He was one of seven sons of a Huguenot refugee from Hainaut province, Wallonia, who fled to London. He went into business in London and owed his fortune to the licence he obtained from the King of Spain in 1693, giving him trading rights with the Spanish colonies in the New World and salvage rights to any Spanish ships wrecked in the Caribbean Sea.
He served as Sheriff of the City of London 1689-1690, an Alderman 1689-1712 and Lord Mayor in 1695.
He was a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty 1694-1699. On the creation of the Bank of England by King William III in 1694, Houblon was appointed its first Governor (Chairman of the Board of Directors), serving until 1697.
He re-joined the Bank’s Board as a Director in 1700, and his brother Abraham served as Governor 1703-1705. In 1994, the Bank of England celebrated its tercentenary by issuing a new £50 bank note featuring a portrait of Houblon and the original Bank building in Threadneedle Street on the reverse.