Natalia Bakhir

Natalia-BakhirNationality: Russian

Institute and subject studied for Undergraduate degree: University of York, BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics

Work experience/internship(s): Before coming to Imperial, I did an immersion programme at Coutts created in conjunction with the Wharton School of Business. During one of the competitions my team came first in the Investment and Diversification challenge. I was also the International Students’ Welfare Officer at my undergraduate university and the Vice-President of the Russian Speaking Society. I have also worked as a personal interpreter and translator in Russian, English and French.

Greatest academic, professional or personal awards/achievements: Within my academic successes, I am proud of achieving LSE certificates in Statistics and Econometrics. Securing a place on the MSc IWM programme at Imperial was definitely another one of my proudest achievements. Additionally, doing my research project (equivalent of a dissertation) at the moment is an achievement that I want to excel at. More personally, however, having completed my undergraduate degree in social sciences, I knew that the quantitative side of this Master’s degree would be challenging. I proved to myself that I could pursue a degree in finance and that I had the abilities to develop the skills in such a short period of time.

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Programme

Why did you decide to study an MSc in Investment & Wealth Management and why specifically at Imperial College Business School?
First of all it was the bold name of the programme that got me to notice it. It was also different to all the other finance courses because it was relatively new and offered an interesting mix of topics. I loved the descriptions of the modules and I decided that I could see myself enjoying them. For example, I wanted to continue studying macroeconomics as well as pursuing my passion for markets and securities but also learning something that I have not come across before, such as derivatives. Coming to study MSc Investment and Wealth Management at Imperial meant that I would be taught by the top-class academics and professionals in the industry (their biographies and past achievements are something that is worth having a look at if you need career motivations), and for me this was the key in making a step forward towards a successful financial career.

What makes the MSc Investment & Wealth Management at Imperial College Business School unique?
It is unique because the school is in the process of constant development and improvement of the course. The staff are always looking to understand our opinions as students and are eager to make changes. The opportunity to get involved in representing the cohort as an Academic Leader and having my voice heard made it so unique for me. This course armed me with knowledge that I will be using for the rest of my life. I am delighted at the fact that before studying IWM I struggled understanding financial jargon, whereas now I can not only understand it but use it and make a career out of it. This course taught me how to manage financial capital and how to manage risk with all the economic, social and individual implications.

What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy?
Getting out of lectures and realising that I have learnt a lot. This programme helped me realise how far I can push myself intellectually and gave me a peak at what the world of finance is really all about. It offered an opportunity to pursue my passion for behavioural economics with the cutting-edge research offered by my lecturers. This has developed my understanding of the occasionally unpredictable phenomena in market and household finances and offered an alternative model to managing financial markets in the aftermaths of any crises.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme?
The most challenging part of the programme was every exam period. It is hard to sit exams alongside some of the most capable candidates in the country, however, at the end of every exam period you are overwhelmed by the feeling of how far you have come and how much have learnt in such a short time.
Alongside the challenges of exams there were always the challenges of three-hour lectures, packed with information and case studies. Luckily, the Business School is also equipped with visual recordings of lectures that you can listen to online, which are indispensible when preparing for exams.

What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?
Meeting my classmates and lecturers. Everyone comes from such diverse backgrounds, with different goals and visions, and having the opportunity to work with them, to share my ideas and to get their feedback during the discussions has been extremely rewarding.

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?
My favourite module has been Alternative Investments and Wealth Management. I knew I would love this module from the moment I saw its description on the website while applying to Imperial.
This module analyses household financial decision-making in the context of everything we learnt throughout the degree. It brings in behavioural insights to the way we evaluate options. It is very relatable and teaches me about how to manage the future financial challenges that I will face myself.

People

Which seminars, events or guest lectures at the school have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?
Guest lecturers from the Bank of England, Goldman Sachs, Jeffries and many others, dispersed throughout the year provided useful insights into their jobs and motivation.

How would you sum up the Business School faculty?
Very active and efficient. They are eager to help. Whenever I was unsure of particular arrangement or wanted to comment on possible areas of improvement they were always one phone call or e-mail away. In terms of the organisational set up of the course, particularly the online study platform (The Hub), their services have been fantastic.

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?
Professor Andrea Buraschi is an extraordinary lecturer. He was refreshing and one of the most memorable lecturers I had. He concentrated on financial acumen, and it is thanks to him that I am able to open the Financial Times and read the articles in an informed way. His courses were very case study-orientated, which meant that during job interviews I had a lot of examples to provide. He managed to make his lectures intellectually stimulating without being stressful.
My research project supervisor, Professor Marcin Kacperczyk has made indispensible contributions to my work with his feedback. He did not restrict my flow of thought, but very skilfully steered me in the right direction if I needed to explore something in greater detail. He is very knowledgeable and exceptionally well read, able to help me with diverse comments in any topic I covered.

Imperial places a large emphasis on group work; what inspires you the most about working in this type of environment, whether it be group assignments or class discussions?
Pooling our skills together, with every team, we managed to create an impressive piece of work starting from scratch. It is amazing how well you remember the material after you have covered it in your group work assignments. Working in a team, I understood how much more efficient our combined efforts were because the contribution of each teammate replaced hours of researching the material in the library. We were able to identify each individual’s strengths in a particular field and become capable to cover any aspect of the task within the team. An additional bonus was in the fact that working in different groups for every module offered an opportunity to get to know your colleagues very well.

How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?
My cohort has been very international and very diverse. Every single one of my classmates has attained very impressive results in one sphere or another before coming to Imperial, and I think they have influenced me in a positive way, whether that is their work ethic, world view or gastronomic tastes.

What clubs, societies or other activities have you been involved in at Imperial?
I volunteered to be the Academic Leader of the MSc Investment and Wealth Management programme, and I enjoyed being a part of the Student Staff Committee. This has been great because it allowed me to meet the staff and the lecturers, to contribute to the Business School and made me feel like part of the community.
I was also a member of Imperial Hockey Society briefly, which was very fun; it helped me to develop my team working skills and gave me an opportunity to meet undergraduates and postgraduates outside the Business School.

Opportunities

What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial that you wouldn’t get anywhere else?
Graduating at the Royal Albert Hall? But on a more serious note, I think Imperial provided me with an opportunity to meet a lot of inspirational people who came to the Business School as guest speakers. There is a certain prestige attached to being a student at a top five UK university, but it comes with a lot of responsibility too. I feel extremely lucky having been exposed to such talented academics who are known worldwide.

How have you benefited from the services provided by the Career and Professional Development Service?
The Career Services workshops at the beginning of the course helped me polish my CV and taught me a thing or two about the interview process, which was fantastic given that I have found myself in the unfamiliar finance territory. I think the Career Services have helped me with my presentation skills and their availability and eagerness to help has proven very useful during some of the most stressful job application seasons.

How have you benefited from being part of the wider Imperial College London community?
The studious buzz around campus has prompted me to work even harder. The social media announcements that Imperial College has been in the process of cutting-edge research has made me proud of the fact that I am a part of this institution many times.

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.
I believe the events for all the Business School alumni that were held twice during my academic year at Imperial have been of benefit to the cohort and would not be possible if university was located outside London.

Career

What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?
Imperial fosters a feeling of aiming high in all of its students and that they should do the best that they can. I am sure I will take these values with me in my future career.

Where do you see yourself upon completing the programme?
The course has prepared me for a great scope of career options in many international locations all over the world.

Location

Whereabouts do you live in London and why did you choose to live there?
I live at home with my family

What can a weekend in London look like for an MSc student?
Weekends really vary: from a session at the Ethos gym with my classmates to unwind the stress, to cinema trips where we have seen pretty much every cartoon released in the space of the year. I particularly enjoyed exploring Chinatown and trying out Asian food and I have to say that I have never tried a jellyfish before coming to Imperial.

In your opinion, tell us about the most exciting, undiscovered place in London.
I would say that it is probably South Kensington and the area nearby. There are so many things to do here with street artists every 20 meters, museums with constant exhibitions, late night silent discos, fun pubs and parks (from Hyde park to Kensington Gardens), the architecture is beautiful and it is always a pleasure to take a stroll around South Kensington on a sunny day. It will take a long time to explore the whole of London because it is such an amazing place.

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?
I moved back to London after having studied at York for three years and I had to get used to the faster way of life, rushing people and temperamental London traffic. My advice to anyone in a similar position to me would be to give yourself time. In a couple of months you will be used to the London rush and will find that it is unlike living anywhere else.

Tips

What advice would you give someone who was thinking about applying for the course?
You have to ask yourself: are you good at processing a lot of information quickly and ready to prioritise work over other activities? During the course you meet a lot of people and some of them are better coders than you, better mathematicians, more organised or more experienced. You may question whether you belong however this is a great stimulus for self-improvement. You have to be able to put your own achievements into perspective; remember not to diminish your potential and to strive for development. Stay open to change and to progress to get as much as possible out of this opportunity.

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?
I attended the university wide postgraduate Roadshow fair where I obtained useful prospectus that gave me the basic information about the course. I also  signed up for a 15 minute chat with a member of the Recruitment team, which was extremely helpful in highlighting the areas that a candidate like me should focus on when writing a personal statement and showing me what the recruiters were looking for in this particular course.

Share with us a handy hint or trick which makes campus life that much easier!
My most useful tip would be to get involved in everything. Take opportunities. Do not miss any social or networking event with your peers; it is invaluable in your learning process, whether that is obtaining tips on how to complete assignments or learning about the latest events around London