James Bass

Programme: MSc Finance & Accounting

Nationality: British

Undergraduate Education: MA (Hons) Economics, Edinburgh

Job after Imperial College Business School: Graduate Trainee, Berenberg

MSc Finance & Accounting 2018

About you

What work experience/internships did you have before beginning with Imperial College Business School?

One summer internship with Santander (Global Corporate Banking).

Why did you decide to study MSc in Finance & Accounting and why specifically at Imperial College Business School?

Although I had a permanent job offer, I felt that the Master’s would offer me the chance to secure a better role and to be better prepared upon entering the industry.


What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy and find most rewarding?

Intense and applied work (especially group work) ensured that I improved my knowledge base and skill set quickly. The programme also allowed me to tailor my subjects to my interests and the skills required for the jobs to which I was applying.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?

Advanced Company Valuation, because it was specifically relevant to my ambitions of working in equity research. Group case studies provided an interesting and involved way to experience what I expect to find during my career. Groups consisted of students from a mix of programmes within the Finance suite, meaning that we could help each other with our own strengths, as well as seeing how different people approach the same problem.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme? 

As one would expect, both in an academic and a professional environment, there were often personality clashes within groups and these could hinder progress and lead to arguments within the team. Organising meetings and completing work when I was taking part in multiple group projects at the same time also proved a challenge, with timetable clashes and time constraints often causing difficulties.


How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?

Compared to my previous degree, there was a tangible difference in the personality mix at Imperial College. Students on the programme were for the most part extremely driven. One characteristic that I found particularly impressive was that almost all students had a clear career plan and a genuine interest in the roles for which they were applying.

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?

Savitar Sundaresan was my lecturer for Fundamentals of Derivatives. Although his module related to material that does not interest me as much as other modules, his teaching methods and personality helped ensure that everyone was interested in what he was teaching; particularly the two assignments, in which he constructed games that reflected derivatives trading strategies.

Imperial places a large emphasis on group work; what did you like the most about working in this type of environment?

I genuinely feel that my understanding of Finance has benefited greatly from the group work aspect of my programme. Bouncing ideas and possible approaches to problems off of other students helped me to develop a wider range of skills, as well as seeing where I may have misunderstood or misapplied certain concepts that I had been taught, as well as helping other students in my groups in situations where I had a better understanding of the concepts being discussed.


What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial?

In my final semester, I took the Topics in Fintech Innovation module. On top of developing my knowledge of the variety, complexity and benefits of technology across personal and corporate finance, this module included guest speakers from some of the most successful fintech companies around. I was able to ask questions to individuals who have contributed to the development of the fintech world. Before this module, I had very little understanding of fintech as whole, and I now have an understanding of the technological developments moulding the future of finance.

Which workshops, events or guest lectures at the school have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?

In the early parts of the year, I attended networking sessions once or twice a week with potential employers. The benefits of these sessions were twofold. Firstly, I was able to meet with recruiters from a variety of potential employers and gain insight into what they are looking for in an applicant as well as an exchange of business cards. Secondly, these events often involved talks from senior members of various departments within the companies; these talks helped me to better understand the specific roles in which I would be most interested in building a career.

What clubs, societies or other activities have you been involved in at Imperial? Do you hold a student leadership position?

As well as being involved in the Finance Society, I was also involved in the Imperial rugby team, playing for the 1st XV during my first two semesters.

How have you benefited from being part of the wider Imperial College London community?

My cohort came from an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds, and I am confident that I could now travel anywhere in the world and I would be a phone call away from somebody that I met over the past year. I have also built a network of contacts to people who are sure to be at the top of the finance industry in the coming years.


What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?

Once I have completed my graduate programme, I aim to embark on a successful career as an equity research analyst. The Master’s at Imperial College helped me to get my foot in the door at a top equity research house. Further, the skills that I have developed through the programme have ensured that when I start my programme, I will have a strong knowledge base from the outset.

Have you received any job offers since commencing your programme?

I have accepted an offer from Berenberg for their International Graduate Programme. This is a 15-month rotational programme, which will involve six weeks of in-house training, followed by placements in Asset Management, Corporate Banking and Investment Banking (specifically equity research). Although I will be based in London, I will have the opportunity to undertake an international rotation in one of the bank’s international offices in Europe or the US.

How did the services from Imperial College Business School Careers help you secure employment and help in your professional development?

Throughout the application process for graduate programmes, I had help available from the Careers, in the form of PhD students with a deep understanding of what was expected of me technically, as well as advisers with experience in recruitment. When I came towards the latter stages of the process, I took part in interview and problem-solving workshops, as well as four consecutive practice interviews with a careers consultant, who criticised every aspect of my interview and ensuring that I improved upon these aspects with each session. Without this support I am sure I would not have had anything like the success I did in securing a graduate role.

London location

Do you think studying in a central location such as London is beneficial for networking and career opportunities?

Because of how close Imperial’s campus is to the UK’s financial hub, I could attend interviews in the morning and be back in time for an afternoon lecture. Our job fairs were regular and attended by all of the major banks and financial institutions in the UK. Every week, there was a networking event or workshop organised either on campus or in close proximity, giving us the opportunity to directly connect with the companies to which we were applying.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time in London? Have you had opportunities to travel?

I have lived in London for 23 years and I have barely scratched the surface of things to do in my spare time. I have seen comedy shows, plays and concerts in all sorts of venues. I have a season ticket at Fulham FC and I have watched rugby/football at Twickenham and Wembley. When the weather has been good, I have walked to Hyde Park for lunch, after class and even to celebrate finishing our December exams with a visit to Winter Wonderland.

What have been the benefits and challenges of moving to London? What advice would you give to someone in a similar position?

I did not have to move to London, as I was born and brought up here. One piece of advice I would give to any student moving to London would be to explore; take the tube to every corner of London and see as much as you can while you are here, but get a student Oyster card first!


Looking back to when you were applying for the programme, did you attend any online webinars or on-campus information sessions? Would you recommend that prospective students attend these events?

Before I started the programme, I took part in an online webinar with students who were just finishing the programme. They gave us advice and answered (anonymous) questions from everyone. I would definitely recommend taking part in one of these, as it will help you to understand how to make the most of the time you will have at Imperial.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about applying for the programme?

Take part in the work as much as you can, in assignments, group work and workshops. The workload can be heavy at times, but it is incredibly rewarding, and you will see the difference it makes. When you look back at the end of the year, you will see that concepts you did not understand at the start of the programme have become second nature to you. Use the careers service. Imperial has approachable, dedicated careers consultants with fantastic experience in the industry and their help will give you the best chance to come out with a great job offer.

Programme: MSc Finance & Accounting

Nationality: British

Undergraduate Education: MA (Hons) Economics, Edinburgh

Job after Imperial College Business School: Graduate Trainee, Berenberg