John studied BSc Economics and Finance at Manhattan College. Following his impressive portfolio returns as an Online Trading Intern at Zolio Inc, John took up role of Summer Equity Analyst at Weiss Multi-Strategy Advisers LLC. John’s experience led to being awarded the Alumni Giving Scholarship. Since arriving at Imperial College Business School, he has taken part in the UK Investment Banking Series’ Markets & Acquisitions Challenge.
Experience before studying MSc Finance
What work experience did you have before coming to Imperial College Business School?
In the summer between the second and third year of my undergraduate course I wanted to gain some finance-related experience, so I signed up to be an online trading intern with Zolio Inc. It was an online experience involving a mix of classes and a stock trading simulation. I developed and managed a portfolio of real-time stocks, and I achieved high returns. That was like a stepping stone because it helped me when I interviewed at Weiss Multi-Strategy Advisers. I applied to be a Summer Equity Analyst and they asked me all about the techniques I used to pick stocks during the Zolio simulation. At Weiss, I spent most of my time with a Portfolio Manager in discretionary investment management. I would fix up models for him and then we would sit down and discuss certain inputs, then depending on what our assumptions were about those inputs, I’d adjust the model. I also went to meetings, listened in on conference calls, read company financials, visited companies and talked to members of the management team.
What is your academic background?
I studied BSc Economics and Finance at Manhattan College. During my third year, I participated in the College Fed Challenge, which is a competition run by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. To do that I read a lot of academic literature about quantitative easing, and later that led to me to put forward a proposal to one of my professors to extend some research by Hancock and Passmore, in the summer between my third and fourth year. The research is about quantitative easing’s impact on mortgage-backed securities. During my final year I went to present the research in Washington DC at a big conference for universities all over the United States. I also presented the same research at a conference for academics publishing papers in Colorado and now we have submitted that paper to a journal for real-estate finance. Over the summer I then worked as a Teaching Assistant.
What achievement are you most proud of to date?
I graduated as a valedictorian. In my school, to be eligible to be chosen as a valedictorian, you need to achieve ‘summa cum laude’, which is the highest level of Latin honours in the American grade system, and then those students who did achieve that presented a speech to a panel of judges, who then chose who would be the valedictorian and I was really proud when they chose me.
Studying MSc Finance
Why did you choose to study MSc Finance at Imperial College Business School?
Mainly because it was a very competitive programme, and when I went to the website I looked at the employers who have taken on students from the MSc Finance programme here and many of the corporate banks that I wanted to be at were listed there. I also like the choice of electives and how quantitative the core modules are. We study Financial Econometrics, Mathematics for Finance, Derivatives, and so on. The core is very quantitative generally and I like that a lot.
How did the Alumni Giving Scholarship affect your decision to study here?
My family have always prioritised education and that’s where most of our money is spent, but at times it can get tight. Scholarships can really help out applicants who might need a little help financing their studies. When I applied to study at Imperial College Business School, I wrote about taking on a lot of responsibility in my family with finances and the reasons why I took the scholarship seriously.
What parts of the programme are you enjoying and what are you looking forward to?
When I first arrived I thought I wanted to tailor my programme towards investment banking, but since taking part in a markets and acquisitions competition I think I want to take more modules in that area. So far I’ve enjoyed the maths and I’m looking forward to Derivatives, as well as the electives later on – they look really interesting. I’m looking forward to the Algorithmic Trading module, and I also think I want to take Quantitative Methods in Asset Management and Big Data in Finance.
What has been the most challenging thing about studying MSc Finance so far?
The hardest part is balancing work with applying to jobs. I recently had an interview with Morgan Stanley and it’s difficult when you have to take time out from your studies to prepare for things like that.
Life as a student in London
How have you found moving to London?
I lived in New York before I came to London, so I’m used to lots of people everywhere, lots of cars, all the things that come with big cities – although London is flatter! I like meeting so many different people here and being exposed to all these cultures. There are so many international students in my class.
Are you involved in any extra-curricular activities?
This term I took part in the UK Investment Banking Series (UIBS), which is the UK’s largest investment banking competition for university students, and my team placed in the top nine out of 140 original submissions. I entered the Markets & Acquisitions Challenge with a team of students from MSc Finance. We were tasked with being a hypothetical third party advisor on a deal. The company we were advising was the car company Daimler and we had to choose between three possible acquisition targets: Tesla, Audi and an Italian company that makes auto parts. We chose Audi and then we delivered a pitch to three judges, who were analysts at Goldman Sachs, Evercore and J.P. Morgan. We explained our reasons for choosing Audi – the due diligence we conducted, our valuation methods like Discounted Cash Flow analysis, Comparable and Precedent Transaction analysis, our assessments of industry-wide trends, the feasibility of an acquisition and so on. It was definitely a good experience.
Career and professional development
What are your career plans?
I want to work at an investment bank, but not exactly in investment banking. At the moment, I think I would most like to work in markets, which is composed of three areas: research, sales and trading, and structuring. When I first came to Imperial College Business School I thought I wanted to do research because when I was an Analyst at Weiss I enjoyed working with research professionals there, but since I’ve been studying the programme here I feel I am now leaning towards structuring. I recently interviewed at Morgan Stanley for a role in this area, in a department that create indices to track risk factors.
How have you been using the Careers and Professional Development service?
I’ve gone to a lot of practice technical interviews, which are held by a current PhD student who is also one of our Teaching Assistants, and that’s been really useful for my interview preparation. I also went to the Careers and Professional Development Service for support with other job application aspects such as my cover letters. Employers who have some very cool job opportunities will visit campus throughout the year and I’m interested to meet with them.
Advice for prospective students
What advice would you give a prospective MSc Finance student?
Contact the Careers and Professional Development Service as soon as possible, use their resources and start applying for internships and jobs, maybe even before school starts – or be ready to apply within the first few weeks. That makes a big difference.
Do you have a ‘top tip’ for future students?
Make friends I guess! Everyone takes their studies seriously here and the students work really hard, but I’m still having a good mix of fun and work and I think that’s good.