A successful career in finance or consulting is a dream for many b-schoolers and management graduates. The attraction of the profession is so magnetic that many students enter b-school with the sole intention of being recruited by a reputed finance or consulting firm. But what makes this career so attractive? What does industry want from the talent? Moreover, what is it that sets apart finance corps and consulting firms from other companies who can perform similar activities? These are just some of the questions that will get answered by Deepak Tomar, IIM Ahmedabad Alumni (Batch 2004-06) and Executive Director, Nomura. Read excerpts of his interview in this article to know more.
This interview is brought to you by SCMHRD and in collaboration with InsideIIM. Interviewed by Rahul Bajaj, Current Student, SCMHRD.
Question 1: What were your interests like before going to management institute and how did you decide to pursue a career in management?
Answer: I did my engineering in IT from IIIT, Allahabad. My interests were very clear. I was quite the sports person back then, and, I think I still am. That was my primary interest. But in terms of a career, like any other engineering student, I wanted to get my MBA done early on. During my third or fourth year, I dreamt of going to Harvard Business School. But soon, I realized that work experience is one of the most important admission criteria to apply for Harvard. They don't take freshers. I graduated in the year 2003, which was the worst time for any engineering student to graduate. Due to recession, many graduates like me were finding it difficult to get jobs immediately. During this lull period, I decided to apply for CAT and fortunately enough, I got admission in IIM A. I didn't have clarity about my career, during that time. The only thing I was clear about was getting an MBA. I think for me, the clarity came as I progressed in the field.
Question 2: Did you decide your specialization before joining b-school?
Answer: See, I go and interview people these days and students do claim that they're clear about their specialization, etc. Honestly, I was not. It was only in the last term of my MBA when I started giving finance some serious consideration. Once, I got a job in consulting, I decided to switch because I was attracted to the world of banking.
Our thoughts and ideas are often derived by external input like things you hear from your friends, family, colleagues, or seniors. You see others and start thinking, "let me try that, I might enjoy doing it too." I went through that process of selecting a specialisation after graduating from IIM A.
Question 3: What was your specialization in MBA?
Answer: I can't say that I liked one-course specifically because I wasn't very clear. I graduated in General Management.
Question 4: Which kind of activities were you involved in during your b-school that might have helped in your corporate journey later on?
Answer: The b-school pressure kind of prepares everybody well for corporate life. In terms of activities, I was a placement cell member. I was managing relations with students and consulting and management firms. It prepared me well as I learned to take responsibility and interact with people from the corporate world.
Apart from that, I was also involved in sports. I know you people might be thinking, "everybody says that but people barely play". But I do and I really know how to win and lose. During my college days, I have won my team many cricket matches. Even now, I play corporate cricket. Sports sometimes also help you prepare well for handling things which are not curricular in nature. It trains you for the real-world which often does not go by the curriculum.
Question 5: What was your summer internship experience like?
Answer: I interned with Monsanto India, which is an agricultural inputs company. I interned with the National Sales Head of Monsanto. I was the only intern who worked with him. Initially, they found me difficult to deal with, as I was very nit-picky about the project I want to take. Eventually, they found me a project with the National Sales Head. One of the key learning while working him was humility. He would travel 20-25 days in a month and attend a lot of farmer meetings. He taught me the importance of keeping a good relationship with the customer, no matter at what level you are. That's when you really understand how your product is, how it is deployed, how your product really makes a difference in people's lives.
Another thing that I learned, that should also be useful for management students is, 'Beauty is in Brevity'. While I was preparing my project report, my presentation was only 10 slides. Everyone else was presenting with 50 slides. After I finished presenting my project, The National Sales Head made a comment. He said, " Deepak, I really appreciate this. We are not looking for literature here. You've made your report very crisp and sharp. You've made your point, delivered it and we're done.” As students and even as professionals we should understand that. There is no point is blabbering. Every word you say during a presentation should be measured, your language should be apt. You should deliver what is required to make optimum impact. Nothing less, nothing more. That is something that I have learnt and continue to practice.
Question 6: Any hard skills that you would to suggest interns going into finance?
Answer: No, I will not mention any technicalities. But what I would suggest them, is the following-
- Fix your attitude: Display an attitude that shows that you are interested in that line of work. If you are not interested in the work and have a poor performance, then you are not adding any value to corporates. In, those cases interns become a dead weight. Good attitude from an intern is like, "Okay, fine I'm here. I want to learn, be exposed to the corporate environment.” Be grateful for your experience.
- Intern with an open mind: Always push in places, "can I help you with that?" Engage with as many people as possible. Every company wants to hire a social person. You have to be that. If you're not talking to people, if you're not going around and trying to understand the business, that essentially explains that you're not interested in the business.
- In every internship, you will learn a different thing: Wherever you go, it is always a good idea to really understand what really drives that business, and what is important for the business. For example, if I have an intern coming here, I would want that intern to be able to have a conversation about banking. They should be able to hold or lead a quality conversation.
Question 7: Did you have any dream roles where you wanted to work perhaps 5 years down there line, by the end of your 2 years at the b-school?
Answer: Honestly, I did not have that kind of clarity. I didn't have a 5-year road map and that is one of the mistakes I made. If I talk to Deepak Tomar back in 2006, I'd go and tell him, "dude, don't think short term, think long term". Because 5 years go by very quickly and you keep making mistakes. If I had figured out my interests then, I probably would have started working on those areas early on. For example, I'm really interested in the area of luxury, I could've probably started there and could've gone in an entirely different direction later. But this s a kind of clarity that comes over a period of time. I'm not saying everybody should have it. If people could have it early on when they're in college, then it is great. If that is not the case, then obviously time will tell.
Question 8: While taking any such decision which factors did you take into consideration?
Answer: We always run for the money. That's a big mistake that we always make. Instead, we should try and find something that we'll enjoy tomorrow. Because if you're not having some fun, then there's no point in doing it. This is something that time will teach you. That is why a lot of people change jobs over a period of time. Because interests change, and so does motivations.
Question 9: Please describe your career trajectory (designations and responsibilities).
Answer: I was a consultant at PwC, from there I moved to Lehman Brothers as an equity research analyst. In the first year there I think I didn't do as good as I should've done. I was dating someone and that didn't work out. I let that affect me. This is one of the things people should stay away from. You can't allow such things to affect your work. And I did. Which is why I didn't have such a great year. After that of course, In 2008 Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. Nomura came and acquired everything. By that time, I became strong, I had a determination to fix everything. And look at it now. I'd build a strong brand with my intent, hard work and a right attitude.
Question 10: Which are the things you oversee on a day to day basis? How does a typical day in your life look like?
Answer: I manage a complete platform of baking. I also run a fin-tech initiative at Nomura. I engage a lot with fin-tech startups, tech and other strategic initiatives. I also engage a lot with banking analysts.
Question 1: Can you tell us something about the world of banking?
Answer: Two very important things in the world of banking are -
- Attention to detail: Whatever you cut out, it should be of the highest quality.
- Be a people's person: Every business is a client-driven business. All these businesses are very relationship-driven. If you don't have that, you won't be able to break any ground. Also, you work with a lot of people in banking. You need to be a people's person to push yourself through.
Question 2: What were your takeaways from the executive programs from Harvard business school.
Answer: One interesting program that I did was on “Negotiations”. It is a great program, and I think everyone should learn the art of negotiation. Although Indians are considered to be very good at it, we actually always haggle. In general, there are many details and dynamics in business situations. To be able to look at those situations in detail, from a negotiation point of view is very empowering. But the course on negotiations has helped me more.
Question 3: One tends to sacrifice their personal inclinations as they move forward in their professional lives. What do you think about this?
Answer: Look, I am at a stage where there are certain comforts. But I think, you should not sacrifice your personal inclinations for professional lives. For me, fitness is important even if I am working 15 hours a day.
There are certain things that define you, if you change those things then you are not yourself.
Changing too much, I don't think that's a great strategy. You should always get to to do what you love to do.
Question 4: Which roles do you think are the most sought after nowadays?
Answer: A lot of people are disoriented when they start their careers. And it is okay to be like that for some time. Find out "why" you want to do a certain thing and start doing it. Banking is interesting, so in consulting. In today's day and age, I see a lot of people joining startups. In startups, you get to learn things early on and that is exciting. If you get a hang of things, then you will really grow fast. Some of these jobs are even well paid. That's a change I have seen in the past few years.
But there will also be people who will get attracted to big names. Nothing has changed there.