru, and it helps keep alive the relationships you build on the programme itself.
The career-building opportunities that LBS presents are also second to none. First, I was a mentor to a student from Hong Kong – this was far more reciprocal than I expected. While I ended up advising her, it also helped me gain insights into my own strengths. I got to give advice and discuss my career path with a junior professional, and in doing so I refreshed so much of what got me to where I am today.
Regardless of your specific path, LBS will help you find the tools to accelerate. The coaching that the Career Centre provides follows me to this day. Although I needed to return to Peru once I completed my studies, as a requirement of my scholarship, what I learnt from them fills me with confidence whenever I examine new opportunities in my career. Job searching is a skill in itself, and the Career Centre taught me how to refine my pitch and make it more direct and to the point. Currently, I lead a team of 11 people in charge of the real estate and textiles industries, with the mission of facilitating the growth of these industries and their transition towards sustainability.
I joined LBS intending to learn how to use FinTech to improve financial inclusion. But over my time there I learned how all of finance can help me achieve my goal. I learned ways that I can make finance a social enabler and provide people with access to necessities like housing and the internet. I also found my own entrepreneurial spark, which led me to start my own Podcast and to volunteer to lead the Chevening Alumni Association of my country. I joined the MiFFT programme looking to boost my career, but as cliché as it sounds, I ended up gaining so much more than that. Rest assured that LBS will give you what you need to speed up your career regardless of your specific path.