Academic and industry experience before Imperial
During the summer vacations of my four-year undergraduate studies, I had the opportunity to apply for summer internships and explore different areas of the financial world in Cyprus. I had internships in audit, advisory (Transactions and Restructuring), semi-governmental organisations and Forex companies. From all my internships I certainly obtained valuable hands-on experiences and skills but most importantly I understood whether what I was doing during those few months was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Studying MSc Finance
Why did you decide to study your programme and why specifically at Imperial College Business School?
By observing my country’s (Cyprus) banking sector collapse in 2013 and based on the knowledge I had obtained through my courses it was clear to me that this outcome was a result of bad investment decisions. At that moment I was sure I wanted to be able to make the right investment decisions in the future and in order to do that I needed further knowledge in the field of Finance. That’s why I decided to pursue a Master’s in Finance. I consider university studies to be an opportunity to enhance my academic background regarding my area of specialisation, and any relevant areas. In addition, I believed that this programme could provide me with a combination of knowledge – derived from the latest research done at the Business School – and practical application skills, which will equip me with a competitive advantage against the competition I will face in the industry.
What makes the MSc Finance at Imperial College Business School unique?
What makes the MSc Finance at Imperial College Business School a unique programme can be summed up in one word: quantitative! The quantitative aspect in all courses, in my opinion, is extremely important. I believe in order to be a great financial analyst I must understand what is going on behind the formulas and how things function. The only way to manage that is to get into the quantitative side of things. Only then are you able to realise what goes wrong before it actually does. However, the successful convergence of quantitative and qualitative materials during the course of the modules is what makes this programme truly unique and therefore not easily replicable by any other programme. It’s not just numbers; it’s numbers with meaning.
What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy?
What I really enjoy from the programme is the structure of the courses. In almost every course, at the end of each lecture we get to see the practical use of the theoretical materials we cover in class. We get to apply models through assignments and see where the theory fails and why, and that gives me a far deeper understanding of what we cover in class.
What has been the most challenging part of the programme?
I believe the most challenging part of the programme is time management. Especially during the winter term when we have four core modules and also have to prepare our CV and cover letters, make our applications and prepare for upcoming interviews. The materials from the programme are demanding but if you manage your time effectively you can cope with everything.
What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?
For me the most rewarding part of the programme is that I redefined my definition of what “difficult” is. Once I got through the pressure of the modules/electives, the assignments, the applications and interviews I realised how much I had been through. A year ago I would have thought all that would be too much and too difficult. But now here I am, alive and well on the other side. And I believe this extrapolates to my future career as well; I feel now that I can handle a larger and more difficult workload, which I believe has better prepared me for the financial world I will be soon joining.
Which has been your favourite module so far and why?
My favourite module so far has been Asset Allocation & Investment Strategies. I liked this programme mainly because it wasn’t purely academic. We were taught the theories behind asset allocation and various investment strategies and we also had the opportunity through weekly assignments to apply what we learned in real life data and see ourselves what works and what doesn’t. The convergence of the academic literature and the practical applications made the programme very understandable and interesting at the same time.
Which seminars, events or guest lectures at the school have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?
There were many guest lectures during the course of the programme. I really enjoyed a guest lecturer from the Bank of England during the International Finance elective course who gave us a very deep and thorough explanation of quantitative easing. In addition, the career events are a great opportunity for networking and to find out more about the cultures of the companies from people within them.
How would you sum up the Business School faculty?
I would sum the Business School faculty with one word: brilliant. The professors conduct cutting-edge research that is published in top academic magazines. What is even more exciting is that we, as students, have the opportunity to interact with those brilliant minds and discuss ideas and concepts with people who have solid knowledge and even pioneered in their fields of research.
Imperial places a large emphasis on group work; what inspires you the most about working in this type of environment?
There is a saying, “if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together”. I believe that group work generates the best results. By discussing an assignment, different opinions are heard and built upon each other. Therefore the result is far greater, in my opinion, compared to individual work. Working in this type of environment is truly fruitful because the multi-cultural background of the teams exposes me to very different ways of thinking, which I believe makes me more rounded as a person.
How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?
My cohort are from very diverse backgrounds and also represent many different nationalities. I really appreciate this diversity as I feel it gives me the opportunity to expose myself to different ways of thinking and make myself a more rounded person. I believe the same applies to the rest of my classmates as well.
What clubs, societies or other activities have you been involved in at Imperial?
I have registered with Imperial College Finance Society, a club that produced astonishing work this year. The amount of events organised and companies invited was phenomenal. In addition, I had the opportunity to compete in the CFA Research Challenge with four of my classmates. The Challenge entailed the analysis of a publicly traded company and issuance of a buy/hold/sell recommendation. We represented Imperial College Business School and this year we managed to get into the UK Finals where we presented our findings to a panel of CFA charter holders. Additionally, I am a Market Research Student Ambassador.
Opportunities from studying at Imperial
What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial that you wouldn’t get anywhere else?
Opportunities can appear from nowhere but how prepared you are to grab that opportunity is what makes all the difference. I believe the greatest opportunity for me came from the modules within the programme. The programme is constructed in such a way that academic literature is linked to real life applications but also teaches you how to think, not just how to execute. Those modules gave me a strong academic background but also taught me how react to out of the box situations. One of those situations appeared during one of my Assessment Centres. I was there alongside students from other prestigious and top universities in the UK but what ultimately got me the job was my responses to situations and topics that no one else had expected, exactly because I had the opportunity through the programme modules to learn how to think outside the box.
How have you benefited from being part of the wider Imperial College London community?
The name of the university is widely known, therefore simply saying I am a student at Imperial College makes a clear statement regarding the capabilities and skills I have. People know the high standards of the university and therefore know that someone studying at Imperial has great potential and a very strong academic background.
Career goals and jobs
How have you benefited from the services provided by Careers?
Careers has been on my side from the day one of my programme. The team are always willing to assist me with anything, from the slightest detail to the full check of my CV and cover letters. The personnel of the service are amazing and really know what recruiters notice, want and hate. I believe their help during all the stages of our job hunt was invaluable and I don’t think we would manage to pass all those stages of the application processes without their help, guidance and workshops.
What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?
My long-term goal is to become a portfolio manager. In order to reach this I believe I should start from somewhere fundamental such as equity research to develop and in-depth understanding of what makes a company good, a bad investment or what the drivers are for different industries. Since being at Imperial College I have had the opportunity to network with people who work in such positions through the recruitment events and ultimately managed to secure a graduate position at an Investment bank, where I will have the opportunity to first experience different departments before settling into equity research.
Have you received any job offers since commencing your programme?
I received in March an offer from an investment bank for their Graduate International Programme, a 14-month programme during which I will get the opportunity to rotate and experience equity research, sales and trading and private banking. After the completion of the rotational programme I will start working at the division of my choice.
Life as a student in London
Do you think studying in a central location such as London is beneficial for networking and career opportunities? Please share any positive experiences you have had.
The location of Imperial is very beneficial. First of all, it is easier to host recruitment events with many more companies, as they are usually located in London. In addition, it is more convenient for us as students to attend events at London based companies, as they are roughly a 30-minute radius away from the university.
Whereabouts do you live in London and why did you choose to live there?
I live in Bethnal Green, which is located in East London. I choose to live here because I located and booked my apartment before I became aware of GradPad.
What can a weekend in London look like for an MSc student?
If an Imperial MSc Student has the time, during a weekend they could visit of course one of the many wonderful sights around London. Covent Garden on a Sunday is a wonderful place to be with all its markets. There are also amazing bars with breath-taking views for later in the night. The only sure thing is that I find it a bit impossible to run out of things to do or places to visit!
In your opinion, tell us about the most exciting, undiscovered place in London.
I would suggest to visit and go up the Monument of the Great Fire of London, which is located near Monument Underground station and 61 metres away from where the Great Fire of London started in 1666. The view on top is amazing, even though you will have to climb a very large winding staircase to get there!
If you had to move to London for the programme, what have been the benefits and challenges of moving to London? What advice would you give to someone in a similar position?
Coming from Cyprus, a really warm country, I enjoyed the cold weather but I really missed the sun! One major benefit for me is public transportation. I landed in London, got the tube and easily reached my destination. I can move easily throughout London both by tube and bus until late hours! The challenge for me wasn’t about the cultural shock or the weather, it was mainly about estimating the time I needed to reach my destination. In Cyprus I got used to commuting by car so I didn’t have to consider unexpected delays in the tube or rush hours. So my advice would be, especially at the beginning, to avoid arriving late to class, allow more time than what you think you need. You never know what might happen!
Advice for future students
What advice would you give someone who was thinking about applying for the programme?
My advice is: be sure! This programme is not something that can be done lightly. It is a huge commitment and basically a huge investment of time and money. Learn as much as possible from the programme. Contact student ambassadors and talk with them about the programme and find out if you are a good fit for it. Often universities want to attract top students, however I believe that no matter how excellent a student is, it is crucial that the their character matches the programme as well. And a student can only know that by talking to people that have already been there. As student ambassadors, our role is to give you our view of the programme, what we found easy and what we found difficult. The admissions team will decide whether your academic background meets the programme’s requirements but we are here to help you understand and decide whether your character fits the programme.
Looking back to when you were applying for the programme, did you attend any online or on campus information sessions? Did you find these a useful part of the recruitment process? Would you recommend that prospective students attend these events?
When I applied to the programme, unfortunately I didn’t attend any online or on campus information sessions. However, as a student ambassador I had the opportunity to attend both those sessions but in another role. I believe that these sessions are extremely important because crucial questions students have can be answered and having the opportunity to discuss various aspects of the programme or concerns you may have with people who have been in your shoes is invaluable. I believe there is no better insight for the programme than that.
Share with us a handy hint or trick which makes campus life that much easier!
Try to avoid the South Kensington tube Station around 17:00 due to the rush hour as many people leave the museums around that time so it gets extra busy. Stay an extra couple of hours in the library to revise what you covered that day in lectures until the rush hour is over.