Getting into Goldman Sachs is a dream that every MBA student dreams. So, when a finance student from SCMHRD Pune with IT background makes it Goldman Sachs and becomes VP of Asset Management, it may seem like a very obvious progression. Well, it is not. There is a lot that goes down to become a man a person dreams. At least, that was the case for Ankush Kumar Pandey, an above-average IT student, certified CFA and SCMHRD Pune Alum, batch of 2011-2013. How did he do that? Read the full article, to get inspired by his journey and growth trajectory.
This interview is brought to you by SCMHRD and in collaboration with InsideIIM.
Question: Did you decide your specialization before joining your B-school?
Answer: Yes, I did my MBA because I was interested in the business aspect of things and always had an affinity for Finance. Even during my 2-year stint (before MBA) in Cognizant Technology Solutions as a Programmer Analyst, I was working in 'Banking and Financial Services' vertical. We even had to give a few related exams while doing a project over there.
Question: When did you enrol in CFA?
Answer: I enrolled for CFA, a couple of years after my MBA. Initially, I was not able to understand the value of the CFA certification. I already finished my MBA, didn't understand the significance of the additional course. However, during Final Placement, I saw 3 of my classmates getting placed into really great companies because they did CFA along with their MBA. At that time, I thought CFA as an 'extra knowledge' that might give you an edge during placements.
After graduating from my B-School I got placed into Accenture, but I really didn't want to work in IT again. So I left the company in 5 months and joined CRISIL as a Research Analyst in Equity Research & Portfolio Management. I liked working there, but at the same time, I felt there are so many things in the field that I could do better. It was there when I finally decided to do CFA. I used to work along with my CFA prep. This really helped in understanding the learning aspect of the CFA certification. I was doing more than clearing exams. Hence, it was a conscious decision to complete the three-level, in a time span of 1.5 years. Soon, I got an offer from Goldman. So, for me working in the finance field along with CFA helped me. But I never give CFA more value than an MBA. It does not matter if you are an MBA grad from premier college or have given CFA or are enrolled for it, you'll be only shortlisted based on your knowledge, experience and interest for the field. Nothing else!
Question: So, an MBA student should opt for CFA later on, after completion of graduation. Correct?
Answer: Not necessarily. If your MBA is good enough, you won’t need CFA to get placement. B-school shouldn’t be like school where you need tuition to clear the exam. You are already paying for an MBA degree, you don’t need to pay 50000 extra for CFA degree.
However, students come from diverse backgrounds and may or may not be well-versed in Finance or investment. For them, CFA may seem like a necessity.
But, then there are MBA students who don’t even clear a single level but put level 1 candidate in their CV. In such cases, we make the interview extra difficult. By working in this field for nearly a decade, I found that unless investment is not in your blood, a CFA it won't help you in the long run.
Question: Is CFA more suited for doing some roles more than others?
Answer: Yes certainly! Most of it is will be focused on doing equity investment, fixed income investment, research, portfolio management. I think students in b-schools today see CFA as a stepping stone to get shortlisted during placement seasons. Students get really excited when an investment firm visits their college, but when it comes to thinking long term, they aren't sure of sticking around. I've seen so many people who start complaining within 4 years in the field, no matter how good their company or post is. My two cents to the b-schoolers will be to think! Think if you want to be in investment for long-term? Then doing a CFA will make sense.
From an interview preparation perspective, I found the FLIP (Finitiatives Learning India Pvt Ltd) course to be really good, even the fee is very nominal. When I take interviews many candidates find difficulty in speaking about finance topics in a clear and structured manner. FLIP courses in such cases help you cover the basics of finance-related topics and you are still able to answer questions like - "How do you do the fundamental analysis of a company?" in a basic way, if not perfectly. In an interview, the interviewer won't go in detail. Even they do, they ask things in the form of examples, like 'interest rates go up, how the bond prices will move?'.
These are some simple things that you learn during your course in MBA. You don't need CFA for that.
Question: when did you enrol in FLIP?
Answer: I enrolled in FLIP before my summer internships. I wasn't a topper and I didn't have a business background before MBA. I wasn't sure of my career in investment banking, so I didn't want to waste 50,000 on CFA certification yet. For that time FLIP was a good option, as it helped me understand the basics. You need to be clear of what you want before choosing a career path. Many students get attracted by salaries. They don't consider the role, what does it takes, if they are meant for it or not.
Question: What was your internship project?
Answer:(Interned with MCX)
It was 3/4 of us who went there and the project was really well. My project was on Econometrics - 'understand the model's hedging efficiency of the futures contracts that were trading on MCX' and also agricultural commodities. And within exchanges, say a product is trading on MCX and MCDX, you compare both the contracts as in where hedging would be more effective.
Question: Econometrics is thought to be a theoretical subject but does it also have a practical application.
Answer: It is a theory only. I mean, it was of a hit and trial. I searched how we can use Econometrics models, found a software which was available for free. I downloaded it and used it. It is theoretical and it can be modified.
At the end of the day it is statistics, so if the number of observations is different, and one result is tilting towards one side, just use another method. Other than that just talk to people, learn about hedging, what are different types of contracts and all, that is more practical than Econometrics is.
Question: Tell us about your current role in detail. Can you please also take us through a typical day in your life?
Answer: I worked for two years in CRISIL that role was more of equity research and portfolio management. The job role requires to do equity research, where you need to prepare models for new companies, right from scratch. During the quarter ending, when the load was heavy, the would even call me to do commentaries. I never understood exactly how it worked. Later on, when I finished level 3, I understood what it exactly was, how it is derived/calculated. It is due to equity research knowledge and portfolio magenta fund commentary knowledge, I finally grabbed Goldman Sachs's attention and got a VP job.
My current role is, which is very new in India. I manage equity mutual funds for Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Equity mutual fund can be based on the basis of region, India, Asia, emerging markets etc. We call it products. Every person is allocated to one particular product which he/she has to manage. I manage China. Goldman has thousands of clients that are invested in these funds. But a financial product is s very complex product, you need to understand the economy, the stocks within, industry, how they are doing etc. I've to answer all the client queries, prepare presentations whenever the portfolio manager is going out for a meeting with a client. Plus, I've to write regular commentaries and thought pieces.
Question: which were the factors you took into consideration while making a career decision?
Answer: I worked in an IT firm before, I left it because I was more interested in doing MBA. So that was my base. I was at least that clear of what I want and what I don't. And like I said I was interested in finance; I did my MBA in that. More specifically, business finance. It's okay to not be sure about things up to a certain point in an MBA. But somewhere you need to make your mind and do what you want to do. You can make strategy, you can go into equity research, IB etc. Then you start exploiting your opportunities.
Question: Which roles are most sought after nowadays?
Answer: There will always be roles. But, as I said, if it is not in your blood then please don't do it. I have seen people join these "cool" roles after passing out from IIM's, but it is still a non-IIM guy that is doing a better job.
Some roles have been constant like IB and research. My job role is relatively new in India. There are also many popular roles in operations, but I'm not sure if a finance MBA guy would like to do it, as it is a very non-business, IT kind of a role. Corporate banking is there, ratings are there. All are there.
Question: Which other things can a finance student do while doing their MBA?
Answer: I think MBA first-year students need to be more efficient from the start. This will help the latter part of the journey easier. If I already know a thing or two about the balance sheet, profit and loss statement work, read the news, know why the IL&FS default happened, I would actually understand what happened. If I learn all this in the 3rd semester, it would be of less help. The senior batch should already start writing thought leadership pieces on things happening in the market. If you want to learn more about the market, try JPMC, they prepare monthly/yearly reviews. Start writing research papers! even if you write a paper once in 2 months, you'll have 6 in a year. You can put that down in your CV. In the interview, you'll get that content to talk about. If the interviewer picks one of your topics, You can use 5 of his/her minute to my advantage. Just pick any question and start writing on it. You will become better with time.
Question: Almost done, anything else that you would want to tell an MBA student/ aspirant to learn.
Answer: the attitude does matter. As an interviewer, I don’t want people to bluff if they can't justify. Lying is one thing but don't get caught. Go through your resume 100 times and think about what can be asked. If you want to hide something, hide it properly. For example, people have gaps, and they're also not able to justify. In such cases, you can write about CAT, XAT, NMAT, SNAP, etc score/percentile in my CV.