“During our placements, Investment Banking was the most preferred job and also the most lucrative one. I didn’t know much about IB and had an interest in an asset management kind of role. However, since most people wanted to get into IB, I thought I should try it too because if I don’t, I will be missing out on something. However, when I actually landed up interning in an investment banking job, I got to know the finer nuances and realised that this is not the kind of job that I really enjoyed and that's not something I would like to make a career in”, says Prerna Lotlikar, VP of Investments at Pandim Consultancy, CFA and SPJIMR Finance Alumni.
Interested to know more about MBA Finance? Want to know where it takes you? Read this article to find out.
This article is a part of an SCMHRD initiative.
Question 1: How did you come to the decision of doing an MBA? Were you certain that you’d switch to an MBA after some experience?
Answer: I wanted to do an MBA but before that, I wanted to gain some work experience. Whether it would be two, three or four years was dependent on when I got accepted to a B-school.
Question 2: When did you decide your specialization in Finance? Was it before joining the B-school?
Answer: After engineering, I wasn’t too keen to pursue a higher degree in computer science. So, I was open to exploring other options. Fortunately, during college placement, I was offered the role of an Analyst in J P Morgan Chase (JPMC) in the Risk analytics division. Here, I was a part of credit card analytics segment, wherein we had to formulate acquisition strategies for different customer segments like mass market, affluent, HNIs etc in order to maximise the conversion rate for each of them. Though this was not a core finance role, working here for 2 years, introduced me to some basic concepts of finance. I developed an interest in the same and started reading more about it. Thus, when I decided to join a b-school, I decided to specialise in finance.
B-school related questions
Question 1: Where did you do your summer internship at?
Answer: I did my summer internship again at JP Morgan but this time in the IB division.
Question 2: Tell us about your summer internship project and key learnings.
Answer: JP Morgan’s IB division was segregated into different sectors such as - consumer, BFSI, auto, commodities, etc. I was with the consumer division, which was an 8-10 member team. During my two month internship, I got the opportunity to interact and learn from every team about their work and assist them in some tasks. I also had to independently work on an M&A (merger and acquisition) project, access the pros and cons of a fast-growing Asian consumer company taking over a consumer company in a developed and mature market. I was accessed on the effectiveness (content, presentation and convincing skills) of my pitch.
Question 3: Did you enrol in CFA while in MBA?
Answer: I enrolled for CFA before my MBA, while I was in JPMC. During the 2 years, I was working in JP Morgan, I cleared 2 levels. When I was doing my MBA I took a gap. Post-MBA, when I started working, I completed the 3rd level.
Question 4: what is the ideal time to do CFA? Before/after/during MBA?
Answer: Not sure if there is an ideal time for the same, but I think doing CFA depends on the kind of role/career you want to pursue. Even within finance, there are certain career options, wherein CFA may not add too much value, on the other hand, if you are in capital markets, asset management, investment banking etc, it can give you some edge over others. Being in an asset management firm, I find CFA quite useful.
Also, if you haven’t already started CFA levels before joining B-school, enrolling CFA along with an MBA can be recommended because there is going to be a lot of overlap in content between your MBA and CFA studies.
Job Specific Questions
Question 1: And which of these roles were you associated in your final placements?
Answer: I was placed in credit rating agency, ICRA, wherein my role was to access the creditworthiness, determine the probability of default for companies in the BFSI sector, come up with a rating recommendation for various instruments of these companies and present my case to the rating committee.
Question 2: Can you please describe your career trajectory after you have finished your MBA?
Answer: To be very honest, I aspired to get into an Asset Management kind of role but such companies did not come to campus for recruitment during our time. I was placed in ICRA, which was a good learning experience as it taught me how to analyse a company and also put up your case in front of a rating committee, who are a group of experienced professionals. It helped me build a foundation, which came in handy as I interviewed for equity 'buy' side role in an asset management firm.
So, post a year of working with ICRA, I have been on the working in asset mgmt. the industry for the last ~6-7 years. Usually, if you want to get into asset mgmt., you need some prior experience and usually few very of such companies come to campus for recruitment. So, it is kind of a chicken and egg situation. I, fortunately, got this opportunity, and took it up happily, without fretting over the remuneration and other such things as I was keen to work there. I joined as the junior-most person as an investment analyst at Mosaic Advisors in 2014, where my role was to analyse various listed companies across sectors, come up with investment ideas and give a buy/sell recommendation to the fund manager. After spending ~4.5 years at Mosaic, I am currently associated with Pandim Consultancy and Research as Vice-president Investments over the last 2 years.
Question 3: If we talk about a typical day in your life, what are the things you oversee on a day to day basis?
Answer: Both Mosaic and Pandim are Indian entities of global fund houses namely Hong Kong-based Allard Partners and Zurich based Monterosa group respectively. My work is largely similar in both the companies, wherein I focus on identifying potential equity opportunities in India as well as select international markets to invest our client’s money from a medium to long term perspective. On a regular basis, my work involves identifying these opportunities, doing on the ground research, talking to the management of these companies, attending industry and company level conferences, recommending these investment ideas to fund managers, and ongoing monitoring after the investment has been made.
Question 4: You made a call to change your organisation, after 4 years. Any major factors you take into consideration while making such a move?
Answer: I was very happy in Mosaic advisors and I still have very good relations with almost everyone over there. It was a great learning experience as I began analysing Indian equities across quite a few sectors. However, after ~4 years of joining, there was some restructuring at the parent level and I was also asked to cover some Chinese/Hong Kong-based companies, which was getting difficult for me to do it from India because China works differently from India and language was also a constraint. Also, relocating to HK was personally not a preferred choice for me as I wanted to stay in India.
At the same time, the opportunity at Pandim came in, wherein the role was slightly more broad-based, as it included covering some private investments in India along with analysing Indian equities. So, I decided to take it up.
Question 5: Anything else that you would like an MBA aspirant or an MBA student to know, which you have learnt from experience and might have not come under the purview of any of the above questions?
Answer: I think many B-school applicants feel the need to do CFA before or during their MBA. But some lose interest after the initial level and don’t pursue it further. Just clearing the first level doesn’t add too much value in terms of learning or resume. Since it is an expensive exam and time consuming as well, you may take your time to first access your career choices, then see if doing a CFA will actually help you work towards that goal.
Also, I would recommend MBA students/aspirants not to hurriedly make decisions based on what others are doing. The herd mentality that many applicants have may not work in the long run. I did the same mistake - during our placements, Investment Banking was the most preferred job and also the most lucrative one. I didn’t know much about IB and had an interest in an asset management kind of role. However, since most people wanted to get into IB, I thought I should try it too because if I don’t, I will be missing out on something. However, when I actually landed up interning in an investment banking job, I got to know the finer nuances and realised that this is not the kind of job that I really enjoyed and that's not something I would like to make a career in.
So, my two cents to students would be to take time out to figure out what really interests you. Given your potential, you will eventually end up where you really want to be, even though it might take some time, maybe sometimes more than what you expect. All the best!