Sarah Yates

Sarah Yates

Studying MSc Finance

Why did you choose to study a Master’s in Finance – and why specifically at Imperial College Business School?

The MSc Finance programme at Imperial was a natural transition from my undergrad. My undergrad was only three years long so I was keen to do additional study. A number of alumni from my undergrad at UCD had gone on to study at Imperial College London so the name resonated strongly with me. After more research and going through the application process I knew that the MSc Finance at Imperial College Business School was the right choice for me. I think the variety of people that participate in the programme, the strong connection with the corporate community in London and the opportunity to network directly with finance professionals in London were clear differentiators for me. Another factor that I considered was the flexibility in the final term with the Applied Financial Research Project, which accommodates doing an internship simultaneously in the summer.

What was a typical day at the Business School like?

A typical day was busy – we started with back to back lectures, followed by some time in the library, then we might have a couple of hours of free time to do project work with pre-assigned groups, then there might be additional lectures in the late afternoon/evening followed by a networking event. The first term was very busy but there was definitely more free time in the second and third terms.

Looking back on your time on MSc Finance, what do you miss most?

I miss socialising with all the friends I made during the programme, I miss the freedom that comes with study and the opportunities to pursue things that you can’t necessarily do outside of a university environment. The programme is a wonderful opportunity to meet different people and learn new things about different cultures, and I am still in touch with many people from the programme.

Your cohort

How would you describe your classmates?

Diverse, ambitious, driven, and intelligent (to name a few attributes). I look back on that year spent at the Business School as one of the most enriching and educational years of my life to date.

Life as a student in London

How important was it to your MSc Finance experience to be located in London?

For me, being located in London was probably one of, if not the most important decision criteria for my MSc Finance. I think it’s a competitive advantage in terms of networking events and allows you to visit company offices and meet with people for coffees more easily, which helps with job applications and interviews.

Career & professional development

How did you benefit from the services provided by the Business School’s Careers and Professional Development Service?

The Careers and Professional Development Service were immensely helpful from a number of perspectives: interview preparation (competency and technical), job research, CV advice, post interview support and advice on how to improve, arranging networking events, the list goes on…

When did you first decide that you wanted to work in finance – and what inspired you to want to pursue a career in this sector?

I decided I wanted to work in banking when I was in the 2nd year of my undergraduate programme. I always knew I wanted to work in finance but was not sure which area. I initially thought I wanted to be an accountant so did an internship with KPMG. However, when I compared my experience in the taxation department at KPMG to two of my friends who did internships with Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan, I realised that investment banking was a much more suitable choice for me.

What were some of the first steps that you took to explore your chosen career path?

I started by doing a lot of research: reading various investment banking websites, blogs, interviews, reading the FT, speaking with people who had done internships and who worked in investment banks.

How did your internship experience help to shape your career objectives?

I think the first internship I did with KPMG was useful in the sense that it confirmed that becoming an accountant or tax expert was not something that I was interested in. The second internship I did with Morgan Stanley was invaluable in the sense that I got a very real and practical understanding of what the job entailed. I knew that a career in investment banking would be intense (both mentally and physically) and wanted to see what it was actually like. After the internship, I knew this was the right place to start my career.

How has your career progressed since you graduated from MSc Finance and what does your current job involve?

Since leaving the Business School, I went on to do a summer internship with Morgan Stanley, which I then converted to a full time Analyst role in the Healthcare team in the Investment Banking Division. After nearly three years with Morgan Stanley, I decided to pursue a career in Private Equity and moved to Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan’s Private Equity team, Private Capital. OTPP is one of the largest Canadian Pension Funds in the world with ~C$170Bn in net assets. My current role as an Investment Associate in the London office is predominantly based around three strands: origination, deal execution and portfolio management.

What do you enjoy most about your work and what are the main challenges that you face?

I really enjoy the variation in the role at present. Origination focuses on sourcing deals, building relationships and my professional network, deal execution centres on financial modelling and writing investment memos with the aim of ultimately buying an asset, and then the portfolio management is a very practical opportunity to work with the management team of a portfolio company directly, assist them with value creation initiatives and get an insight into the operational intricacies of the company.

What skills and experiences the MSc Finance programme have been most useful in your career so far?

I think the electives offered in the second and third terms are particularly useful. I had the chance to study the Mergers & Acquisitions and Private Equity & Venture Capital modules, which were much more practical than the theoretical core modules in the first term. Through project work and various case studies, I learnt how to produce elaborate presentations in PowerPoint, financial models in Excel and also had the opportunity to practice public speaking through numerous presentations. These skills are an essential foundation for being an effective Investment Banking Analyst.

Advice to prospective students

What advice would you give to young women considering a career in finance?

I would suggest doing lots of research and talking to plenty of people with industry experience so you can make an informed decision about which role is best suited to you. Once you decide what area interests you, you can then really hone in on the networking events and job applications to get the most out of them and maximise your chance of success. I would also say that if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!

What skills and experience does your employer most value when they hire graduates?

As an Analyst at Morgan Stanley, I think the key skills they looked for were strong technical skills, project management/ organisation, leadership and effective communication. At OTPP, those skills are taken as a given and there is a bigger focus on developing relationships with clients and advisors, taking the lead on drafting memos and building models, voicing your opinion and being creative about deal structures.

Sarah Yates

MSc Finance 2013

Nationality: Irish

Undergraduate education: BSc Economics and Finance, University College Dublin

Job prior to Imperial College Business School: Summer Internship at KPMG (Taxation Department, Consumer and Industrial Markets)

Job after studying at Imperial College Business School: Analyst, Morgan Stanley (Healthcare team, Investment Banking Division)

Current position:
Investment Associate, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (Private Equity team)