Posts from our Masters in Finance bloggers

It is difficult to believe that it is December already and I have completed my first LBS exam. It felt like only yesterday when the Masters in Finance Full Time and Part Time students met for the first time in our week-long introduction course for London Business School (for the Part-Timers anyway) and we were all struggling to adapt to the life of a student!

 

Now I can reflect on the past few months of this journey and I have come away extremely impressed with the quality of this business school. LBS prides itself on the quality of the faculty, the quality of the students and the quality of the curriculum. This is why LBS is the premier business school in Europe and is one of the “global elite” business schools.

 

The first semester tackled Financial Accounting and Analysis. Some people would think that this is a boring topic, suitable for those who are accountants by nature and remote from the reality of business. They are wrong! It is a class that combines theory and reality and provides the tools to critically analyse corporate performance. The practicality and applicability means that people can employ these skills whether they work in corporate finance, equity analysis or investing (both professionally and personally).

 

Group work is one of the most rewarding experiences over the past few months. The MiF student body is extraordinarily international and working in groups makes us appreciate different cultures and ideas and helps break through any “silo mentality”. The student group is diverse but universally clever, hard-working and are definitely the “future leaders” of the financial and business community globally.

 

One of the better aspects of LBS, and one that if you are thinking of applying you must consider, is the optional courses and clubs. For instance, I have just finished an optional course on “Advanced Financial Modelling” that has taught me how I can quickly and accurately build a model for a variety of purposes from operational performance to M&A. These skills are applicable from Day 1 and builds out your CV and skillset for current and potential employers (as well as if you want to use modelling for personal investment purposes). The clubs are similarly useful with alumni from across industries coming in for panel discussions and networking. There is so much variety to choose from that it is difficult to manage your diary!

 

I know that this sounds a bit “full on” and maybe a tad too serious but there is a ‘work hard, play hard’ aspect to LBS as well. Whether it is drinks, dinner, Thames River cruises or ski trips, LBS students know how to enjoy themselves when away from the textbooks!

 

The past few months has been an exciting journey for many of the MiF students. LBS offers such breadth and depth of opportunity that I have barely begun scratching the surface. No one should be in doubt that this school gives you the opportunity to develop those soft and hard skills to achieve your potential.

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Where it all begins

Posted by: Ella
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This entry shall be dedicated to the aspiring Masters students who are racking their brains on which b-school to apply for, which specific programme, how to write a great personal statement and what is the expected process after you click on the submit button.

I will be sharing based on my own personal experience, which happened to be just a year back. The exhilarating moment of getting a great GMAT score wore off when I was faced with the next challenge of getting my personal statements ready. Fortunately for me, I was able to get a lot of quality feedback from my manager and other senior colleagues who have gone through b-school. It also helped that they were the people whom I was targeting to write my recommendation letters since they would get a better idea of what my “marketing points” are and to have a congruent view in their letters. The biggest tip I got is that the key to a great personal statement would be to come up with something that makes you stand out from the crowd – i.e. you need to have a great theme / slogan about your future career goals that will be memorable to the b-school admission team. Of course, you would also require congruency throughout your essay to ensure that the dots are well-connected and how getting this specific Masters from this school would help you towards that goal.

Being the practical me, I only applied to b-schools in Europe because of the attractive 1-year MBA programme offered – this means a lower opportunity cost and it is what I could afford. The schools that I were considering at that time were LBS MiF, Oxford Said and Cambridge Judge MBA. To be really honest, Oxford and Cambridge were my backup plans because my dream was always about living in London and I was very attracted to the in-depth specialisation of the MiF programme.

My timelines were as follows:

22-Dec-12: Obtained my GMAT score07-Jan-13: Submitted online application in time for Stage 3
24-Jan-13: Notified by Admissions Team that I was selected for interview with a LBS alumni
25-Jan-13: Interviewer’s details were shared with me (extremely fast turnaround!)
06-Feb-13: Interview date set (which implied 2 weeks for my preparation)
08-Feb-13: Notified by Admissions Team that interview report has been received from interviewer
14-Feb-13: Received the good news of acceptance into LBS MiF Programme (got both a congratulatory call and a follow-up email)

As you can tell, the entire process has been like a whirlwind to me. I was so certain that LBS MiF programme was the one for me that I dropped Oxford an email on 20th Feb to cancel my upcoming interview that was scheduled for 10th March. I guess you would be very keen to hear more about how my interview experience has been like. The interview was held in an informal setting at Starbucks in Hitachi Tower. I went earlier to ensure that I secure a good table in a corner – didn’t want to lower my chances just because of a disruptive session. That will be my top tip number one for you. On top of that, you should be prepared to answer why you would want to do a specialised Masters in Finance programme (as opposed to a MBA), why London, discuss your career goals and be clear on what you have previously wrote in your personal statement so that you do not say anything that contradicts the interviewer’s understanding of you. It will also be good to start looking at what are the possible electives you will be keen to take up and whether you will want to do the 10-month or 16-month programme. The best advice that my interviewer gave me is “to hit the ground and start running as soon as I arrive into London”.

I guess this practically sums up my top tips for you in your applications! Happy holidays to all and may 2014 be an exciting year for you (as I am sure it will be for me). I will share more about my impression on London and my first term experience in the upcoming post!

 

 

 

 

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This is based on my personal experience as well as those of my classmates.

Most of us had a clear idea of what we wanted when we set foot in LBS. Most of our CVs were amongst the top 5% from our respective countries, so our thought process was like this: ‘of course we’d get what we want’! Why then, does the class of MiFFT2013s, cream from their respective countries, have 50% still job hunting, even after 3 months post graduation? What didn’t go right for most of us?

One side of the coin: Fewer jobs coupled with current oversupply of talent in the market and competition from peers. The visa situation also adds to the woes, with many companies cutting down on visa sponsorship costs.

The other side of the coin: Some jobs, particularly trading ones, require language skills with banks/trading desks expecting you to bring in new clients immediately upon joining. Some other jobs, particularly asset management ones, need you to indulge in heavy networking right from the beginning, which is then likely to convert into a job with time, perseverance and hard work.

Yet another dimension: For most of the students a career change now means they can’t get back to what they were doing prior to LBS neither can they think of shifting sectors again. Thus they have to be doubly sure of whether a career change is the right option.

Even to a person with very little background in mathematics this seems like a linear programming problem with several (severe ;) ) constraints, objective being DREAM JOB! No wonder it is taking time!!!

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As a kid, have you enjoyed playing God with your playmates? As a teenager, have your friends lauded you for your advice on relationships? As an adult, have you taken pleasure in career counselling? Have you mostly felt you had better advice to give than what you got?!

Extrapolate all this into the corporate world. Obviously I couldn’t resist the temptation – I’ve mentored and trained junior credit risk analysts and interns. I’ve adviced clients on cost saving measures while assessing their funding needs. I’ve shared insights from experiences of other industry players to help improvise client’s business. All this, as a banker for six years prior to LBS.

It was during the last year at LBS that I realized consulting, particularly risk consulting is my cup of tea! Reasons are three fold: (a) I have always had a natural flair for it, (b) I feel the need for expanding my horizons while also leveraging on my prior experience as a banker and (c) I also feel the need for constant challenge – to shake myself off a comfort zone – which happens with a consulting career.

McKinsey & Co came on campus last week for a presentation relating to their Risk Practice and also conducted a crack-a-case workshop for students. After interacting with a few representatives from the company it comes as no surprise to me that working at McKinsey is a DREAM to many! I understand they guide and mentor their team for a fast track and successful career. The three managers who did the crack a case session as well as the HR recruiting for the Risk Practice are among the smartest and coolest people I’ve met in the last year – obviosuly synonymous with McKinsey!

Everyone has a compelling story no doubt, this is just an attempt to share mine!!! :)

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It all started with MiFFT2013s raving review of the course and their awe of Florin Vasvari and Eli Talmor. Also during my 6 year stint in corporate banking I’ve surely come across discussions on private equity and have always wanted to explore the dynamics of the industry. Since I was doing the 4th term offered to the MiFFTs, curiosity got the better of me as I registered for the course. This one is close to my heart at it possibly is my last course at LBS!

Alternative forms of investment have stolen the limelight in the recent years. Though they were prevalent in the US since 1970s, they spread to other geographies only during the last couple of decades and have since gained immense prominence.

Taking PEVC during the block week is certainly like running a marathon – Monday to Friday, two sessions everyday with case submissions from Tuesday through Friday. The class is always oversubscribed and the Profs commenced the first class with some statistics – that we had made it by beating the 40-odd students on the waiting list!

The sessions were filled with infinite takeaways (from theory and cases), humorous deliveries, perspectives of 4 guest speakers (the best from the industry, including the PE Guru, Mounir Guen), overwhelming class participation and finally a roaring round of applause from the students! Why not?! In just 8 sessions I’ve got a glimpse of the dynamics of over eight sectors across different geographies; the course truly gives an international perspective on private equity, justifying the title of the book authored by Eli Talmor and Florin Vasvari.

It is not surprising that this is the only course at school that has my full attendance ;) I’m totally intrigued by the industry, and fervently hope I’d have something big to do with it sometime in the near future.

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There was Ben Nevis and Snowdon, but no Scafall. Why not? Read on, you will understand why not while also living through our hiking experience in England and the fun we had!

Six of us – Julia (leader of the pack), Kirill (calmest of the pack, a born survivor), Cathy (ever the sport!), Ryan Kruger (director of the pack), Jwo Ru (cheetah of the pack!) and myself (hmmmm…..left to the reader to form an opinion J), met at the bus stop at Baker Street to board a bus to London Luton.

Our adventure started even before the hiking commenced – our flight was delayed by 2 hours! Since 7 am at the bus stop was a massive effort for most of us, we were all curled up on the seats right before the departure gates.

Venkat (the most daring of the pack), for he kept awake through the previous night to take an early flight to Inverness, reaching four hours earlier than us and almost believing that we were playing a prank on him – he had just begun to grow leaves when we collected him from the airport!

With our rental car, we set out to stock food and fill our stomachs with carbohydrates to prepare us for the first stage of hiking – Ben Nevis, Scotland. Ben Nevis was gorgeous to say the least – sunshine as we started our ascent, lush greenery all around, small puddles of water everywhere, rains throughout the hike, a small waterfall half way through and a stunning snow-capped peak. The trail was quite straight forward. However, finishing the round-trip in 6 hours pushed our physical boundaries.

I’ve done more challenging trails during my hiking experiences with ‘Chennai Trekking Club’ however my clear lack of stamina was evident from the way I was breathing hard. Julia was the one merrily giving us stories to keep the spirits up particularly when muscles unknown to us were screaming for relief. Ryan kept pace with her while Jwo Ru effortlessly marched along. Finally at the peak of Ben Nevis, all seven of us – happy to have made it through the snow!!!

It was amusing to note that while I was struggling through the ascent of Ben Nevis, I was leading the team during our descent, more like a possessed soul! Even Ryan mentioned this as something he wouldn’t forget about the hike. This madness was the result of feeling extremely ashamed with myself for allowing my once-admired stamina deteriorate in a matter of months.

Ryan, Kirill and Venkat alternated as drivers – a commendable effort! Ben Nevis took us 6 hours including a 15 minute break. A diversion on the highway took 2 hours off us, which is when we decided to alter the plan, albeit just a bit. We decided to make it a comfortable 2 peak conquest in 24 hours rather than the 3 peak challenge. We unanimously decided it was Snowdon at Wales. Venkat and I decided to take it easy and we stayed back. While Kirill & Cathy made it up to 80% of the peak, it was Ryan, Julia and Jwo Ru who made it to Snowdon’s peak. The surprise cake-cutting for Julia’s birthday happened mid-way to Snowdon’s peak – all smiles!

Well, it was certainly a refreshing and an exhilarating trip that gave us major insights into the planning and training required for such a challenge. We are ready to take on the 3 peak challenge sometime soon and look forward to the same :)

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My experience as a credit risk analyst in the corporate banking division of one of the leading banks in India did certainly nothing to make me comfortable with this course though one would think it should. The objective of the course included understanding credit risk , how it is traded, how it is priced, the instruments for managing credit exposure and the different approaches to assessing default risk.

Prof Stephen Schaefer covered a wide range of topics spanning structural models to credit default swaps and their pricing as well as single name/basket derivatives, finally concluding with recent developments and the future of credit markets. Though initially it was a bit too much to digest, as the classes progressed and the concepts understood, it miraculously translated into time consuming, yet simple computations! If you manage to make notes of the lecture slides along with practicing the sample papers discussed by the Prof, there is nothing to fear. It becomes a bit too much if put off to the last minute. Prof is always there to lend his full support and guidance towards understanding the concepts better. It is up to us to take advantage of this rare and invaluable opportunity.

What began with reluctant indulgence (since I took up the course more on peer pressure than personal conviction) ended up becoming one of the most important courses I’ve done at LBS. The takeaways from this  course for a former corporate banker have been indisputably priceless. Since we now operate in a world of credit derivatives, it is imperative to understand the dynamics of the same irrespective of the nature of our job. I thouroughly enjoyed all of Prof Stephen’s classes!!!

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I still remember the day I set foot in London Business School – the Plowden reception, in search of Room P123 for registration. Little did I realise that the first floor of this building with the MiF Programme Office and the MiF lounge, would be the ‘most haunted’ place in campus, particularly for all MiFs.

Nalisha’s warm smile and Barbara’s friendly welcome drew all the MiFs to P123. Nalisha being the Program Manager was of immense help and she never got tired of addressing my programme related concerns. I will always fondly look back to many conversations that I’ve had with her regarding running and marathons! She is so incredibly empathetic with the students and super smooth in handling their requests and queries that it didn’t come as a surprise to me when she was promoted to become Senior Programme Manager after the AutumnTerm. Subsequently Nazila (we fondly call her Naz) and Bryony joined in as Programme Managers and they continued the precedence set by Nalisha.

Jane Charlton is the MiF Programme Director. She moves closely with all the students.  She could identify every one of her students right from the first day, a fact which astounded me. The sweet smile that spread across her face whenever she bumped into her students on campus stands testimony to this. She is always available for her students, constantly seeking feedback and striving for ways to improve the programme for her students.

Overall, my experience with the Programme Office (PO) has been amazing. I have pleasant memories (which I will certainly carry with me forever) of the MiF Programme Office’s support, guidance and love for its students!!!

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Past One Week

Posted by: Gayathrisai

Our congregation is scheduled for July 2013 and the realisation that we have only a few more weeks together got to me. I was on a socialising spree! Monday, I made south Indian dosas for 12 of my classmates, Tuesday, met a few others for lunch, Wednesday, made dinner for the summer ball exec team, Thursday was the MiF sundowners for recent admits – full timers as well as part timers, Friday was ‘dosa time’ for my PT MiF friends, Saturday a tribute to all those who had the courage to take up CFA during MiF and finally, Sunday, a day out with my favourite classmate at my favourite haunt – Hampstead Heath! Had a super fun week! Obviously I was lagging behind in work, which took all of two days to catch up. Extremely Happy!!!! :) The last one month is going to be super demanding in terms of assignments, exam preparation, job hunt, strategy for ‘what next?’ and relocation, if required. Hopefully the transition is smooth for each one of us!

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I spent most of my life in ‘Chennai’, a city along the south eastern coast of India. Hot and humid sums up its weather – the only thing I still loathe about the city. The day I left to London I gladly thought I’d had enough of sunshine.

London is much cooler during Autumn, though it progressively turns to biting cold during the winter. It’s been one roller coaster ride as far as the weather goes in the last few months. Initially, London weather taught me to check for weather updates everyday. A day of sunshine, followed by a day of rain and then a couple of days of snow. However the transition from winter to spring has taught me much more – to check for weather updates on an hourly basis. Recently there have been quite a few days where it rained in the morning, got too warm and sunny during the day and was exceedingly cold in the night (in different permutations too!).

Slowly I started to empathise with the London obsession for sunshine. It’s dark and cloudy most of the days that sunshine is a welcome respite. Everything from people’s mood to their day revolves around the sun. I was mistaken to think I’d had enough of sunshine. Living in London, you tend to fall in love with sunshine especially when it is such a magnificent feeling to have it caress your face particularly when there still is a nip in the air. I’ve seen Autumn and Winter in London, looking forward to the most evasive Spring!!!

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