Mobeen Iqbal

Programme: PhD Student at Imperial College London

Nationality: Pakistani

Previous education: BSc Mathematics, University College London MSc Mathematical Modelling and Scientific Computing, University of Oxford MRes Computational Finance, University College London

Work experience: Research Intern at Brevan Howard Asset Management

Proudest achievement: Improving student experience at the Business School as Chair of the Deans’ Student Advisory Council

Mobeen Iqbal is a Doctoral student in the Department of Finance at Imperial College Business School.

Mobeen studied an MSc in Mathematical Modelling and Scientific Computing at Oxford University. His research at the Business School focuses on post-crisis dynamics of international financial markets.

Mobeen has been awarded a scholarship by the Brevan Howard Centre for Financial Analysis and chairs the Dean’s Student Advisory Council, working on cross-programme projects to enhance student experience and engagement with the wider community.


Studying a Doctoral programme at the Business School

Why did you decide to study a Doctoral programme at Imperial College Business School?

The establishment of the Brevan Howard Centre for Financial Analysis at the Business School was a big driver of my decision. It brings the technical skills and leading insight of the Business School’s Department of Finance together with industry connections. As a mathematician by training, I wanted to branch out more into economics and the more policy-oriented side of financial research, so this centre was very appealing to me. Since I came to the Business School, I have heard many leading industry experts and academics discuss their work and their thoughts on financial markets. Just recently, Vitor Constancio, the Vice-President of the European Central Bank, came to talk about his thoughts on European banking, which is highly relevant to my work. I was also attracted to the structure of the Doctoral programme here, in that I had the opportunity to take courses to improve my finance, economics and so on during the first couple of years before going on to focus on my individual research.

What is the most rewarding thing about studying for a PhD at the Business School?

I’ve really enjoyed learning so much economics and finance in such a short amount of time and being taught by people who are in the process of developing the latest research in these areas. I also enjoy attending conferences. It’s such a good way to meet other people in your research area, in the industry and from academic institutions around the world. I recently went to a conference where a paper I have been reading heavily was presented. I met with the author of that paper and we are now starting a research paper together. Outside of my studies, I also do technical mock interviews for Business School students through the Careers and Professional Development Service, and when I get an email saying ‘I got the job! Thank you Mobeen’, that’s just the best feeling in the world.

What is the most challenging thing about the Doctoral programme?

Figuring out what your contribution to academia will be. First, you have to identify an interesting problem. Second, you need to make sure that your research will be important to people outside of academia as well – for instance, central banks, industry participants and ordinary people in the economy. And thirdly, it needs to be something you can personally do, and it’s really hard to get that right because a lot of topics will require a specific background or you’ll need to do a lot of reading to get to grips with the subject, in which time it is likely someone else will complete research on your topic before you. I’ve personally changed research topic about eight times and it’s only now, 24 months after I started my research that I really feel comfortable in my research area.

How has the development of your research topic changed since starting the Doctoral programme? 

I am currently studying the dynamics of international financial markets after a crisis. I started off on a topic very similar to the one I’m working on now, about arbitrage trading strategies. I then moved to a more macroeconomic focus. The biggest unexpected changes came about because I had missed some important institutional details about how central banks think about their policies. What I was doing was beautiful mathematically but in the real world that wasn’t really how banks worked. I realised this after discussing my work with my two supervisors: Professor David Miles, an ex-central banker who served on the Monetary Policy Committee at the Bank of England, helped me to understand my topic from the perspective of central banks; and Dr Robert Kosowski, an expert in hedge fund research, was able to give me the perspective of market participants.


Experience and achievements

How have your past and present experiences outside of the doctoral programme supported your learning and research?  

During my Master’s programme at Oxford I worked on many different projects, including redesigning Virgin Trains’ network and projects in facial recognition, medicine and artificial intelligence. We got a really broad scope for how to apply mathematics to any real world problem. This really helps me now because whenever I take up a new research interest or I start looking at a new area within my field, I have the skillset to apply what I know to an unknown area. Also, I worked on a research project at a global macro hedge fund, which allowed me to gain insight into how professional portfolio managers think about investment decisions and manage risk in an increasingly uncertain world. This has helped me to consider institutional details as I conduct my research.

What are your greatest achievements to date?

In addition to being awarded a full scholarship by the Brevan Howard Centre for Financial Analysis, I’m very proud of the contribution I have made to the Business School by restructuring the student leadership body. When I first arrived, I saw that each programme had a student committee but there was no system to bring students from across all the programmes together to work on cross-programme projects. Now, the Dean’s Student Advisory Council has been formed to bring together all the Chair people from programme-specific Staff Student Committees. We are currently working on two large projects: one will increase societal engagement between the Business School and the wider community, and the second project aims to assist communication between Business School students, staff and alumni. The Management Board at the Business School really do listen to the students, and I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to contribute to student experience as much as I have here, if I was studying anywhere else.


Being a part of the Business School community

How would you describe the community at Imperial?

Very diverse. I am able to interact with a lot of people with very different backgrounds to myself – people on my programme, people across the Business School that I deal with through my role as Chair and also students I meet through my teaching.


Thinking to the future

What are your future career goals?

I would love to be Governor of the Bank of England! But truly, I would ideally like to be in a senior, policy-oriented role related to my research. This would be a position involving understanding the behaviour of the macro-economy and making decisions for it with the aim of improving financial stability. Getting to that position is not going to happen in the next 10 years, or even the next 30 years, but there are two routes generally taken to get there. One is through academia, which many central bankers have done, the other is through industry experience. I am currently on track with the former route, and I am making sure that my research is applicable to industry, such that if I do want to purse a more industry-focussed path, my research will support me to make a valuable contribution in an industry role. I’m intending to do an internship at the Bank of England this summer, which I have been encouraged to do by both my supervisors. I am also hoping to get involved in more academic conferences, where I can present my work to others working in the same field and develop my ideas for my job-market paper and PhD thesis.


Living and studying in London

Do you think studying in a central location such as London is beneficial?

Definitely. The financial sector is here so I’ve been able to get in touch with a lot of people in industry and I can meet up with them very easily. I can attend various conferences and seminars. I’m attending a conference at the Bank of England very soon which is on exactly my topic. Also, people often pass through London. Say they’re an academic based in the US and they come to see family in Europe, they’ll often stop by at Imperial College Business School and spend some time at the Brevan Howard Centre.

Where do you live in London and why did you choose to live there?

I live in Tower Bridge and I really like east London in general. I lived around there as an undergraduate, rent is much cheaper and there is a lot to do.  I lived down the road from the Business School last year, but I ended up coming into the office whenever I had a bit of spare time and not taking proper breaks! I prefer having a separation between my work and personal life, and having two very different areas to be a part of.

What can a weekend in London look like for a PhD student?

When I take time off from working or teaching, I’ll typically do something quite active. I teach dance fitness. I also like to spend time with my family, or even just visit new restaurants. I’m a huge foodie, so I like ticking off places on my list of cafes and restaurants I want to try out.

Programme: PhD Student at Imperial College London

Nationality: Pakistani

Previous education: BSc Mathematics, University College London MSc Mathematical Modelling and Scientific Computing, University of Oxford MRes Computational Finance, University College London

Work experience: Research Intern at Brevan Howard Asset Management

Proudest achievement: Improving student experience at the Business School as Chair of the Deans’ Student Advisory Council