The Master in Finance trip: an immersion in the finance industry!
On April 17-19, the Master of Science in Finance students had the chance to visit some of the biggest finance companies in the city of London!
Thomas, Constantine, Mirunalini, Larissa, Gaspard, Harsh, Patrick and Adam, students in this Program, have prepared the report below.
Wednesday - Day 1
BNP Paribas CIB
Upon our arrival in London, the first meeting was held in the INSEEC campus which has a stunning view on the Paddington Street Gardens. Terrence Perrin, the Head of Campus Recruitment for BNP Paribas Corporate and Investment Banking, gave us a presentation about the graduate recruitment processes in Investment Banking. The BNP Paribas group is an European leader in providing solutions for Corporations and financial institutions.
The discussion was oriented over the possibilities for graduates to enter positions in business departments such as Corporate Banking, or Advisory and Capital Markets. The goal was to go through the interview and application process in order to analyze candidate requirements in term of motivations, skills, and values. The dialogue was interesting as the intervenient was aware about graduate situations and therefore he was able to deliver inside advice and tips on how to get jobs. (Reported by Thomas Ippoliti)
Ignis Asset Management
The second company we visited on Wednesday was Ignis Asset Management, the child company of Phoenix Group corresponding to UK’s largest consolidator of life assurance funds.
Once we were in their very glamorous conference room, chief economist Stuart Thompson kick-started the presentation by giving us a macroeconomic insight of the current markets and how the yield curve can be manipulated as to realize greater returns.
After getting a taste of the effectiveness of forward rates and impact of the recession in global markets, the presentation took a more company-specific turn where an analysis of the underlying strategy and structure of Ignis were introduced.
Johanna Pollet (European Sales team) and Tim Edwards (COO) did an excellent job at describing the culture and operational structure of the company, and enlightened us on their recent strategy shift towards attracting third party investors.
After an engaging Q&A process by the students, Johanna showed us several investor letters and reports for the year ended and shortly after bid us farewell. (Reported by Constantine Brynie)
Thursday – Day 2
Janus Capital International
We visited the asset management company Janus Capital Group Inc which is a publicly owned asset management holding company with about $150 billion in assets under management and based in Denver, Colorado. Janus Capital has subsidiaries Perkins Investment Management and INTECH Investment Management through which it manages a wide range of investments in equity, fixed income, money markets, and balanced mutual funds for its clients.
We were also surprised that Janus Capital had been one of the biggest asset management companies in the US before the 2008 financial crisis and they discussed their long-only investment strategy and the their top two investment stocks: Apple and Burberry in response to a question by one of our students, Patrick Buhmann. Despite recent doubts of the growth prospects of Apple Inc and the share price decline, Janus Capital still believed that Apple Inc was a valued investment. They also invested further in Burberry equity as their research team was confident of the stock’s long-term growth prospects.
We also had insight into the firm’s corporate culture and their career opportunities through a presentation by the Global Head of HR. The corporate visit to Janus had indeed been informative and inspiring to our future careers. (Reported by Mirunalini Sivakumar)
The Cambridge Strategy
We were welcomed by the COO, Tony Henry, who introduced us to the operational, legal and compliance side of the business of running a hedge fund and allowed us to ask questions about the day-to-day operations as well as his background in the industry.
He introduced us to several of his colleagues and each of them took their time to speak about their area of expertise. Chief Executive Edward Baker gave us an overview of the funds managed by The Cambridge Strategy as well as an insight into the company’s general macro-economic outlook and some of the global macro-economic trades the funds had previously entered into.
Later on, CIO Russell Thompson joined to speak about the specific currency funds managed by The Cambridge Strategy and explained the reason behind their strong focus on Asian and other Emerging Market currencies. He allowed us to ask questions about the reasons behind their directional trades and their views on future developments in the currency markets, especially for the Japanese Yen.
The fund’s research team, headed up by Jolie de Miranda, came to elaborate on the technical side of portfolio management, the systems used to generate trades and their unique approach to risk management. Their trade generation and capital allocation techniques were discussed in detail and they also presented their views on current market developments from a quantitative point of view.
COO Tony Henry then invited Alex Shaw, the Head of European Sales to present the sales and client relationship management side of the business to us. We discussed the legal framework for hedge fund marketing as well as the industry landscape for bigger and smaller players and the impact of hedge funds on the investment management industry in general. Mr. Shaw also elaborated on his approach to expanding the business and his background in the industry.
The session was then wrapped up with a general Q&A and Mr. Henry gave us advice on building our careers in the financial industry in London. (Reported by Larissa Lielacher and Gaspard Coudrier)
The Cambridge Strategy is a London-based Asset Management firm serving institutional clients with their Currency and Equity portfolios. They described some of the concepts of the proprietary model used to generate risk-adjusted returns by managing volatility, tail and extreme risk.
The representatives at the company were friendly, welcoming and eager to share their knowledge and included people all the way from Research Scientists to top level management. We gained insight into global macro investing in both their currency and equity portfolios as they spent close to three hours explaining their approach to investing, risk management and their investment to client services, operations and compliance.
In their presentation, we had references to concepts like risk-parity which they used and something we learn in Hedge Funds Management class in the MSc program and the Extreme Value Theory approach they use, we learn in the Hedge Funds Strategy course at IUM. We received first-hand exposure to the link between theories from class and their practical applications. (Reported by Harsh Srivastava)
Friday – Day 3
PER – Private Equity Recruitment
Our last day started in the heart of London just a few meters away from Trafalgar Square. After some starting difficulties, some of us realized that York Buildings is not a building but a street name and we came just in time to our meeting with Gail McManus. During the more than 2 hours she shared her insights of the industry with us and answered open and straightforward out questions. The bottom line of the session with Gail was that knowing and focussing on your strengths can bring you far but playing the PE recruitment game and keeping it simple will bring you far in the recruitment process.
According to Gail a rejection during the recruitment process is normal. We should take the rejection as a possibility to learn and make things better the next time. She compared it to a Super Mario game. You try level one the first time and you fail. But the next time you do it you finish level one and you proceed to level two. Getting recruited is like a game: you have to finish successfully several levels. If you fail, you start all over and make it better the next time. Trying hard and over and over again will bring you success. (Reported by Patrick Buhmann)
During our trip to London we were lucky enough to visit Nomura’s EMEA headquarters at One Angel Lane. It was a great opportunity to learn about this leading financial service firm with oriental heritage, as well, to get an inside look into one of the most battered areas following the financial crisis; the structured products market.
We discussed with a panel of skilled professionals who had hands on experience in the arena. Among others, we were able to see through the eye of a structured product trader the challenges that arisen from the 2008 crisis; How he dealt with the drop in volume and liquidity in the market, as well as the bankruptcy and eventual takeover of his old firm; Lehman Brothers.
Furthermore, we attended a presentation which elaborated on the virtues and vices of volatility as an asset class. Interesting aspects were addressed such as selling volatility-- which results in a steady cash stream -- is not for the faint hearted or how to trade the VIX yield curve. (Reported by Adam Feller)
On day 2, they also had the opportunity to meet the IUM Alumni who graduated from the Master in Finance program. We met Oskar, Ashkhan, Simon and a few others who had successful careers in London.
Simon was lively and good-humoured as he spoke to us about how he had gotten an internship in London while he was trying to launch a hedge fund in Monaco with his friends. He was currently working in Ernst & Young (London) in the Financial Services and Technology division where he often interviewed entry level candidates. He entertained us with stories of successful candidates and what interviewers really look for: the intelligent who can keep their cool and differentiate themselves. (Reported by Mirunalini Sivakumar)
IUM’s Masters in Finance batch of 2011’s alumni, Ashkan Senobari is an Investment Banker at JP Morgan’s M&A division in London. An inspiration to all those who aspire for great things without an Ivy League education, Ashkan is the perfect example of grit, intelligence and perseverance. Often laden with 130-hour work weeks, he occasionally gets lucky on weekends when allowed to report to work by 10AM as opposed to 6AM on weekdays. A very friendly personality, he described to us what a regular day in his life at the office looked like, his role, responsibilities, future endeavors and how he manages on such little sleep every night. We were lucky to have a chance for interaction with a person of such high caliber. (Reported by Harsh Srivastava)