Saturday, December 29, 2007

Thoughts for the new year

I have not been writing much recently, but that does not mean I am not thinking :-). I have mentioned before that the key switch in my thinking over the last year has been that I do not see myself as an employee anymore, and I do not care about finding the perfect company or the perfect job that someone gives me to make me happy. It is a combination of thinking more and more like a shareholder or entrepreneur during the MBA and of reading the book "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" several times over the last year, which has influenced me a lot. As a result, I see a job as something I do for a considerable amount of time of my day for different reasons, mainly to acquire skills and experience that will help me become independent in the financial and personal sense. From this perspective, looking for a job is a very different task than how I understood finding the perfect job only one year ago.

Looking back one year, I cannot believe how my thinking has changed. One year ago, I was still unsure if I should quit my consulting job - a job that made me unhappy and miserable 90% of the time I spent there and that today I would not consider going back to even for a week! I was asking myself every day what to do with my life, a question so vague and all encompassing that answering it was beyond my horizon. I was stuck in the belief that I would never be rich, since I hadn't been born rich, and that the world in general and work places in particular were unfair.

Today, I see everything very differently, and I hope that this stays that way - I have a little fear that my free mind does not only stem from the comforts of happy student life - everybody has heard the complaint about MBAs who graduate thinking they should go into companies at least as CEOs and really know nothing, and partly that's true, so I don't want to fall into the trap of being one of thousands of megalomaniac spoilt MBAs. But what I can say is that I absolutely recongnize that I know something between nothing and 5% of what I need to know for future jobs, and I'm very happy about this fact, because work is more interesting when you learn something new, and the less you know about a job the more interesting it is.

With all this in mind, I am very excited about the next year. I have half a year of student life ahead of me, and of intense learning. I have six electives left, all of which are either in finance or related subjects:
- Times Series Analysis for Forecasting
- Fixed Income Securities
- Financing the Entrepreneurial Business
- Credit Risk
- International Finance
- Advanced Financial Analysis

For those who think this is overly technical (I have decided to miss out on courses like Negotiation & Bargaining or Creativity and Personal Mastery or Brand Management...), I must say that I have spent all my undergraduate and postgraduate education in psychology and political sciences, and that as much as I enjoy the literary side of life, if I pursue it I like to pursue it properly, not at an MBA level, which is quite superficial, so for now I have noticed I get much more out of technical subjects. Last term I have done the same, and probably unlike 95% of the class, the course I have enjoyed the most has been Options & Futures. I have enjoyed setting up Excel files to do options pricing and hedging, and being honest about what I enjoy, no matter how geeky it sounds, has been very helpful for me to be happier and clearer about what I want to do. Apart from learning, I will also travel a lot over the next six months and enjoy the freedom of student life.

The second six months I will be trained for my new job - first on classroom training in New York, and then in severla rotations through trading desks in London. I am very excited about this as well, and can't wait to find out which desk I will be working on full-time, but luckily the wait will be easy because student life is sweet.

Obviously then, I am looking forward to the next year, and I wish my readers all the best for the new year, may your dreams come true!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Santa Claus pub crawl in Soho

Leaving our beautiful school on Park Road

Causing surprise at Baker Street tube station

Taking over Piccadilly Circus

Ready to party!!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sales & Trading and Hedge Fund reading list

Even though I should be studying for my Options & Futures exam coming up next week, I am meeting up with lots of first years interested in working on the trading floor or in hedge funds to give them advice on CVs and interview preparation. The question on what to read in preparation keeps coming up, so I will make a post with all the books I find very helpful to get inside into trading and investing, as well as the technical knowledge required. I recommend the following books. Obviously, you don't need to read them to pass interviews. If you are lazy, you can get by with your introductory finance class, the Wall Street Journal, and the Vault Guide to Finance Interviews. Still, I believe that if you are not interested enough to pick up a good book on investing or the markets in your spare time, it is questionable if you will enjoy working in the financial markets, and thus it is unlikely you will be successful or happy if you work in this field. So at the least reading these books will give you an idea if you are really passionate about markets.

Technical knowledge
Inventing Money: The Story of Long Term Capital Management and the Legends behind it

This is the best book on the lives of Fischer, Black, Scholes, and Merton, the fathers of modern derivative pricing. It gives an excellent introduction into how and why derivatives were developed and how the industry grew. It might be a bit heavy if you have no background whatsoever, but even then I think it will familiarize you with the concepts important in trading.


We have had some readings from this book in our Options class, and as an introduction it is much easier to understand than the classic John Hull book on derivatives that everyone recommends but probably not many actually fully understand. So if you want a book on derivatives that is easy to understand and study by yourself, with a very good depth and practical and intuitive explanations, this is really good. It is written by the NYU Stern professor Rangarajan Sundaram. It is more expensive than the Hull book unfortunately.

Now on to lighter things :-). There are a lot of books on investing, the hedge fund world, and trading, but these are my favourites. Depending on where you lean and what you are interested in, you may have other choices, here are my top choices.

Easy reading
Reminiscences of a Stock Operator

This is the autobiography of one of the first speculators in the 20th century, who made his fortunes in the 1929 crash shorting stock prices. He seems to have had a very unusual gift for interpreting stock prices and where they were likely to go, so much so that brokerages would refuse to take his orders, forcing him to operate anonymously even when he was in his teens. His insight on trading and investing are as true today as they were 80 years ago.

How I made $2m in the stock market

Despite the dodgy title, this is actually an excellent book on stock picking. It was written by Nicolas Darvas in the late 50s and follows a very similar investment style to Jesse Livermore, the author of reminiscences of a stock operator. It is a great introduction to technical analysis versus a fundamentals based approach to investing. It is also a very easy read and a great way to get started on investing.

Inside the House of Money: Top Hedge Fund Traders on Profiting in the Global Markets

As stupid as the title sounds, this is actually a great book full of interviews with macro traders, i.e. investors who analyze global economic trends in currencies, interest rates and commodities to take positions on large movements and trends. It is fascinating how they interpret current events and what connections they make. You have to be interested in macro investing to like this book, as it is unrelated to corporate finance or technical aspects of trading.

Market Wizards: Interview with Top Traders

This is something like the original of Inside the House of Money, a collection of interviews with successful traders from the 70s. Lots of their stories are focused on how they made money shorting soybeans or wheat in the Chicago trading pits, but there are lots of characters here that became famous hedge fund managers later. It does get technical when they describe exactly what they sold when and why, so again you need to be interested in investing to read this book.


A much lighter read, this is quite an entertaining book on the hedge fund industry and the characters in it (managers, investors, wives, journalists, funds of funds etc.). It is written by Barton Biggs, formerly head of Morgan Stanley investment management. He has a degree in literature, is well-read and has a healthy distance to money and the finance industry. He can be quite sarcastic at times and I laughed a lot reading it.

Beating the Street

Written by Fidelity star Peter Lynch. This is about investing in stocks and quite useful personally. There are a lot of interview questions like "how would you invest $1m" or "which stock do you like and why", so this comes in handy.

I don't like any of the overhyped books such as Liar's Poker or When Genius Failed and think they are quite useless and won't give you a good idea of what trading floors or hedge funds are about. I do think reading the Wall Street Journal and the Economist helps a lot as well. The FT has some advantage in their coverage of political issues, but in terms of finance and business the WSJ goes into greater depth and technical detail, which is very helpful if you want to go beyond the journalist ling

Lots to read over the Xmas holidays!!! ;-). I didn't do it last year but in retrospect I must say I was not well prepared for the interviews, I didn't even know how options were priced, so I really recommend the following class to prepare better than me and know about option pricing and the general idea of hedging trading positions.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Surprising career choices

Many people have been asking me which job I ended up signing, so it is time to talk about it. I made a perhaps unusual choice. I signed with an investment bank instead of taking the offer from an established multi-billion dollar hedge fund. And I did this even though in terms of the internship, I enjoyed the work at the hedge fund more. Where shall I start to explain and justify myself? I myself was wondering once in a while if I am crazy. But I believe I did the right thing. Here's why.

Content and style of work: in terms of the style of working, the hedge fund was fantastic. It is quite creative and independent, and you never have to worry about selling anything or pleasing anyone. You just try to find out what is the right position to take, if there is a trade or not, and if yes, how to structure the trade in an intelligent way, and you are very free in terms of the opportunities you explore. Banking is very client driven, so obviously it will be more rigid and focused on selling products. The advantage of a bank is that one can move around quite easily and explore different areas, as well as switch desks or divisions. In a hedge fund, once you do merger arbitrage with European equities, it is unlikely that you will ever do anything else. The freedom of moving around and seeing different asset classes and regions was one of the reasons the investment bank seemed more attractive to me

Macro versus micro: the specific job I would have been hired for at the hedge fund required going into deep details of the financial reports of companies, finding inefficiencies and mispricings in their assets and liabilities. The trades were then structured in a market neutral way, so as to take a position only on the mispricing, while hedging out all market risk. Unfortunately, market risk is exactly the part I find most interesting, while accounting is what I like the least. Again, I prefer to work in commodities, interest rates, FX or emerging markets, rather than reading annual reports. This was the strongest reason of all.

Continuation of business school: another attractive element of the Associate programme in a bank is the fact that you are part of a group of 40 associates and about 80 analysts, and have the first 2 months together in New York of training, living in Manhattan, enjoying New York, making lots of friends. If you want to make money in the future, it helps to know a lot of people in different areas, and especially as a career changer I felt that so far I have very few contacts and know very little. Judging from last summer, I know I will enjoy having a large peer group of people in the same situation as I am, as it will make the transition from lovely student life to hard work easier.

Let's see how it all works out. I am meeting with lots of first years these days to explain them what Sales & Trading is all about, so I will probably make a post about it soon. At least I will post my reading list on how to prepare. This is a very busy week with lots of assignments, plus the final exams are coming up, so I have no time to get bored!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tick tock tick tock: enjoying student life for 9 more months

Tick tock tick tock - I signed my job offer last week, next year July I will start working again. Now it is time to travel and party as much as possible!! Well, obviously I am also planning to learn as much as possible of the things I won't have time to learn once I work. Having worked in finance for 6 months over the summer and getting the sign on bonus are helping me a lot to enjoy London fully without feeling so poor anymore. It's the first time in my life basically that I don't have financial or personal worries and it feels great. I feel grateful everyday and thank God all the time, even though I am an atheist - I have to thank someone!!

Life has been very good here, we've had the Diwali party on campus which was lots of fun. I managed to organize a Sari and get help from my friends to put it on. I am so happy we have the Indian community on campus, they are fantastic and organize a lot of great events.

I'm also quite active academically now, since I have a lot to catch up!! I noticed over the summer that I just haven't learned enough in the first year. When I walk out of the school with an MBA next year, I want to know the basics of macroeconomics and accounting, and I just don't. I want to know how exchange rates work, how global trade works and so on and so on. I know in the end academia seldom has the answer, but it will be good to at least know the theories and frameworks to know where to start. This summer I truly felt that I do not know even 5% of what I should know about accounting or finance or economics before walking out of here. This will keep me busy!

I'm very happy for some of my best friends who have gotten job offers these days. A lot of interviews are still going on, but knowing that two friends who were less lucky for the summer internship this year now have full-time offers from the McKinsey London office makes me very happy. Then, I'm spending a lot of time right now talking to our first year students to advise on job search. As so many time before, I feel the main difference between those who will be successful and those who won't is that the former know exactly who they are, what they want and what they don't want. You cannot stop someone who is determined (yet humble!) and knows where he is going! On the other hand, others are very smart but full of doubts, and unfortunately nobody wants to hire people who doubt if they will do the job for more than a year. I had the same problem last year, and I got quite a few rejections because of that (Goldman explicitly told me after the final round last year that the only reason they did not make me an offer was they didn't believe that's what I really wanted). And I think they were right at that time, I was not well prepared and did not have a compelling story when I interviewed - I am embarrassed to think about it now - I interviewed for trading jobs but couldn't tell them how to price an option and not even what factors went into pricing of an option. If I hadn't spent 4 months wondering if I should go back to McKinsey or not in the first term but had prepared for the interviews instead, the story could have been different.

So my advice as always is that you have to be honest with yourself and speed up the decision process on the summer internships, don't wait till January to decide because it is very easy to spot the difference between people who have known what they want and prepared for it and people who stumble into interviews trying to fake interest for the job, it won't work.

This is my wise advice for the day (though it's becoming repetitive, I know), now I'm off travelling for the weekend :-).

Friday, November 09, 2007

On freedom

This is the end of my first week in freedom. It has been one of the best weeks in a long time. It feels so great to be a student again, especially a student without financial worries taking very few classes this term!! Now I understand why the MBA2007s seemed to be partying all the time last year :-).

I've used my spare time to catch up with a lot of my best friends during the day and to do sports. If you want to know what freedom feels like, go running through Regent's Park in the very early morning. It is so beautiful and so much better than going to the office on a Monday morning. I also go to the gym a lot, which is less beautiful but more social, since quite a few 2nd years without much to do hang out there :-).

Other than that, I'm also trying to be helpful to first years exploring opportunities for the summer internships, I have met with about 5 by now to talk about Sales & Trading. I'm quite impressed by how well prepared first years are this year, or maybe I only get to see those who know what they want already. It is funny remembering how I was in their shoes last year, asking the same questions, exploring the same issues - it shows me how much has happened over the last year.

One very big difference now I have noticed is how broader my perspective has become, which is the main reason I have been neglecting this blog recently. I am finding it less and less interesting to talk about jobs, career choices, MBAs, parties etc.. I much prefer to think and talk about other things in life which are much more important. So I'm not sure yet what I should do from now on: either I will shift quite considerably what I write about, which might disappoint some applicants or first years (although they can always go back to the old posts), or I might simply write less often but focus on the issues that this blog was set up to cover. Let's see. At least what I have noticed is that the MBA funnily has allowed me to spend more time on what I want out of life, and it has raised my expectations of life high enough that the solution for me is not finding a job in an investment bank. It may be a nice thing on the side, but it is not going to be my central goal. I guess it is just an effect moving higher up on Maslow's pyramid, now that all existential problems have been solved.

Someone asked a few weeks back if 2nd year is really as relaxed as I describe it here. The answer is that it depends on each student. You can take more courses or less, you can aim to finish earlier or later, you can work part-time, study hard and do all the readings or only get by academically, you can contribute a lot to your teams or you can choose to work less etc. etc. In my experience it depends completely on personality, there are people who will always be super busy and stressed no matter how small workload is objectively, and there are people who will always be relaxed no matter how stressed everyone is. I've decided to take it easy over the next year, I'll just take 3 courses each term, I've dropped out of the exchange to avoid the hassle of applying for a US visa (among other reasons), and I plan to spend more time on things that I really want to do. I really dislike more and more having my daily activities dictated from outside (through course assignments etc.) and much prefer to shape what I want to do or learn. At least for the next 9 months I will do that, because afterwards it will be hard for a few years.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Did you miss me?

Hello my loyal readers - did you miss me? Do not ye worry, the end is nigh! angie will only be working one more week and then I will have all the time in the world. I will continue to have only 3 evening classes, which means I will have all day free all week, this is so amazing! I am planning to do the same next term and just take the time to read, go to the museums, go to the gym, party, travel.... I have already planned a trip to Berlin and another one to Istanbul, and there is definitely more to come. It's time to enjoy my spare time!! One very valuable lesson I have learned from the MBA is that the idea of being an employee sucks, and it is important to get out of that role as fast as possible.

On the weekends of course, I try to enjoy my freedom as much as possible :-). Last night we went to a great Iranian rap concert (mixed with traditional music), especially the first group was amazing, their name is Simorgh and they were outstanding, luckily they are from London so it will be easy to attend all the concerts in the future :-). That's the impressive thing about London: so many talented people from all over the world come here to find their way, be it musicians, comedians, or just ambitious students looking for money. I for one have great admiration for people who have the courage and the talent to make it as artists in this city, which is so so so expensive and so competitive. Unfortunately I'm not talented enough to go that way, so I have to do other things. But no problem, I'm happy!

Now I'm off to Bayswater to meet a Filipina classmate for Chinese food, yuuuuuuum!! Watch this space for what's been happening in London, some eager MBAs might want to hear about the job market in finance which is not easy for those who didn't make it in the summer, from what I know in the US the firms have started firing lots of people already, and many investment banks have hiring freezes. I for one am almost happy, hoping that the house prices in London will finally come down, but let's see what happens over the next months.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

angie is back to school - but still working!

I am back at school, yay! This is me in front of our beautiful London Business School on Park Road this evening. As you can see the sun in London is shining again! I am still working full-time from 7am every morning and am taking three evening classes now. Studying in London makes this possible. I have another friend and classmate who has been working full-time at Ferrari throughout the first year - don't ask me how!

What I really like about working and taking classes at the same time is that I can apply what I do at work in class - and I realize just how much I have learnt over the last months of work - but also I can apply what I learn in class at work every day, and that feels great.

My three classes this term are great so far, even though it is tough sitting in class from 6 to 9pm, particularly today when there was Sundowners at the same time - and I missed it! No drinks for me yet! Let's try to forget about drinks for now and talk academics :-):

Options & Futures: one of the most dreaded courses at London Business School, this is supposed to be the toughest course. The first lecture was very introductory though - how do forwards and futures work and things like that. After two months on a commodities structuring desk over the summer, you cannot scare me with terms like contango or backwardation! I had trouble shutting up in this class because there is a big divergence between theory and what happens on the trading floor - but I know how annoying people who think they know everything better than the professor are, so I didn't argue about certain things. I don't think my classmates could care less about the reasons for roll yield in commodities markets ;-).

Global Currency Markets: Macroeconomics suffers from the same divergence between theory and empirical evidence or reality, but it is great to think in a more systematic way about exchange rates, trade, budget deficits, what happens to the dollar, how Chinese foreign reserves affect the US and things like that. The professor is very experienced and knowledgable and it seems he is well connected, because we'll have some amazing guest speakers over the next weeks - among them Jim O'Neill, chief economist of Goldman Sachs, as well as the top FX strategist of Goldman, and then a good mix of policymakers, financial journalists and practicioners active in the currency markets.

Mergers, LBOs and Corporate Restructuring: as with the other classes, the class today was introductory and basically a recap of what we have done on M&As in the first year. But the professor, Paolo Volpin, is highly entertaining, smart and knowledgable. I must say each and every finance and economics professor at our school has been amazing. Joao Cocco was brilliant, I loved Marco Ottaviani in Microeconomics, and Paolo Volpin promises to be highly entertaining as well as intellectually challenging as well.

Tomorrow morning at 6am I have to get up again, but soon it is weekend! I will have to do the Options & Futures assignment and some reading for my economics class, but there is also a housewarming party and a dinner with friends lined up, so I am slowly making the transition to student life again.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I am alive!

Believe it or not, I am still alive, though with the nagging feeling at the back of my head that I have neglected my blog recently. Patxi as always was visionary and made a post about how social networking sites would reduce the importance of blogs. In my case I can say that since I am a facebook user I have drastically reduced the time I spend blogging. But last night I was reminded of my blog by bumping into a reader, it was incredible.

During the summer, I was lucky to land on a desk with incredibly friendly and cheerful, open-minded people, so we stayed in touch. Even luckier, there was another intern at my desk, who was the nicest and most entertaining person you could imagine - we spent a lot of time talking about "God and the world" (it's a German expression, I guess) whenever the others were busy and we had little to do. This intern only finished yesterday, so I went back to the City to meet them up for drinks. There was a young guy from India with them who just joined the desk (a few weeks after I left), and he suddenly asked me if I was angelangie. How weird!! I asked him how he knew my blog, especially given that he was neither thinking of an MBA nor anything like that. Now I wonder if it is the same guy who made a comment on my blog a few months saying that he suspected we might be working in the same bank?? Well, to get to the point, it is great to see I still have readers out there, even though I don't blog much these days. It inspires me to keep going, though till November I won't have much time.

Life is wonderful here, I am learning a lot every day and having a good time. I still enjoy my job at the hedge fund, and this is quite unique, because the people who know me, they know that I am usually enthusiastic for a week and then ask myself "what am I doing here?". I have never had a job in my life that I actually found interesting and that I actually thought I could do for a long time. And incredibly, three weeks have passed and I still like it! I am not a hopeless case after all! I think what I like most is that it is very difficult. It is also frustrating because I am not used to feeling stupid, but now I do, which makes me learn a lot and ask a lot of questions. I think I already mentioned that my boss always has time to explain me how the trades work, and he gives me some tasks that he knows are beyond my skills to test me and then explains me how to do it, and that way I keep my brain working and learn a lot. This is quite different from busy MDs at investment banks, who always seem to busy to explain much to you, you just have to go there and figure things out for yourself, and if you're lucky some associate on the desk might take ten minutes to explain you things. It seems that people are more relaxed on the buy-side and they can actually take the time to teach others how to make money, which is great.

Apart from the content, I like some of the other benefits as well. One gets invited to investor lunches, and though I guess they get boring once you have done a lot of them, I still find it quite interesting to see how the management is, how the other investors are, what questions they ask - and the food tends to be excellent! Last week, I went to a lunch of a luxury company, which turned out to spend more time showing us their new collection of jewellery and watches rather than talking about the numbers, which was unusual but certainly entertaining.

So this is what keeps me busy these days, after work I just eat and fall asleep immediately. Sometimes I go out for dinner with friends during the week. Actually one dinner this week was a lot of fun. Believe it or not - following angelangie's path ;-) - this year there are 3 German McKinsey girls in MBA2009!!! It feels like I am multiplying, which is good :-). The four of us went out for dinner and had a lot of fun! They were very interested to hear about those mysterious jobs where you can actually go home at 7pm! Mmh, thinking back now and realizing how tired I am even when I get home at 7 or 8pm, I can't believe that I actually spent 2 years working till midnight if not longer and commuting by plane every week. My poor body!! And I was so young then. I cannot imagine how I survived it. I am so happy and grateful I do not have to do that anymore!

Monday, September 03, 2007

One day at a hedge fund in London

I told you guys I had some more tricks up my sleeve when I left the investment bank in August, and now I can share it. Actually, I had two offers for summer internships, and I wanted to do both, so I accepted both. The second offer was from a large hedge fund in London in their event driven group (my loyal readers might remember my posts on hedge fund interviews). I started today and cannot believe how much I have learned in a day. Compared to working in a bank it seems much more creative and intellectually challenging, I will really need to work hard and switch my brain on. I am quite intimidated right now by all I have to learn as fast as possible, but I hope in a few weeks I will know much more.

What did I do today? I came in and immediately sat down with the head of the fund who told me what he wants me to work on over the next few weeks. I need to analyse certain aspects of three companies they currently hold live positions in. The tricky part is that being a "market neutral fund", they never hold a naked position, but instead have a position hedged against all kinds of effects they do not want to have exposure to, and therefore might go long on a stock but then short on some currencies, commodities, other stocks in the same industry or sub-industry of some of the business units etc.. So essentially, even when you cover one company, you actually cover 5 companies, some currencies, markets, interest rates etc.. I was instructed to work only on the first company (which given the basket turns out to be four companies and 5 main currencies) over the next days, and then they will add the other two live positions in the middle of the week, as he said I have to learn covering 3-5 live positions at the same time, as they do.

There was not much time today to cover even that position though, because there was a lot going on on the side. Of course I had to fill in lots of forms on compliance, insider trading etc., learn about the policies, the intranet etc.. But the main distraction came from somewhere else. The CEO of a bank was hosting an investor lunch in the City today and a guy who has a position in that bank needed the investment memorandum. He had another meeting though, and they asked me if I could go to the City, attend the lunch and get the booklet. I confirmed that I do not need to know or say anything and agreed to attend, no problem for me getting a 3-course meal with delicious wine and listening to a CEO! Of course, when I arrived there were 15 old men in suits in the room and me in casual clothes, pretty funny. I got all the info and listened attentively, and then went back to Mayfair happily. In the afternoon a CFO of a small company the fund is invested in came to our offices and the head of the fund also asked me to attend, their stock went down 50% over the last weeks and he said it would be interesting for me to see how the meetings with companies whose stocks are down 50% go. So I attended that as well, and then I was talking to the manager afterwards about how they have been affected by the turmoil over the last weeks, and he explained to me why even "market neutral funds" lose money in downturns.

By the time we were finished, it was 7 pm and everybody had left, so I left as well. Tomorrow I really need to advance on my first task though, because on Wednesday they'll throw in additional tasks for me. I'm absolutely thrilled though by how interesting it is and how much I am learning. After a short holiday, angel angie is getting up early again!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Happy ending of my summer internship

It's time to take a rest. After 10 weeks of getting up at 6am in the morning and spending my days on the trading floor, I am officially on my well-deserved holiday!! I got a fantastic full-time offer, which has surprised me quite a bit in terms of the bonuses offered. Definitely very tempting! I do not want to make the same mistake as with McKinsey and sign something because of the money, but when you are in the situation, it is not that easy, especially when the tuition fees are due in October! But let's see, I will go on holiday, think, relax, meditate, and then take a good decision. I have another trick up my sleeve but I will not share it till September. More on that later :-).

The summer has been fantastic. I have learned about leveraged buyouts, infrastructure, commodities, credit markets, and derivatives. I have made friends with my lovely fellow Summer Associates. I have had amazingly friendly, helpful, cheerful, smart, funny and diverse colleagues from all over the world (yes - even one real English person was among them!!!). I have been invited for drinks and dinners over and over again. I have been able to watch the market action live. Especially this week has been amazing. Imagine sitting next to the FX traders in the bank that is the biggest FX house in the world in London, the global centre of the foreign exchange markets, during the week that the carry trades unwind. To see the action among the traders when the ozzie dollar plunged yesterday has been unprecedented. Some people have lost a lot of money, and others have made a lot of money. I don't know if it is true or not - one trader on my floor is supposed to have made $40 million yesterday. At least the whole desk was clapping and cheering (that was when the yen rose and the high yielding currencies plunged), and that was the number I picked up, but I cannot be sure.

But overall people on the trading floor are worried. During the last weeks, nobody was too worried and everybody seemed to be making money happily. But this week has been different. They have seen their clients lose a lot of money, and this eventually comes back to hit you if you are a financial services firm, no matter how good your proprietary traders are. I know the emerging markets and credit people weren't too happy. I guess only the Distressed desk is open for business now. Commodities also seemed to be going well so far. Nobody knows how it's going to evolve, which is exciting but also worrying.

Tonight I will celebrate with my best friends with a dinner and drinks (even though many of them have another week to go in their internships with other banks), and tomorrow I'm off on holiday for two weeks. I just noticed this has been my 100th post. It's nice I kept the 100th post for special news!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Advice for incoming first years

Well, the admits are arriving now and there can be no denying it anymore: yesterday, I had breakfast on Baker Street with a friend, when a girl I knew from admits weekend passed, and I think she introduced herself to my friend saying that she was a first year, and that's when we realized: we are second years now. How fast time passes! How can we be second years already? Now there are other people who are first years who don't care about us, because they know we'll be gone soon :-(. And in our class people will be going on exchange, working part-time and finishing early, so it won't be the same.

The good part is that now that I count as a wise old second year, I can pass on advice :-). There's quite a few things I wish I had known, and I wouldn't be able to call myself an angel if I wasn't there to make other people happy in their lives - while suffering the grave consequences of my mistakes ;-) - just kidding, I'm pretty happy right now, and the only thing that worries me is that somehow I know that one cannot be that happy forever, right now is probably the luckiest period in my life, so I better enjoy it. Okay, back to my advice:

Flathunting/flatmates: First of all, sorry to say that rental prices have skyrocketed this year (and you thought they couldn't go any higher...), so expect to pay a bit more than the '08s who may have quoted you what they pay. Sharing with 2 others is the best if you want to be economical (around 200 GBP per week), while living on your on will cost you around 300 GBP pw if you want to stay close to school, which is what you should in the first year. Even more important than money is happiness (can you feel the wisdom flowing through my words???), and for that I really urge you to choose your flatmates wisely. At the flathunter's pub crawl, you might sometimes think you just want to get it over with, and just agree to live with the first person who asks you, but I can tell you from experience this can turn out to be a nightmare. Make sure your ideas of how to live more or less match, and stay away from people who seem to try and shift all the responsibility of payments, contractual obligations etc. on you. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a good personality match, otherwise it can turn out to be very nasty, and unfortunately in my case I had to live with one of the nastiest guys in the MBA for a year. Luckily that's over now. But don't expect all people to be decent and honest, just because they are in your MBA programme. Most people are very nice but there are a few outliers, and you don't want to end up sharing the bathroom with them by mistake.

Study Group: don't worry about this, and don't freak out. At Orientation, they will make it sound as if you will see your study group more than you will see you boyfriend or best friends, so you will freak out and look at these new people and think "but I don't want to spend more time with them than with my boyfriend!", and everybody will be tense and unhappy and have very high expectations which are bound to be disappointed. Luckily, it will turn out to be nothing like that after the first one or two months, it's not a big deal, and it has its advantages, in my case all people in my study group happened to be some who I might not have become friends with otherwise, but because we spent time working together on projects, having lunches and dinner together etc., actually these are people I know very well now, people I can trust, and people I am always happy to bump into now that our study group ceases to exist (just last night it happened I was stranded in a club in Shoreditch and bumped into my Egyptian study group mate who was also stranded there, since both our partners have gone on holiday already leaving us to finish the investment banking internships alone, which obviously makes a lot of sense). So, see it as a chance to get to know some people you might otherwise not have known, and try to stay relaxed about the whole thing, people freak out and are very tense at the beginning because of high expectations, and this can create a lot of conflict.

Parties: yes, there will be many parties. All I can advise is to go everywhere almost every day in the first term, particularly if you're single (if you have a partner, just take them along every time, or sometimes spend a quiet evening with them instead, which is also very relaxing), because the first term really is when all the things are going on. I was quite active in September, but then a bit more relaxed thinking "well, this will go on for two years, so I don't have to go to each and every event, I can go next term", but actually you will notice that suddenly starting in January recruiting will start, and cliques will form, and there will be less and less big parties involving the whole class. So my advice is for you to party as much as possible in the first term and meet all your classmates, because later people become absorbed in their own world and it is harder to get through to them.

Jobsearch: I was one to spend months trying to decide what to do - though in the end I decided on Sales & Trading, which had been my plan when I came to London Business School and long before. But all I can say is try to know as fast as possible and get ready. I think I've said this before: most of the people who knew what they wanted got great jobs, but the people who were clueless and didn't know what to do with themselves even in February and randomly applied to McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, Google and everyone else in the universe, usually didn't make it and were less lucky (though they found good things later). But try to be focused early, talk to all the 2nd years who will be a great help, and also, don't confine yourself only to companies that come on campus. Some of my classmates are interning now with really good private equity firms, such as Terra Firma and Actis Capital, and believe me it is not because they came on campus! Some people say "but they don't come on campus" as if that meant you are not allowed to apply, while actually you are. UBS Asset Management also didn't recruit on campus but somehow two of my classmates are interning there. Quite a few of my classmates are working at some hedge funds here in London, and none of them were on campus. So check out alumni and other contacts, go to all the speaker events and conferences, and you will have a much broader view of what you can do.

So much for my advice, I hope it helps! Enjoy the first weeks of your programme!!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Finally a sunny weekend in London

Hi strangers! Not much time to write recently. I am too busy enjoying myself to switch on the computer these days. I had another great weekend in London, such weekends that I don't think you can get in Fountainebleu or wherever others choose to go :-).

On Friday, all the Summer Associates from my bank spent the day volunteering at a primary school in South London, and it was a great way to spend the day outside in the sun catching up with my new friends. The other Summer Associates are a very sweet bunch and I have found some very special friends this summer. At night, I went to a Thai restaurant with Genie and two other Indian friends and we talked so much in the end it was 10pm when we finished (we got there at 7) - so I went straight home and off to bed (with a bit Harry Potter reading squeezed in between), since I had spent most of the day shovelling sand.

On Saturday, I went to the gym and then a bit shopping. Then I chilled for most of the day. But the evening was the best, I went with a Basque and a Mexican, two Brazilian friends and another German/Spanish couple to the Japanese restaurant called Abeno near Tottenham Court Road, it was delicious. I had never had Japanese food before (beside sushi). The I went with my Basque and Mexican friend to a salsa club in SOHO called Floridita, it is pretty cool. The music is nice to dance but not too loud, so one could actually talk to people. I met some very nice new people - mostly bankers of course since this is London, but very friendly. We stayed there till 3:30am, which I haven't done in a while, but time really passed very quickly.

This morning I still got up at 10 because the weather was so beautiful, and I went roller blading in Hyde Park. Blading is such a great way to appreciate the beauty of London. Just racing by the lakes and the trees and the meadows is amazing. Afterwards I cooked myself a nice vegetable thai curry and read some more Harry Potter, but again fell asleep and had a well-deserved siesta. Now I'm off to Notting Hill to have dinner with my sister and some of her friends in a very nice pub called THE COW, they have very good fish there and the atmosphere is great.

The week ahead is quite important in the summer programme, our final evaluations will be submitted tomorrow and on Thursday I have to hold a presentation to three Managing Directors, based on which I will get an offer the following week or not. I don't mind holding presentations in front of anyone though, that's where my McKinsey experience comes in handy, I don't really get nervous and enjoy talking :-). Hopefully good news will come out of this week, though I won't know till afterwards.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

2nd part of the summer: commodities

Time is flying by like crazy. less than 4 weeks to go till the end of the summer internship! I have just started with the commodities group, who create investment and hedging products around all kinds of commodities. The people are great and the work is very interesting. I am trying to learn the pricing tools as fast as possible so I can understand more of what they do, but the products are very complex so progress is slow. Also, I have been given a project understanding the fundamentals of lots of regional crude oil grades, for which I am interviewing crude oil traders in Singapore and New York, I am learning a lot!! Never knew that WTI and Brent production are a joke compared to crude grades like Nigerian Bonny Light or Light Louisiana Sweet :-). I love it. The hours are even better than on my last desk, something like 8am to 7pm. Unfortunately that doesn't mean I get much sleep, because we have events every day. Trainings, dinners, lunches, speeches... I don't get to write on my blog much or keep in touch with anyone.

Then on the weekends I try to catch up with everyone and again I don't sleep :-).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

back to reality

5 weeks of my summer internship are over, 4 weeks to go! I have learned a lot and met a lot of nice people. In terms of work, the first weeks have been quite interesting. This last week was a bit boring on the desk though because we had so many events outside of the desk that I couldn't really get into any task recently. This week we had a dinner with all the female MDs, which was quite impressive, and tomorrow we're going sailing all day. Not too bad, not too bad. On Saturday our school is hosting a barbecue for all finance Summer Associates in London from all business schools, that should be a lot of fun!

I can't wait for my next rotation in commodities, I have been fascinated by the oil markets since I did a master's in International Security Studies covering Central Asian, Western African and Middle Eastern security politics and economic development, and although I know the reality of investment banking is somehow on a different level than the high level of politics - actually, it is easy to get lost in the details of taxes, accounting, regulations and excel - at least I will have some connection to things I am interested in :-).

I also can't wait for my well-deserved holiday though, it has not been easy going from exams straight to work, and I really need a complete change, to get out of London and the MBA and finance world. This will definitely happen, because I am going to Uzbekistan the day after my internship ends. Believe me, the world of finance, private equity and money is very far away there, it's a great place to switch off and remember what life is all about. Family, dancing, food, children, history, nature, weddings.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Life on the buy-side

These days have been great for appreciating the beauty of working on the buy-side. Believe it or not, only a few days into my internship I got to write a due diligence plan for McKinsey, as they are doing the commercial due diligence on one of the deals we're working on, and I was happy I was the one specifying what they have to do, not the one who has to deliver all that in 4 weeks! Believe it or not, as it turned out I knew the McKinsey partner and Associate Principal of the project, and it is quite ironic they are working for my desk now! They'll be pretty well paid as well though :-).

Other than that, I've also been on a trip to Germany where we met with the management of one potential target one day, and today I came along to another meeting with tax advisors who were pitching a deal to us. The beauty is you don't need to be as well prepared or well-dressed, and they treat you very nicely. As a consultant, you have to be perfect and alert, and they can still be nasty to you if they want to. Today I wasn't even wearing a suit (I decided to go for smart casual today since many people on the trading floor, especially women, seem to do that), and the director asked me to come along to that meeting with PwC, and I said "is it ok? i'm not even wearing a suit today" and he said it wouldn't matter, it would be interesting for me, and I just came along, knew nothing, wasn't dressed to the occasion, but everything went perfectly well. It's much more relaxed.

Right now, I'm helping out on one ongoing deal and also on 3 or 4 opportunities, doing valuations, background checks etc., I'm learning a lot. The legal, fiscal and financial details are very hard to understand though. I'm struggling to understand 100 page documents flodded with words like Opco, Bidco, Rosco, bridge financing, withholding tax, quantum, SPV, ringfencing... you name it. At least I have won a LOT of respect for accountants and lawyers over the last weeks, I always thought those things were pretty straightforward, but it turns out they are not at all.

So much from me, now I will continue working. I just thought I'd take a break to post, because recently I have posted only pictures rather than stories.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Enjoying Tate Modern and Natural History Museum in London

Though the sun has finally appeared this afternoon, the weather this weekend has been dreadful, raining heavily non-stop. I seized the opportunity to visit some of London's great and free museums and could not have had a better weekend. Today I went to the exhibition Global Cities in the Tate Modern Gallery. The cities featured were the biggest of them all, Tokyo, and furthermore London, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Mexico City, Mumbai, Sao Paolo (see photo by Andreas Gursky on the left), Istanbul, Cairo, and Johannesburg. The exhibition mixed pictures, videos, maps, satellite images, interviews and architectural models to illustrate themes, such as density, diversity, or speed. I'm a big fan of photography, but also enjoyed some of the videos a lot. If you go to the website of the exhibition, all the videos and photos of the exhibition are actually up there to be accessed by anyone, it is definitely worth it.

This is another collection of photos I liked. It shows the gates of gated communities and rich people's homes in Johannesburg who live behind fences hiding from the poor. These gated communities are only at their infant stage in London, and I don't think they exist anywhere in such a form in Western Europe, but given the crumbling of the social security systems in Continental Europe, I would not be surprised if we have gates like these in Berlin or Hamburg in 20 years time.

Yesterday, I went to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, another free museum. It is amazing that all these world class museums in London are for free, but I'm sure they make a lot of money from their museum shops and cafes and restaurants (certainly from me anyway - I couldn't resist buying this Ally Capellino bag designed for the Tate Modern shop!). I loved the section on Primates, which contains many pictures and videos of monkeys around the world. Some of them are so cute. I hope I can go to East Africa one day to see them live.

The rest of the weekend I either slept, went for dinner with friends at Busaba Eathai in Mayfair, which is delicious, cheap and has a nice atmosphere. Now I just need to meet a friend in the pub and then I can call the weekend history :-).

The internship is still fine, I'm learning how to buy infrastructure assets and companies with 80% leverage and how to find potential deals, which is quite useful. Next week I even have to travel to Germany for two days to meet with the management of a potential target. Lifestyle continues to be very good, and I don't expect it to change over the next weeks. Overall, a very nice summer so far, I just hope the weather gets better so I can go to the coast next weekend.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

MBA in London and career change to investment: best decision ever

As you can see from the title of this post, my first week of the summer programme in Global Markets has been fantastic. I cannot believe how lucky I am. It is such a nice feeling to do a job that you enjoy with people you like. Where should I start?

Preparing for the trading floor
The first three days, we had training in markets, mainly about trading, trading strategies, derivatives, equities and so on. Our instructor was a futures and FX trader for 11 years in the old days, so he had a lot of anecdotes to tell and emphasized the practical side of finance, which was quite helpful after one year of theory. I only got to know a few other Summer Associates because the US school Associates started a week earlier, but I will meet everyone next Monday when we have another training.

Finance meets reality
On Thursday, I started my first rotation on the principal investment desk. They take the bank's money and do leveraged buyouts of "illiquid assets", such as ports, pipelines, airports and so on, though now they are diversifying into the private equity space and starting to buy up running businesses as well. I'm helping out on three different deals to differing degrees, partly to learn, partly employing my language skills (some of the deals are in Germany), partly just doing excel modelling and things like that. It is very diverse in terms of the things they do. So in terms of the content, I couldn't be happier. I also enjoyed seeing the practical side of valuation, it is very different from what we learn at school! We learn that you project the cash flows to value a business. Here, what they seem to do is to use a simple EBITDA multiple based on comparable deals to determine the bid price, and then they go into complicated cash flow modelling and revenue forecasting to see how much debt they can use for the buyout. So rather than the output, the value - i.e. the bid price - is the key input, and all else follows. Of course, coming straight from school I did not approve of such short cuts, and I took one of the LBO models and decided to do a nice DCF model with it to get the value. And funnily enough, the value I got with my discounted cash flows was exactly the same they had gotten from the multiple, to the first digit behind the comma (at least if you call the five in 2.5 billion the first digit behind the comma ;-) ).

Lifestyle: pub at 6pm anyone?
But what I like just as much is the people on my team and the atmosphere of the trading floor, not to mention the lifestyle. The people on my team are extremely friendly and forthcoming and treat me very well, they joke a lot and are having a good time. The directors are also very approachable and friendly and sit with us and invite us for lunch and stuff like that. One day people were busy and only got sandwiches, but we have a really cool shop in the middle of the trading floor which sells fresh fruits, organic smoothies, sushi, fresh loose leaf peppermint tea and things like that. So that day I bought a sandwich of brown bread with ruccola, tomato, horseradish and roast beef, a lentil salad and a coconut banana smoothie. I think the old days when traders ordered pizza or burgers are over, luckily :-). The first day on the desk, I was enjoying it a lot and wanted to learn more, so I stayed quite long, I was there till 9:30 with two other associates but we were literally the last people left on the trading floor.

Yesterday, I was going to work till around 7 because my husband works till that time as well and we wanted to go for dinner, but then at 6 all the senior people and all the traders had already left, and one guy from my team just came around asking everyone "pub? pub?", so we went for a drink nearby at 6, wished each other a good weekend and each went our ways. We start at 9am and work till maximum 9 or 10 and often even shorter. This certainly beats working till midnight and sleeping in a hotel!

And the best is having the weekends completely off, without worrying about anything or doing assignments. I went shopping this morning, tonight I'll go to the cinema and dinner with friends, tomorrow probably hang out with my sister whom I haven't seen in a long time or go rollerblading in Hyde Park, and on Monday I have a training from 10-5 pm and will finally meet the rest of the other interns. I could not be happier. I wonder how my friends interning in M&A and consulting are doing?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The first year ends as it should - with the Italian Festa d'Estate

If there is one common theme that makes London and London Business School special, it is the diversity and the opportunity to explore new things every weekend. One particularly popular activity for LBS students is to organize all kinds of national parties - readers of this blog will have heard about Diwali, Mexican Independence Day, the Salsa Party, Tatoo... Lots of great parties that have made this year a very special one.

Yesterday, we had our final exams - Cost Accounting and Finance 2 - and after that, it was time for a final party of the first year. And since it was the final one, it had to be a particularly festive one. What better way than to celebrate an Italian Festa d'Estate in Soho, in a club called Cafe de Paris.

I was happy to bump into some friends that I hadn't seen for a while and probably won't see for an even longer while - this is me with a Russian friend whose Italian husband just finished the Executive MBA - they are moving to Abu Dhabi next month. And me? I'm just a German girl who has been dreaming of living in London since she was 13, and now I'm here and am about to start my first job tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Electives for next year - Finance, Finance and more Finance

It's time to choose electives for next year, there are many great ones so the choice is not easy. In the end, it turns out my elective portfolio will be very finance focused, which I didn't necessarily plan, but most of the top teachers here happen to be the finance or economics guys, and I cannot risk taking a class in which I don't learn anything. Based on my background in psychology, there is not much I can learn from Organisational Behaviour or Marketing classes, or even Decision Sciences, so I feel like Finance & Economics is the way to go. These are my preferences as I have submitted them:

Autumn 2007:
- Global Capital Markets and Currencies (Economics)
- Options & Futures (Finance)
- Mergers, LBOs and other Corporate Reorganisations (Finance)
- Managing Corporate Turnarounds (Strategy)

Spring 2008 - University of Chicago GSB
- Entrepreneurial Finance and Private Equity (Entrepreneurship)
- Cases in Financial Management (Finance)
- Cases in Financial Risk Management (Finance)
- Time Series Analysis for Forecasting and Modelling (Statistics)

Summer 2008:
- Credit Risk (Finance)
- Financial Engineering & Risk Management*
- Equity Investment*

I will probably replace the latter two with the Creativity and Personal Mastery (CPM) course, but I'm unsure about it. I'm not sure if I should work on my personality or on my technical skills. If I look at the times I am unhappy (which are the times one might choose to take philosophical courses), it is usually because sometimes I feel like I haven't lived up to my aspirations or worse, that I will not live up to my aspirations. But somehow I feel that if I spend my time working on achieving my aspirations, rather than questioning them or agonizing about them, I will be happier in the end. It is a very weird decision to make, and I wish I could postpone it till next year, which I can't. I should probably go for CPM, because the other two courses won't add that much to what I will learn in other electives, particularly after doing some hardcore finance at Chicago GSB. Let's see.

Yesterday I handed back my laptop and blackberry to McKinsey so I am officially part of the alumni now. It is weird not to have a blackberry after 3 years!!! I did not write a good bye email in the end. I guess I would have done it if I had resigned in a normal fashion, but because I mainly resigned because they wouldn't let me do anything else but work for them over the summer of the MBA, and because that they said if I want to come back after the summer to just call them, I would have found it weird to send an official "I'm leaving"-Email. So I left in silence, though I called some people who were closest. Luckily, the person I got on best and worked with the most during my time with McKinsey was elected partner last week, so I still heard about it before leaving. I really wanted him to become partner of the Firm, so I was happy it happened before I left.

Funnily enough, whenever I thought of writing a good bye email, or whenever I thought of how I feel while working there, all I could think of was this Charles Dickens quote from "A Tale of Two Cities". It would have been wholly inappropriate to write such negative thoughts in my farewell, but in actual fact it sums up quite well the contradictory feelings I had. So if I had written an honest goodbye, it would have been this:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times;
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness;
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity;
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness;
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair;
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us;
we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way."

Monday, June 04, 2007

admits weekend, assignments, battle of the quants...

Well, these days I can't complain that I don't know what to do with my time! 2 weeks to go till the summer internship and there is a LOT left to do: an economics group paper, two individual economics assignments, three final exams, one finance assignment due tomorrow morning, also another accounting assignment due next Monday, and in between I'm going to Germany for 5 days, and my bank for the summer has sent me some online trainings on FX, derivatives etc. to do over the next days.

There is a lot more going on. Tomorrow, the investment management club has invited the CEO of Frontier Capital to speak on Asset Allocation, and this is followed by a end of year party of the Women's Football Club. On Wednesday, my study group is going out for dinner with partners to celebrate the end of the year and also because we still need to drink that Veuve Cliquot we won in the economics debate a few weeks back! On Thursday morning, I might go into the City to meet my former EM (project manager) who has also since left McKinsey but is coming
to London for a business meeting. Then I need to head to the airport. I got a very cheap flight to my home town, 50 GBP return!! The bad thing about such a price is that it influences my decision-making in other areas. We have a London Business Summer Ball in July, and one ticket costs 80 GBP!!!! I simply refuse to buy a ticket for one evening with a bit of food and drink that costs more than a return ticket to Berlin or Rome! In the end, we are all students, unfortunately some people forget that not all of their classmates are swimming in dollars (and much less in pounds ;-) ).

But of course, you all want to know about admits weekend. Well, probably the admits should be a better source of information, too bad Rusgirl wasn't there to tell the story! The only picture I have from the weekend is from the Women in Business brunch, and there is not a single admit on the picture :-). It's me with two of the more active Women in Business club leaders :-). Maybe the picture sums up my mood: I had a bit of a deja vu, it was very similar to last year's admits weekend, but I was in a different role this time, and that was very weird for me. I somehow thought "what are you guys doing here? My first year isn't over yet! It's too early! I'm not a 2nd year student yet!". I wouldn't say I was envious though, because though it's very exciting, I also like to have close friends already, rather than hectically roaming around looking for like-minded people.

From what I heard from talking to admits, they really liked it and I think all of them were sure they were going to come to London. There were lots of waitlisted people as well and I wish them luck! I guess it helps to come to admits weekend, but then not many waitlisted people make it into the class, so it's not an easy situation. But there were also many happy people who are just about to leave their jobs and move to London, and that is indeed an exciting situation to be in!

Another great event I attended today was the briefing for the Creativity and Personal Mastery Class with Srikumar Rao, it was great, and I'm now more sure than ever that I want to take this class. He talked about the course, then some of his current students talked, and afterwards we went to the Windsor pub (which the admits will know very well by now!) and talked some more, it was fantastic. I hope to take it next term. I'm not too worried about the pre-reading one has to do, because I was so enthusiastic when I heard about the course last year that I already read the course outline, Rao's book "Are you Ready to Succeed?" and another brilliant book on the syllabus, "FLOW", which is by the way one of the best and most helpful non-fiction books I have ever read, so at least I don't start from zero :-).

And it doesn't stop there, another great thing happened today! The investment management club was approached by the Battle of the Quants Conference, asking for 5 students to help them out with registration and in return they could stay the whole day at this conference which usually costs over $1,000 to attend. The email came early this morning and luckily I checked my email shortly before class, so I was one of the first to reply and will get to attend the conference next week! The keynote speaker is Nassim Taleb, who I hear is very entertaining and knowledgeable. The main topic is the whole "human vs. machine" debate in trading - can quant models replace or outperform people? Looking at Renaissance Capital's and DE Shaw's returns, it definitely looks like it, though obviously you will always need people to program the systems. Next week I will write about all my impressions from the conference for sure. I just need to find the time!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Oh come all ye admits...

Welcome to London, class of 2009! This is the admits weekend, and I know my friends the student ambassadors are working hard to make this a memorable weekend for you, making sure you choose the right school for your MBA!

I will be there for the networking session at the pub, as well as the barbecue and the party on Saturday night, and I will also be present at the Women in Business brunch on Sunday morning! So it should not be too hard to find me!

Enjoy the weekend!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bringing home the trophy: pictures and stories from MBAT

As I predicted, this year we really blasted the other schools away. This is the list of competitions that we won this year:
- Men's Rugby
- Women's Rugby
- Swimming
- Cricket
- Salsa
- Basketball
- Volleyball
- Climbing
- 7k Cross Country
- Tug of War

We also won 2nd places in Women's Football, Tennis, Mountain biking and Taek Won Do, as far as I can remember.

Not bad, eh? Following are some pictures and some stories from MBAT:
On the train from London to Paris on Thursday, we still looked fresh. As you see, we were in good spirits and ready to get the trophy!

Our school's security guard, Youssef, came along as a mascot and also as a kick-ass rugby player of the glorious men's rugby team. You might think other train passengers were scared by the horde of 200 cheerful and noisy London Business School passengers, but we treated everyone according to the Geneva Convention. Whenever a regular passenger wanted to trespass our coach, we would shout "civilians! civilians!" and everybody would go quiet, and someone from the rugby team would give the civilians an escort through our coach. It was hilarious.

Our key competitive advantage was the red London bus, which had been driven all the way from London to Paris to supply us with fruits and drinks throughout the weekend. It was parked on the side of the sports field, and gave students of other schools cause for envy, since they had no supplies throughout the games. We were compassionate, however, and offered everyone as much beer and fruits as they wanted. All they needed to agree to in return was to get a London Business School tatoo on their body and pledge to the superiority of London Business School :-). Call it winning the hearts and minds, and yes it worked!

Thanks to our great team and the best and loudest fans ever, we won the second place (out of 12 teams) in Women's Football. The final against IESE was tough, because we had to play back to back straight after an exhausting and fierce semifinal against HEC, with only 5min of rest in between, whereas the IESE team had had several hours of rest. We lost 0:2 in the pouring rain against a very strong and fit IESE team, but luckily thanks the great crowd of about 80 London Business School supporters on the pitch, we had a lot of fun and celebrated our 2nd place.

These were some of the fans celebrating next to the football pitch during the final. With fans like these, how can you let your head down during defeat? They really made sure we kept our spirits up. When rain started pouring down, the crowd shouted "London weather! London weather for you!", so we had to laugh on the pitch while getting soaked and beaten. Thanks to everyone who cheered for us, it helped a lot!

Another highlight was the tug of war competition. We put the strongest and biggest rugby players on the team, and they won with great ease. They brought each opposing team onto the ground within seconds.

Well, basically that was MBAT 2007. I will add more pics as I get them, since I didn't actually take many pics myself and need to wait for others to share them. We had a lot of fun. Now I'm absolutely exhausted. My big toe was injured in the second football match and I played three more matches ignoring the pain, until by Sunday I could hardly stand. I also cheered lots of teams on Sunday in the cold rain and have fever and a cold now. But it was worth it! I didn't go to class today and stayed in bed all day, already feeling better.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

We'll bring the MBAT trophy home to London again

Last year, KV was the first to post that London Business School had won the MBAT trophy. This year, I will be even faster and I'm posting this before the tournament is even over.

I'm confident we're bringing home the trophy because this is what we have won so far:
1. 7k cross country run
2. Cricket
3. Salsa
4. Swimming
5. Women's Rugby
6. Tug of War :-)
7. Squash

We're also in the finals for tennis, basket ball and volleyball, and men's rugby tomorrow. Then we won several glorious 2nd places which are tough psychologically but still bring in points, such as in Chess, table tennis, women's football (my team -we gave our best but were beaten in the end by the IESE), mountain biking ...

So I will confirm tomorrow, but believe me,
London Business School students fought hard and absolutely ROCKED this weekend!! Our favourite word these days was "amazing". All the teams are amazing and giving their best. Another word was "civilians", but I will explain this later. We had fun!

Admits of 2009, start training hard, because we want to win again next year!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Just another weekend in London

Recently, I have often posted on specific topics (career, applications etc.), that I feel admits or applicants may not actually get a good feel for what life is like here. I do not intend to use this blog as a diary, as this would become quite repetitive, but it might be helpful to give an update on what life is like here in London once in a while. What have I been up to this weekend?

Saturday started off with our Cost Accounting midterm exam. They like to schedule our exams for Saturdays, apparently because there are not enough lecture theatres available during the week to accommodate all of us at once. The exam was hard and there was a lot of time pressure. I was happy though, because I find when exams are easy the results are much more unfair, because then professors subtract points for every little deviation from the ideal solution. On the other hand, in hard exams the normal distribution kicks in automatically and the professors do not need to force it onto the results. So I think it went well. Usually, I would head over to the Windsor, our closest pub, straight after the exam, but this time I had different plans.

MBAT is next week, and I realized that I need to buy new sports shoes! Some time last week, I started thinking about how old my Adidas running shoes actually were, and it hit me that I had bought them some time in 2001! It was shocking. Then I took a closer look at the shoes and was embarrassed I have been wearing them all the time, they were dirty and falling apart. Anyway, so I went with two classmates to a huge sports department store in the South of London, and bought new running shoes as well as football shoes, since I'm playing women's football at MBAT. I also helped my friend pick roller blades so we can go roller blading in Hyde Park together as soon as the weather gets better again. Then the other two checked out climbing equipment, since they are planning to climb Mont Blanc in June. We spent 2 or 3 hours there and only came back around 4pm.

Then, I went for a birthday party of a Croatian classmate. He lives with another Indian and one Turkish classmates of mine, and I hadn't spoken to them properly in months, since times have been hectic and we are in different streams, so I decided to go there and make sure I get to talk to catch up with some people, finally! They had nice Sangria and very good music - I even heard Rachid Taha at some point :-).

In the evening, most people headed over to school for the "SANZA (South Africa New Zealand Australia) - Party" hosted in the school, but I decided not to go. Instead, some of us went out for pizza close to Baker Street. After that , my day was still not over, instead I watched "the Goodfellas" on DVD with my husband. The film is okay, but I don't know why people (or should I say guys? ;-) ) rave about it. The guy seemed utterly stupid to me from the start and I was not surprised by how he ended. I think it would help some people to ask "why?" once in a while instead of being at awe about people who seem to have money that came from nowhere. Anyway, then I fell asleep :-).

I had to get up early today because my parents paid me a short visit. They came back from holiday in the US via London Heathrow and had about 6 hours between their flights, so they came into Paddington with the Heathrow Express and we met up. We walked towards Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill/Bayswater in the cold rain - welcome to London! We went to a nice Lebanese cafe - I think it is called Al fresco - and had hot tea to warm up and lovely hot mashed aubergine with chick peas and pita bread. Then we went for coffee and I brought them back to Paddington station. It was cold and rainy the whole time, but that was okay because I knew I had a lot of work to do for school. I'll be away for MBAT next week so I need to get everything done before we go to Paris.

First I had to do the Cost Accounting assignment on customer profitability due tomorrow morning. Despite the exam, we still have an assigment due Monday morning 9am. Luckily it was one of the easier ones, so it didn't take me too long. The previous ones have been a nightmare requiring a couple of hours of effort on a Sunday night, but this time luckily it was short. But that was offset by the nightmare that is our current Macroeconomics assignment. Because I missed one class and didn't do my reading at the beginning of the term, I missed all of the theory and formulas on capital accumulation, growth accounting, labour productivity and so on. Of course, the assignment covers exactly the topics I missed and consists of 8 questions requiring calculations, theory, application, everything. So I had to read a few chapters in our Macroeconomics book and did all the calculations, since this was the most straightforward part. I haven't answered the qualitative questions yet though, these will require some more thinking on my part.

Then I was hungry and went to Brick Lane in the East End with my husband. There was some Bangladeshi celebration going on and the streets were full of people and food stalls. We still decided to eat at our favourite place though - the Sweet and Spicy. We always order the same - Pilaw Rice, Karahi Gosht, Tarka Dal, Peshawari Nan (try this coconut bread if you haven't!!). Then we were stuffed and decided to walk to Moorgate instead of taking the tube at Aldgate East, thereby enjoying the stroll through the City.

Once home, I decided to do some more work, this time preparation for my internship though. I started reading "Options, Futures and other Derivatives" by John Hull. It is very well written and detailed, and I have high expectations to finally understand more than I currently understand in our Finance 2 class. I really need to prepare a little, because I believe I am one of the few people
going into trading/structuring without any finance background and without any kind of quantitative background, so I have realized in recent weeks that it would help to get up to speed before I start.
(btw I have updated the post on impressions from the ibanking/finance job market, since the finance club has sent out and overview of who's going where. Not everyone filled it in, so again these are minimum estimates, but we have a great group of people going to the top ibanks and even quite a few people who landed jobs on the buy side, so things look great).

As you see now, after a few pages of the book I decided to call it a day though and thought I should write something here, because I probably won't till after the MBAT. I must say, living in London is very nice, and despite having to do some work for school on the weekends, it turns out there is still a lot of opportunity to explore London and socialize in between.