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London-Paris in 12 hours

Posted by Don on 27 November 2008

A few weeks ago I did an amazing trip ... well, sort of ...

So I had once more a trip laid out to Paris to attend a family dinner (of my girlfriend). This is a very efficient affair – leave the office at 3pm on Friday, take the Eurostar at 4.30 and arrive in Paris at 7pm. So far so good.

Just a minor detail: On Thursday a truck loaded with some highly inflammable liquid decided to overturn in the tunnel and start burning. So the whole day Friday (and only Friday, calculate the odds of that – exactly the day I wanted to travel!!!) the Eurostar did not run. Of course all flights were either full or cost the equivalent of a ticket to Thailand (return!). But my very understanding and helpful colleagues of my second internship quickly came to the rescue: train and ferry. Calculating the time via Dover/Calais however was not something I looked forward to. There is however a speedferry directly to Boulogne and maybe there might be a train directly to Paris from there. The internet showed that the 2.20 pm ferry was already full but after I called them I got a seat (“we added some additional capacity” - what does that mean for a ferry???).

 So having arrived at work at 8 am I left a mere 2 hours later to head out to the train station. I managed to mix up King’s Cross and Charing Cross and missed a train but still got to Dover in time. A taxi quickly brought me to the foot passenger pick-up spot. About 20 people were waiting already to enter a 10 seater bus (with luggage!) and to be driven 50 meters! (For ‘security reasons’ we were not allowed to simply walk on. I think they are not really happy about non-car-driving passengers).

After waiting an hour we finally boarded the ferry and left an hour late. The trip was smooth and nice - the de-boarding took another hour. As there were no cabs in sight we (a small group of 6 people who met on the ferry) walked to the train station where we scrambled to get a seat on the last TGV to Paris.

At least the weather was nice and the English and French countryside is a pleasant sight. Door to door the trip ended up being just over 12 hours - which is the same time it takes from Hong Kong, Singapore or Bangkok to London ... :-)

Internship 1

Posted by Don on 27 November 2008

Now, with some months between my first internship and now I wanted to share some impressions:

And so it started, the long awaited internship experience. We all met on the first day for the usual brainwashing of how great the bank is – and later headed out to Lama island for some team building activities. First impression – wow, everyone is so young! Especially the Asian analysts!

The activities on the island were nice – just the sun and humidity made for an exhausting experience. The final dinner at the beach on Lantau island however created a very chilled out atmosphere to meet people.

The rest of the week was spent on training which was delivered by an external training company and was very good. We even had to do an exam at the end of the week. The training was rounded up by 2 hours of intensive Bloomberg training which was very very good.

Second week Monday morning we finally started. Me and two analysts were picked up by the desk head of the Equity Derivatives Trading desk. He introduced us to everyone – I got to sit with the Hong Kong Equities Options desk first. I felt quite comfortable – hey, I have a Eurex Trader Licence and use to teach options 10 years ago. I quickly realized however that I know absolutely nothing about options – not on the level these guys trade at. So I sat, watched and filled page after page with things I picked up – and more with questions. The guys were very helpful and supportive – but also asked little quizzes (Black-Scholes by heart anyone? Does correlation increase or decrease in falling markets? Why?). I managed to also sit with a lot of other desks, e.g. Derivative Sales, Complex Equity, Exotics, Warrants, Cash Equity, Program Trading, Delta 1, Synthetic Equity and so on. In parallel the training company started a FX simulation and in teams of 2 we had to manage a portfolio of $10mn. We could change the allocation into EUR, YEN, CAD and AUD – but obviously had to back up our choices (and should make money). My partner and me spent a lot of time in the beginning agreeing on an approach and which type of research we would be reading (there is a ton of available research – and we were both very busy at our desks).

My desk had given me a few small projects – so I quickly taught myself Visual Basic for Excel (especially automating Bloomberg tasks out of Excel) and created several tools for the guys to save them some time.


-          make sure the guys on your desk are happy. Bringing them coffee/lunch/whatever is an easy way to make them happy. One guy complained that he felt like a secretary doing that – unsurprisingly he did not get an offer. It is not about getting lunch – but about the attitude. What are you willing to do to get this job? At Accenture I was a manager and had 25 people working for me – here I was getting lunch. But I wanted to get this job – and compared to calculating the non-linear shift of the volatility surface and the impact on the vega P/L (my project), getting lunch was easy.

-          Create tools to make life easy for the people who decide your fate.

-          Connect to the people, and connect to all.

-          Identify the MDs and make sure you spoke to all of them before you leave.

-          Handing over business cards leaves a professional impression.

Finally we had to say good-bye to the 56th floor and the view and head over to Singapore. My 4th time there but my first time working. Being in Singapore somehow always feels like a vacation – on the weekend you never wear more than shorts and T-Shirt.

A word about the accommodation: serviced apartment in Hong Kong. Not big but very nice and sufficient – I did not spend much time there anyhow. The view however was fantastic – the skyline of Hong Kong is very unique sight.

The view was not as good in Singapore – but the apartment mind-blowing. Two entry doors leading to a square-layout designer flat in Zen style. Elements of stone, wood, glass and steel were used as walls and the floor. Two Loewe flat screens and two Bose sound-systems, to a huge relaxing bed and a shower and bathtub only separated by glass from the bed (“the idea is to watch”) made for a extremely relaxing time (when we had time to be in the apartment!). The second desk had a very different type of work – I worked on multiple presentations at the same time, listened in to client calls and did write-ups of research calls. I got exposure not only to Debt but also FX as well as commodities. At the same time we were running, in teams of two, an FX portfolio which we needed to do our final presentation on. So the last days were crazy with finishing up on desk projects, continuing to meet people and putting together a presentation on why we traded the way we did and what we learned.

After the internship I went for a nice sunny relaxing vacation in Indonesia – scuba diving of the coast of Manado. It was there, on the balcony of our bungalow, that the bank called to tell me that I had an offer! What fantastic news after a day of diving and seeing sharks! Especially so as the conversion rates were significantly lower than last year – something that was confirmed when I returned to London.



Tips for milkround

Posted by Don on 27 November 2008

Time flies … soon the next Hong Kong finance career trek will leave for Asia and xmas is already upon us. So I was thinking back to last year and the milkround which will soon come up for the first years:

It is a marathon and you need to be prepared for it. It can be frustrating which you need to be prepared for mentally and spiritually. Oh – and those people who are quite arrogant and dis-respectful during the recruiting? Yes, what goes around (usually) comes around. With one or two exceptions those who got on everyone's nerves by interrupting ongoing conversations and by "hijacking" the conversation did not turn out very successful. The experience is frustrating – but my advice is observe and move on. Don't waste time or energy.

Even if you are not successful initially – do not despair! Keep on working and keep your spirits high! Two stories for that:

One friend of mine was not successful in interviews (although smart and knowledgeable). He continued to look and landed a great internship as a fund of funds manager. Another one kept on looking and found a great job in derivatives trading. Still another friend suffered the same fate but got word that a hedge fund had previously hired people from London Business School. He looked the up – and realized this guy was a buddy from the Rugby club he had played with on every game and tour. A few emails later he had an interview and thereafter the internship!

Don't let anyone tell you "it is impossible". I vividly remember the former executive team of the private equity club announcing that nobody without prior "strong experience" in a PE firm would be able to get an internship in this area. A good friend of mine did not really pay attention to this but rather worked his network and got an invitation. He studied valuation and models with a stream mate and – landed the internship. Impossible is nothing – and USE YOUR NETWORK.

For me not everything went perfectly – but I went to sales-trading in Hong Kong and Singapore at one of the strongest players in Asia. I also secured a second internship at a hedge fund in London.



Managing Global Teams – insights by Infosys

Posted by Vipul on 19 November 2008

Today, Jitin Goyal (Vice President and Head of Banking & Capital Markets Group) from Infosys spoke to members of the Technology and Emerging Markets clubs about managing teams that are culturally and geographically disparate. He had some interesting insights and gave us a true feel for what it’s like to work across continents. This theme is very central to the diversity values that London Business School strives to instil.

What are teams at Infosys, and most global IT companies, like? There will typically be a large client in the U.S. or Western Europe. The client will be supported by CFGs (Client Facing Groups) and Consultants in those countries. The consultants will typically work in close contact with delivery teams in countries like India, China, Mexico and even Canada. This global model, along with its many advantages, creates some problems. How do you get people in Japan, Poland and California on the same conference call? How do you get Portuguese speaking programmers and French speaking consultants to communicate effectively? How do you break cultural stereotypes? I’ll give some examples here, but if you want the full low-down on Jitin’s talk, drop me an email.

What does “6 AM Pacific” mean to you? Jitin reckons that’s the best time for conference calls! Since it’s day time in most of the World, except for Pacific islands, people in all countries can join the call! This also means that people in Australia will have work pretty late at night, while people in California will have to brush their teeth while talking. Does this mean one has to work from 6 AM to 11PM? No, it means that work has to be divided into small chunks done throughout the day. You could take a call from 6 to 8, then go eat breakfast with the family, and arrive in the office at 10. Perhaps, leave the office at 4, pick up your kids from school, and get back to online meetings at 8 from home. Flexibility is the key!

Get a first life! Facebook, Myspace, Second Life, Skype, Instant Messaging – are all very central to our lives. Companies like Infosys are realizing the potential of these tools and are increasingly using them to encourage employee teaming and communication. But we must learn to take a step back from time to time.I personally get the jitters if I haven’t checked facebook for 2 hours! If we get too involved in virtual reality and ignore real-reality, we can get into trouble. Jitin quoted the case of the man whose wife divorced him because his SecondLife avatar was having a virtual affair!

In conclusion, Jitin pressed home the point that global teaming can be challenging but is being managed well by companies like Infosys. For those of us considering careers in consulting or even general management at global firms, the lessons from Infosys are invaluable. Infosys is a NASDAQ listed company with 100,000 employees across 26 countries. Visit their website: http://www.infosys.com. To stay up-to-date about more such events, bookmark the tech club blog: http://lbstechclub.blogspot.com/

MBA TV, Episode three

Posted by Adcoms on 18 November 2008

The latest episode of MBA TV is now available to view. In this episode filmed on Volunteer Day we catch up with three groups of students who took part in three very different voluntary projects. Life as an MBA student is certainly never dull, from getting their hands dirty with some hard work at Kensington Gardens to getting creative to come up with a unique ‘one-off’ gift idea for Oxfam.

• A group of our students took part in an ‘apprentice type task’ to develop unique experiences to be sold by Oxfam. If you’re interested in finding out more visit https://www.oxfam.org.uk/donate/experiences/index.html
• You can also find out more about the project in Kensington Gardens and the work some of our students did at Gable Hall School by clicking on the following links 

I’m the dummy!

Posted by Charlotte on 14 November 2008

My Sundays have never been quite like this before.  I’ve joined the women’s touch rugby club (that means no scrums and no full-on tackles) and for the past few weeks I’ve been out in Regent’s Park with a big bunch of girls doing drills and getting covered in mud.  It all seems relatively inexplicable but I’m most bemused by the exercise where one person charges directly towards the opposition with the ball whilst someone else runs right behind her yelling ‘I’m the dummy!’  It’s a lot of fun even if I’m not quite sure how it’s going to help us to win games yet…  The rugby team is brilliant though.  It’s one of the most fun and active clubs on campus and it’s been one of the best ways of meeting people from the year above.  They’ve all been very welcoming and they’re constantly giving us great advice for navigating our first year – insider information at last!

There have been several other occasions over the past few weeks where I’ve been gripped by an urge to yell ‘I’m the dummy’.  This term I’ve been plunged into a completely new and unfamiliar world of finance, accounting and economics, and finance is tough!  For those of us with non-quantitative backgrounds it’s a struggle since classes try to cater for all backgrounds and many have worked in finance before.  There are a lot of new concepts to absorb in little time but while it may be harder for us, I also think we’re the lucky ones.  A whole new world is opening up to me; it is fascinating to understand how to value a company or government bonds so ironically, finance is also my favourite subject.  It is amazing how reading the Financial Times today is a completely different experience to only just a few months ago.  And this is what I came to business school for – so I could understand what all these intelligent people are writing about!

2008 London Media Summit

Posted by Adcoms on 13 November 2008

On Monday 24th November the London Business School Media Club will be hosting the 2008 London Media Summit. The summit titled ‘The Great Debate: How can ‘old’ media survive?’ will focus on the future of four traditional media platforms; music, print, film and television.

Now in its sixth year, the summit has attracted a high profile panel and key note speakers including:

  • Jon Snow, Channel 4 Newsreader

  • Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC

  • Alan Rusbridger, Editor-in-chief of the Guardian News & Medi

  • Stewart Till, Chairman of the UK Film Council

  • Bill Roedy, Chairman and CEO, MTV Networks International

Keynote speakers and panellists will address the significance of ‘old’ media in politics, society and democracy and explore the impact of change on an industry that educates, informs and entertains people around the world. Speakers will also offer a business roadmap outlining how traditional media companies can best react to change.

To find out more visit the Summit website. There are limited tickets still available.

MBA TV will be at the London Media Summit capturing the highlights, so watch this space for the coverage at the end of this year.

Hop Skip and a Jump

Posted by Rebecca on 10 November 2008

It’s amazing how far you can get from London in two and a half hours.  You can hop on a train or a plane and be in an entirely different place: new language, new scenery, new culture.  I’ve travelled a lot, but usually it took a little more time and effort to get to somewhere really different.  As a kid growing up in Calgary, we would drive for 3 hours and get to… Edmonton.  Or for a real thrill you could drive east and hit… Saskatchewan.  Woohoo!  Road trip to Regina!

This is the second time I’ve gone to school in London, the first being London, Ontario.  Sure, a two hour drive from London (ON) will get you somewhere very different: Detroit.  For many Canadians, this is indeed an adventure into foreign territory (“quick - roll up the windows and drive the speed limit! Don’t brake until we make it back to free healthcare and Tim Hortons!”).   Things were a little more interesting when I lived in San Francisco. Several hours in a car will get you deep into wine country, skiing in Tahoe or across the bridge to Oakland during rush hour.  Seattle and Phoenix are both two hours away by plane – rain or shine, a change of scenery.  But this pales in comparison to the adventures on London’s (UK) doorstep.

In early October I took the Eurorail to Paris for the weekend.  This was only about 2 weeks after the fire in the Chunnel, and you could still smell the smoke as we passed underground.  When we emerged, the sun was shining in France and I swear there was a waft of fresh baguettes and cigarettes.   New language, new currency, new country – all mine for the weekend. 

A few weeks later I hopped on an Easyjet plane to Barcelona.  In less than three hours I was drinking Spanish wine and eating manchego cheese in a restaurant off Las Ramblas.  We spent the weekend walking around the city, visiting the Picasso museum, shopping at ZARA and enjoying more Spanish wine.  On Friday I’m going back to Spain, but this time to Madrid.  

I realize all this travelling may sound indulgent.  You might be thinking “when does she study?” Sure there’s a lot of work – assignments, group work, and exams.  But it’s also true that the MBA experience is more than just classes and networking events. Next semester our stream has Thursdays and Fridays off and we would be foolish to waste this good fortune, particularly given the Ryanair and EasyJet seat sales.  Flights to Rome for £20? Marrakesh for £40? I’m in. 

2nd Year Isn't So Bad

Posted by Matthew on 06 November 2008

So, I think that the MBA office should really push the 2nd Year of the MBA more in its advertising.  It pretty much involves a lot of traveling and kickin' it.  Thus far this term, I have yet to spend a weekend in London.  I have been living like a consultant -- Monday through Wednesday in London and then spending the rest of my time in another country -- mostly the U.S.  I noticed that the 2010's gave an account of a day in their lives, but I won't bother you with mine -- it involves mostly sleeping, drinking, and flying right now.

Other highlights of the term include:

US Election Party:  Many Americans got together to watch the Election returns at the Chicago Rib Shack and this was one of the best nights I have had in London.  Despite the fact that I had the audacity to hope for a full plate of ribs, we all drank beers (negra modelo), played election bingo, and anxiously awaited the returns.  I ended up getting home at 630 am -- Investment Banker style.

Weekend in New York highlighted by a meal in Per Se.  Sometimes you have to rough it.

Halloween in Boston with a major party at Boston College.  Now, going to a grad school that lacks undergrads can often make you forget what a precious commodity undergrads are.  So young, excitable, and ready to party.  Maybe this is what the Masters in Management program is designed to fix.  I dressed up as Willy Wonka.  It seemed appropriately creepy, and I do like chocolate.

Paintball:  I get to paintball this Saturday for a friend's birthday.  I have never actually been paintballing before, and I think that this will be a lot of fun.  Though I am concerned that the others will have higher expectations of me since I "served" in the armed forces.  They really shouldn't.  I don't do anything well.

So, one should remember that the 2nd year is a lot of fun.  The 1st year just doesn't allow for the free time required for me to properly enjoy myself.

How would you like your November?

Posted by Vipul on 02 November 2008

Double-decker buses are honking, dogs are barking, cold rain is falling, study-group mates are wrestling in the courtyard, Airbus A3XX’s are mysteriously missing from London skies and Papa-Smurf is having a hard time washing off the blue body paint. Suddenly, a loud scream pierces the air. It’s an MBA student hurling himself 160 ft through the air, at the mercy of mother-gravity. Today is your typical November day.

My predecessors tell tales of November. This is the month when study-groups witness their members engaged in hand-to-hand combat over task allocations. Multiple assignments are due. Final exams approach. And, if you were smart (or stupid) enough to volunteer at a club, chances are you are organizing some conference or party. In short, November is a very stressful month.

As Jann said in her blog, the key is to take a deep-breath. To that end, November was welcomed by multiple parties. The Monitor group hosted Sundowners on Thursday (3 hours of drinking). The class of MBA 2010 hosted Halloween on Friday (4 hours + after party till sunrise). And the India club hosted a Diwali party on Saturday (4.5 hours + after party till sunrise). Hopefully these have washed away the cobwebs of October and we can start afresh in November (…yeah right! Talk to the guy with the nasty hangover).

More de-stress events are on in November! A de-stress day where the school is offering free 15-minute neck & shoulder massages has seen school servers experience a massive load of email requests. My study group (and I recommend every group does this) is getting together for a home cooked meal to kick off November and reaffirm our fraternal love for one-another. The Rugby club is going to INSEAD to pummel them on home-turf (together with a band of supporters who will, no doubt, increase the alcohol demand in that part of France). The women’s rugby team is off for a weekend in “sunny” Glasgow. Some of us might try and catch some sun in the Canary Islands (“sun” means any temperature above 10 degrees Celsius).

Despite the gloomy-omen of unseasonal snowfall in October, November won’t be as bad as we make it out to be! Just get out there and “take a deep breath” (--quote attributed to Jann--). Also, let me reassure you, no one has committed suicide - some of us went bungee jumping today

There is no “tough”; there is only trained and untrained

Posted by Joyce on 02 November 2008

(My favourite quote from the movie "Man on Fire".)

It's been a few days since the MBA class of 2010 had their first exam, and upon reflection, that line fits the experience perfectly.

With only four lectures of material to study, some simple supply and demand curves, I thought I had this economics exam covered. 

I should have thought again.  The material might not have been "tough", but it did test how well trained I was. 30 minutes, 20 questions, 0 time to think. Not only did you have to learn it, the answers had to be excavated instantly from your memory if you wanted any chance of finishing on time. 

I suppose this underscores how we're expected to perform once we're back in the working world. No one is going to pull out a textbook while in a boardroom.  Nor do you have have time to ruminate over a point someone's made before they move on to the next one. The standard isn't about having knowledge at your fingertips anymore; it needs to be at the tip of your synapses. 

We haven't gotten the results back yet, but as for me... LESSON LEARNED!