Wednesday, April 23, 2008

London Business School partnership with Hong Kong University

For those who want to gain a strong network and experience and Asia but are also looking for a back door entry into London Business School, you may be interested in the MBA program of the University of Hong Kong, HKU. Since last year, the is a partnership between HKU, London Business School and Columbia Business School. All MBA students at HKU do their first year core in Hong Kong, and then all transfer to either London Business School or Columbia Business School in New York for their final term, where they can take four to five electives.

Right now, we have 40 HKU students in our second year at London Business School. Together with Masters in Finance and MBA students, this brings our class size to about 450. I would imagine that for the purpose of finding a job in London, the programme is not ideal, since the last term of the MBA is quite a late moment to apply for jobs. However, that for those who plan on staying in East or South East Asia, this is a great opportunity to build up a network in Hong Kong and also get to study a term in London or New York.

Since I have many readers from Asia, I thought you may be interested.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Back on campus for the final showdown

It had to happen, the final term of my MBA has arrived! Only 10 more weeks of school, then we're officially done with the MBA! I have just come back home from my first day at school, and this term will be hard work and very exciting and enjoyable!

I started the day running in Regent's Park, and then doing readings for my International Finance class with professor Raman Uppal tomorrow. The first sessions will focus on the behaviour of exchange rates and hedging decisions of multinational firms. I have already taken a class on currency markets and on derivatives, as well as having worked in sales & trading last summer, so I am taking this class mainly because I heard the professor is brilliant and inspiring, and also to get a more qualitative high-level view of hedging and financial markets.

During spring break, I had the chance to read two of the books the professor had recommended to contemplate what is important to us in life (see previous post). I chose "Tuesdays with Morrie", a book on a wise college professor who chose to share advice and experience and spend time with all those who were close to him before his death, rather than hiding away in shame. The book deals with how much pain is caused by the taboo around death, and by the hypocrisy of people who live life pretending they will not die. The book shows how relieved relatives and friends are when someone puts the cards on the table and actively says goodbye before dying. It's a simple book, but a beautiful story nonetheless. The second book I chose was "Three Cups of Tea", about an American hiker in North Pakistan who was so touched by the hospitality of Balti villagers after an accident he suffered while climbing K2, that he dedicated his life to building free schools in remote mountain regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, villages neglected by the central governments. The guy's dedication and his achievements in inspiring illiterate children are admirable, and I particularly enjoyed this book.

In the afternoon, I went to the library to do readings for my Credit Risk class, but bumped into too many people I hadn't talked to in a long time - people from my stream that I haven't seen since the first year, some friends who have just returned from exchange, some MBA 2010s that I know from my previous life as a McKinsey consultant and so on and so forth. No time to read in the end, but it was great to catch up with people, and it was a sunny day, so everybody was cheerful and happy. I also arranged for a Chinese lunch tomorrow with one of my great friends here who just returned from exchange in the US, I am happy she is back. I will be working with her and two other girls in a team for the International Finance class, it will be fun to have a group of four girls who are also close friends to work on the cases. We will disguise lunches and dinners as important working meetings and thus enjoy ourselves :-)).

Then I had the Credit Risk evening class. I chose the evening over the morning class so I can always go away on weekend trips without having to be back on Monday mornings :-). It's tough sitting in class till 9pm but what can you do... So far the class is very good and I am learning a lot. Credit Risk modeling is not easy, so you really need a teacher who explains well. I took the class because I heard Viral Acharya is one of the best finance professors, and was at first upset when I heard that the first three lectures would be taught by Professor Stephen Schaefer instead. After attending the first lecture, however, I am very happy, Professor Schaefer explains very well and goes step by step, we covered a lot of material but it seemed much more manageable than what I had feared after looking at the course materials, so I'm relieved.

On Wednesday, I will have my first Financial Engineering and Risk Management class with Professor Suleyman Basak, which I am also looking forward to, although the course material suggests it will be hard core. I learned a lot in his Fixed Income class though, so I expect that I will understand the material much better after attending the lectures. Lots of work ahead! It doesn't help that I am going on a 10-day trip again during term next month (I did the same last term and catching up was brutal!), it will be very tough to catch up with all the assignments afterwards, but I just had to take advantage of going abroad with friends once more, since I will start work straight after graduation.

With all this excitement, unfortunately it looks like time will race ahead even faster than before, and in no time the MBA will be over. At least I will know that I have thorougly enjoyed the experience, and that coming to London was the best decision I ever made. But it is still too early to talk like this, I am still a student :-).

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Mood in the City

The mood in London financial markets is not good. House prices are going downtown, and with them the British pound (great for me and all the poor foreign tenants, but apparently bad for the majority). Investment bankers within UBS are looking around for jobs, and the Royal Bank of Scotland is sweeping ABN Amro's trading floor clean with incredible lack of style:

ABN’s structured credit traders were apparently told on Thursday that they should report to RBS’ London office in preparation for a move there on Monday. Terminals needed to be checked and such like. And when they got there… they were all fired (full story).

Luckily, the British have a great sense of humour, and I couldn't stop laughing at this economic assessment of London 2010 from the price of everything blog:

London, April 2010 – Wall Street firms have just announced their latest results for FY 2009;

300 million staff have been “written down”, leaving just two (Sid and Doris Bonkers) to manage the investment banks’ remaining worldwide debt, equity, merger and advisory, securitisation, syndication and prime brokerage businesses.

Marti Peeps, sole analyst at the last remaining research house, Teletext, welcomed the results as “a bold step in the face of ongoing bad debt provisioning,” though conceded that the City’s newly “rightsized” payroll might struggle to take on board the burgeoning supply of new issuance, namely the packet of Walkers Crisps rumoured to be hitting the primary market in late summer 2012.Hopes for a recovery in Wall Street earnings have for several quarters hinged on the prospects for the successful completion of a 40p private placement of a bag of Salt and Vinegar flavour crisps on behalf of the Walkers Crisps Company. Lead underwriters JPCitigroupMerrill, a subsidiary of the US government, and Northern Rock SocGen KFW Nomura, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tesco plc (Neasden branch), are rumoured to have “solid” interest for the underwriting, most notably from Asia, itself a subsidiary of Texas Pacific Group, but declined to go into further detail.


(click here for pdf version). Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

People are starting to leave

Tonight I attended the second good bye party of classmates in a matter of 3 days. Due to the flexibility of our programme, the MBA at London Business School ends in a gradual fashion; there are people I haven't seen since mid-December, who have been working now in Dubai, Hong Kong, New York, or London since January. There are people who finished up last week and are moving back to Bombay or Hong Kong tomorrow. And there are people who are luckily staying to work in London, but will travel around the world for the next three months, while some of us continue their studies.

The good bye evenings are a great way of catching up with people - to be honest I have not been very sociable through the last term. On one hand, I simply read and thought a lot over Christmas and enjoyed staying at home reading rather than going out - probably I needed to relax. Then I traveled through Southeast Asia and Scotland for 3 weeks during term and struggled to catch up. And then I prepared for the Fixed Income Exam, which was quite something. It is only since a week that I have come out of this haze and am "reintegrating into society", and I must say, I like it :-). As I just said, the goodbye evenings are great, especially since I am not leaving. All my best friends are staying in London at least for the next 2 or 3 years anyway, so there is nothing to be sad about.

It will be worse in 3 years when people start leaving to their home countries to found families, because I do not have a home to go to in the sense that others do, who go abroad only to boost their credentials for a few years and then happily return home. It is wonderful how people from India or Italy are sure that in the end they will surely go back to their home countries. Although Hamburg is a great place with a high living standard, I feel too far removed now in terms of mentality to consider going back to Germany. Working at McKinsey already alienated me from the general discourse of the country, and since living in London I feel more and more estranged at the media and the opinions I encounter. I am so upset they do not fix the education system, among many other things that need to be fixed, and that the way the system was designed after the war makes any changes impossible. Anyway, I digress. The point is that for now, I am happy that all my friends are staying in London for the next years, and by the time some leave, I assume for all who leave there are more to come to London. That's the beauty of living in the greatest city in the world :-).

I have also realized over the last week how many great people I have come to know over the last 18 months. These days, people are especially nice because many are sentimental, and because some know they won't see each other anymore, so the conversations get less automized and more personal. Things are good. I am happy I am staying in school for another term!