Category: MSc Finance

From Football to Finance

Why study finance?

Why study finance? For the buzz, of course! My interest within this area was largely driven by my neighbour at the age of 16. He introduced me to penny stocks— BIG mistake. The adrenaline rush had me hooked immediately. It was that excitement and the feeling of sickness in your stomach that drew me in. That feeling was the only thing that came remotely close to the feeling I got on the field as a professional footballer. From that moment onwards, I began building the foundation to explore a career within the stock market should football come to end, whether that be at retirement (so I hoped) or through injury. Unfortunately, neither became true.

Josef Jackson on the field

 

At the age of 21, I was diagnosed with leukaemia and my world fell apart. This was an incredibly tough time for me, but looking back I wouldn’t change it for the world. I feel lucky to have a level of appreciation, perspective and an ambition to succeed in life different to my peers. Cancer changed my life for the better. After a year of chemotherapy, I was chomping at the bit to get my life back on track and begin chasing my other dream of becoming a Morgan Stanley trader. I decided to take on a financial mathematics degree. My A-levels were taken alongside professional football, which was tough trying to balance the two and consequently my grades suffered. Frustratingly, this stopped me from attending a Russell Group university which was a setback for sure, but I was more determined than ever. If I could make it as a professional footballer, then I knew I could make it in the finance world. For my graduate application to have any weight, I needed proof that I could compete at that level. After two and a half years of hard work and dedication, I had put myself in a position to stand a chance of being accepted into some of the top universities.

Which university do I pick? 

 After further research on rankings, the diversity of the university and the opportunities to network, I was adamant that Cass was the place for me. I sent off applications to all universities that I was rejected from to study my undergraduate degrees as backups, but Cass was the one I wanted. To my delight, I received offers for all of my applications, but more importantly I got in the place I wanted!

Joe graduates

What’s it like when you first start at Cass?

 My Cass journey started with gentle ice-breakers and social events which exposed me to the international diversity of my cohort. We created WhatsApp groups with people from at least 15 nationalities. If you want to learn about culture, come to Cass! Through this network of international friends, I now have a sofa to crash on in most countries across the globe! In fact, they should really create a Cass Air BnB!

However, graduate application deadlines hit me hard, as well as some of the most difficult academic challenges I’ve ever faced. It’s difficult to juggle all these applications and exams after only being there for six weeks. No-one is superhuman, though, so that’s where Cass come in and support you. Their Careers Team is phenomenal; without their guidance, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now.

Joe and his cohort

Looking forward

 In October I began the application process for the Sales and Trading internship at Morgan Stanley. Here at Cass you are not only taught theory, but how this applies in practice which was incredibly invaluable for the technical aspects of the interview process, and will be for my career going forward. My success in all the other aspects of the interviewing process was thanks to the constant help of the careers team. I did practice aptitude tests, practice phone interviews and at least five practice interviews… what more can you ask for?

It was December, a final assessment centre stood between me and a job at Morgan Stanley. Getting to the final stage wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more. This was my moment to show that the impossible can be done, and I nailed it. A dream come true!

So what sets Cass apart from the rest?

 For me, one of the biggest benefits of Cass is the people you meet. Both from a social side and an academic point of view. If you want to find out your competition for the best jobs in the world, then look no further than here. I have never met such a dedicated group of people in my life, if you can compete in this circle then you can compete anywhere. That’s not to say that we are all competing at Cass, the complete opposite in fact. People here realise the importance of building relationships and a network they may not need right now, but what they will need in the future. This level of maturity is what sets this University apart in my opinion.

Another benefit of studying at Cass is the trips, which are unbelievable! In February we travelled to Frankfurt as a group. We had insight into the perspective of some of the biggest banks in the world, we had culture thrown in the mix and also the chance to taste every German beer under the sun.  But on this unique occasion, I was immersed from start to finish. Being able to travel and study abroad as part of my degree is an incredible experience that I feel humbled to be a part of. The only thing missing was the sun, but you can’t have everything, right?

Josef Jackson, MSc Finance (2019)

Cass: the catalyst of my career

“Ok guys, we are going to apply tonight.” Those were the words I said to convince myself and two friends to apply to Cass Business School one evening in March 2016.

These were words of hope. We were lost and all we wanted was a breakthrough. We were three confused students, with an obsession for the stock market but clueless about the financial world. At least I was! Like most people applying for an MSc degree, we were clueless as to where the degree would take us. If you are reading this, you might be asking yourself the same questions. All of us came from disadvantaged backgrounds, with little or no experience, but that did not stop us— it became a fuel for our unstoppable thirst for success.

I moved to Brixton in London when I was 13, long before the area was gentrified. At 15 my secondary school teacher told me that I would not go far in life and by 16 I wanted to drop out of college. As if it was not enough, I was also working ridiculous hours to help my mum at home as she was a single parent.  None of my friends knew what university was, and the ones who did didn’t bother applying.

Fast forward to eight years later and I was about to make the hardest decision of my life:  applying to a top business school with no money for the fees. I had passion, a willingness to learn and I saw Cass Business School as a catalyst to my success.

 

Michael Salvi and his cohort

I strongly believe that the environment and people you are surrounded with have a strong impact on your life. Many transformative events took place during my time at Cass, but meeting Professor Nick Motson (Associate Dean of the MSc Programmes) a year into my MSc was one of the most significant. As I walked in, his secretary offered me cake after telling me off for being late. The meeting was brief. I complained and explained my frustration about my current job situation, and how I was failing to see the use of my time at the Business School. Nick listened, like a wise man with a long white beard from a movie. Then he spoke, and I listened. Nick taught me about alternative investment and made me fall in love with the hedge fund industry. He described it with so much fascination, triggering my interest in the field I currently work in. During this meeting, I remember being surprised because for the first time, someone really believed in me. He wasn’t just speaking in platitudes, his words were firm and confident.

Nick’s words were the catalyst which I had looked for for so long: words of encouragement and wisdom, which I then went sharing to my friends, who similarly to me felt demotivated. I eventually completed the MSc with flying colours, winning the Beta Gamma award for excellence whilst completing the CFA Level One and working full-time. I borrowed to pay for the MSc, in fact we all did. During those two years, we were rejected, defeated, laughed at and told we could not make it, but my first conversation with him stood out above everything else. This conversation overpowered all negativity that had surrounded us before.  Nick’s favourite words were, “there is no free lunch in the financial markets”— and believe me, there really isn’t.

In the end, my friends and I all went to work our dream jobs. One pursued his love for deals and works in investment banking. Another chased his love of coding and became a quant at a hedge fund. Finally, as an enthusiast of equity analysis, the last friend became a research analyst at a leading asset management firm.

If you are looking for a breakthrough like I was when I applied back in 2016, my suggestion is to cast the doubt away and go for it. You won’t be able to connect the dots just yet, but rest assured that once you complete the degree it will all make sense. On completion of our degrees, my friends and I have now been able to connect the dots going backwards. With determination and perseverance, you can achieve what we’ve achieved too.

Michael Salvi graduates

Studying at Cass wasn’t just a means to an end. It provided me an overview and guided my career choice. Each of the modules that I studied helped me steer my ship in the right direction, all of which would not have happened if I didn’t have some amazing crew members as lecturers!

Here I am now, listening to one of my favourite songs, Craig David’s “Rise and Fall”, as I write this post on my flight back to London. I have learned many lessons, and there are many more to learn. The most important is to take all the chances that come your way. Fear is always going to tell you that you can’t, hope says that you will, but it takes determination and drive to reach and produce endless results.

 

Whether you are a student applying for the Cass Business School or not, remember that when everything might seem to be going against you, “planes take off in the opposite direction from the wind.” Fight your fears and any other forces trying to stop you from moving forward. If the plane can manage to take off with all the resistance, trust me so can you!

Michael Salvi

 

Embracing priceless opportunities at Cass

I am a MSc International Accounting and Finance student at Cass Business School and I’ll admit when I arrived to London, I was scared. I didn’t know anyone and I was plagued by nervous thoughts: ‘Will I find it hard to make new friends? Will this year help me understand what I would like to do in my future career?’

These are only some of the questions I had before starting my course.

A new beginning

Since the beginning of the course, I have found the answers to most of these questions. I’m not saying that everything has always been easy and straightforward, but every day I feel stronger, more confident, more integrated and, more importantly, I feel that I am continuously learning new and exciting things!

Community support

I found a friendly and inclusive environment where teachers are always willing to help. The small number of students on my course enables each one of us to have direct, one-to-one contact with them. Apart from the high-quality of the courses and lecturers, what makes me enthusiastic about studying at Cass is the amount of activities and opportunities it offers. The careers centre is constantly helping us out: from developing our CVs, to preparing us for interviews. Personally, since I don’t have any work experience, I didn’t even know where to start to look for a job. But after participating in career’s workshops and having had a couple of appointments with the careers team, I am much more aware of what I want to do after this Masters. I started actively looking for a job thanks to the advice I received. I also joined an extracurricular course, ‘Coding for Girls’. I always wanted to learn programming but I had never had the opportunity. Besides having fun, I am also learning some useful things that I might need in the future.

A priceless opportunity

Being at Cass has given me a priceless opportunity to meet people from literally all over the world. This means I have made many friends who speak many languages. Every day I discover something that I didn’t know before: I learn new words, try new food, listen to different music, visit new places, and every day I can see the world with new eyes. And in the last few weeks, I’ve also enjoyed the Christmas atmosphere that fills every street of this magical city!

Daphne Mazzocco
MSc International Accounting and Finance (2019)

Trip to Frankfurt

Known as “Mainhattan” of Germany because of its impressive concrete skyscrapers which chararacterise its main river skyline, Frankfurt is a dynamic finance and business hub.

Home to the new headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) and one of the largest stock exchanges worldwide, Frankfurt has everything needed to become the leading financial capital in Europe. Moreover, the compact city laying in the heart of Germany, with its charming old town and plenty of social activities, ensures a high standard of living.

As part of the MSc Finance programme, 80 students went on an educational trip to explore Frankfurt. Our group departed from London Heathrow on Thursday 15th February. After quickly checking-in at our hotel, we had the opportunity to relish the first presentation, held by Mr. Alexander Pfister, a renowned lecturer at the University of Mannheim.

Alexander talked about the strengths and weaknesses of the German economy and its transformation. The key lessons learned were that the now flourishing German economy was not always as strong as it is today.

A clear turnaround could be noticed after Germany hosted the FIFA world cup in 2006. This unique opportunity proved to the German population why they should be proud of what they can achieve as a nation. This motivation still holds true today and is broadly represented by the main pillar of the German economy – its middle-class companies.

A refreshing shower and a quick wardrobe change later, all participants went to a traditional apple wine tavern to enjoy dinner. The combination of good food, wine and pleasant classmates created a delightful ambience. Networking events such as this represent one of the strong characteristics of the Cass Business School community and forges strong lifelong friendships.

On our second day we experienced the highlight of our trip: a visit to the European Central Bank. Usually only encountered in television or newspapers, we had the opportunity to visit the institution where all the important decisions for the Eurozone are made.

Entering the impressive building, we could sense the importance of this place. The flags of every nation stood proud in the middle of the entry area and were a popular spot for student photos. After being warmly welcomed, we attended two presentations.

First we received information on the monetary instruments of the ECB, as well as a detailed insight on its current quantitative easing.

Ms Valerie Jarvis, Economist Analyst for the United Kingdom at the ECB,  gave us economic analysis on the current Brexit discussion and its expected impact on the British economy – supporting economic data was presented to illustrate the impact Brexit decision has already had on UK citizens.

One consequence of Brexit could be the movement of several banks from London to other locations. One possible candidate is Frankfurt and therefore we wanted to know more about this financial hub in Germany. A representative from Frankfurt Main Finance, a promoting organisation for Frankfurt, gave us a very detailed overview about the benefits of living and working in Frankfurt.

With its low taxes and rents, as well as its outstanding infrastructure and quality of life, Frankfurt is a very attractive place for banks.

Furthermore, a wide range of business schools and universities provide a talented pool of candidates for the diverse roles. It is no surprise that many banks, such as Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, have already decided to move to Frankfurt.

We finished this informative day with a presentation on the banking industry of Germany by two representatives of the German Landesbanken.

An international trip like ours offers students first-hand insight and an opportunity learn more about an alternative financial hub besides London. Moreover, it helps to enhance interpersonal skills and gain knowledge that can’t be developed in a classroom. We all enjoyed this trip very much and we are thankful to Cass Business School for organising it.

Fabian Frech & Timon Wyder
MSc Finance (2018)

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