Thursday, December 27, 2007

Never underestimate Oxford!

I've received an email from my cousin today, congratulating me on LBS admission. He was asking what my plans are if Oxford would offer me a place as well. From the tone of his email, I could tell he was a bit surprised that I am thinking about turning down Oxford to go to LBS. A couple of days ago, a similar topic came up when talking to my parents. How come I would not want to go to Oxford?

I guess I have been underestimating the power Oxford label has, after centuries of educating world's most successful people. Even though the Said Business School is relatively new, people I've talked to regard the program as one of the most successful programs that provide a good mix of Finance and Economics. This is one distinguishing factor, as the degree LBS provides is purely a Finance degree.

Here's another data point. An Oxford MBA (not MFE) blogger has posted a somewhat comparison between LBS and Oxford programs.

Rankings are telling a different story though. When you look at the MBA rankings (unfortunately I do not have access to Finance ratings from any other source), LBS ranks much higher than Oxford. Take a look at FT rankings for example. / Business Education / European Business school rankings / Business Education / Global MBA rankings

LBS ranks 2nd in Europe, and 5th globally, whereas Oxford ranks 21st in EU and 19th globally.

For now, I will keep betting that LBS name will get bigger and better known outside the UK within 10 years or so. I am also betting that it is already a big name within PE/IB circles, which is what I care for.

Comments, anyone?

Friday, December 21, 2007

LBS MiF Interview Experience

I'd better write about my LBS interview before I forget about it. Hey, is there a better day to write about it night before your wedding reception anyways? JK

Here's my LBS application timeline:
- Nov 5, 2007: Emailled MiF admissions about eligibility (basically sent my resume)
- Nov 16, 2007: Submitted my application just in time for the Round 1 application deadline. (Actually it was 5 hours past the deadline. Don't try this at home!)
- Dec 6 2007: Received confirmation from LBS that I was shortlisted for an interview
- Dec 15, 2007: Interviewed with an alumnus

Prep work:
I did two things. First, I read about the finance industry. This is not something you can do overnight. Prepare yourself by reading Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Economist. Read the industry guides from Vault. Also read some of the books I've listed on this blog. They give you a great insight about the industry. Secondly, I had been reading forums and blogs about others' interview experiences. I'd especially recommend Business Week's forums,, etc.

I had no idea what to wear, since the interview was with a 2007 graduate, on a weekend, and near his home. So I asked him. He said he didn't care what I'd wear, but he said if I'd feel better by wearing formal he'd be fine. We agreed on business casual. I went to the interview with dress pants, button down shirt, and a jacket. Not a suit, and no tie. I think it worked well.

Both technical and behavioral questions. Mainly, we went through my resume. The toughest question was why I was interested in Finance. (My background is high-tech) You need to explain where your interest in finance stems from. It needs to be genuine and real. You need to have a story to tell.

Another important question was what I wanted to do after I graduated. Again, need a good story to tell. "I want to work in Finance industry" is not good. "Investment banking" is better, but not specific enough. Research the departments within the type of company you want to work for, and have a couple of words to say about the position you want to take. I also explained him my plan about job search, which would begin even before the program would start. I'm planning to get a summer internship, and get CFA qualification.

What about my long term plans? I already had an answer in my essay, but I had to defend my position. Your interviewer may try to convince you that you had a boilerplate answer, and the worst thing you can do is accept to that.

Some technical questions about finance. What are derivatives, options, value at risk, proprietary trading. Don't make things up. If you don't know the answer to a question just admit it, and say you are eager to learn what the answer is. Although you're not expected to already know everything that would be thought during the program, you need to have some knowledge.

How can I use my current background in my future career in finance? I said I can use my strategy and sales experience if I were to work for a trading grouo in an I-bank. He said I-Bank trade desks do not do much sales. I told him that as I get higher in the group I believe I would have more sales responsibility to mutual funds etc. He bought into that.

Being in the US, why am I applying to LBS? Did I think about the finance programs in the US? Now be careful. This is a trick question. Here's why. The finance programs in the US (not talking about finance oriented MBA programs here) are geared towards churning out quants. For example Berkeley's Haas is a great program, but it's financial engineering. He was basically trying to gauge whether I knew what I wanted. So I gave him the answer he wanted. (I think). I said I was interested in a leadership role in a finance organization, not being a number jock. (Nothing wrong with being a number jock, I just don't want it). The only program similar to what I wanted was Princeton in the US, but I'd prefer LBS over Princeton due to many reasons.

What would I bring to the student body and the program? Need some creativity here. I think these boring questions are designed to see your out of the box thinking. They want to see sparks in your eyes when telling a story. Some originality needed here. Not sure if I was successful, but I said being a manager in a public company, I know what the shareholder expectations are, and I know how these requirements translate into daily work load. I also bring significant international experience (I live in the US, but I'm not American), and I've had this kind of experience already once. Finally, I'm technically savvy and can help people. He said these were all great reasons, but don't try to over emphasize technical background much. MiF is more technical than MBA, but you're not going there to be a quant. So don't brag about your technical qualifications much.

The interview took about 1 hour and 15 minutes. The original allotted time was 45 minutes, so we went over a little. He answered a lot of my questions. I realized most of my questions had one "official" and one "off-the record" answer. Off the record answer was universally more useful.

Something negative happened during the interview as well. My cell phone started going off in the middle of the interview. It was on vibrate, but after a couple calls, I started getting annoyed. So I excused myself and pulled out my cell phone and turned it off. Later when I was walking out, I was able to take a peek at his notes. One of the notes he jotted down was "cell phone". You can imagine what I thought. "What a douche bag am I? I just got myself dinged!"

Well, luckily that wasn't the case, and I got the admission a couple of days ago. Phew!!

PS: Don't forget to send a thank-you letter after the interview.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I've just got an email from LBS MiF admissions committee. I've got admitted to the program!

I'm long way from home, in a snowy place with my in-laws to celebrate Christmas. This has been a wonderful Christmas present.

There's a lot to say, and I am hoping to post details about my application strategy including the interview in the coming days. Make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed, and you'll get the updates.

Happy holidays everyone.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Finance schools and programs to apply

Here's what my initial list looked like:

- Oxford University - Said Business School, Masters in Financial Economics
- Cambridge University - Judge Business School, M.Sc. Finance (aka MFin)
- Manchester Business School, M.Sc. Finance and Economics
- Imperial College (Tanaka), M.Sc. Finance
- Princeton University, M.Sc. Finance
- London School of Economics, M.Sc. Finance and Economics
- London Business School, Master in Finance

The list actually goes on and on.. It took me quite a while to compile this list, looking at it from every possible angle. App deadlines, tuition, living expenses in each city, application requirements etc.

I had decided to apply to Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge initially, however I had to put off Cambridge, since they are supposedly coming up with a new program which they encourage people with background like mine to apply. The program still hasn't been announced.

One of my professors from the MBA encouraged me to apply to the LBS, and even though I felt that my background in Finance is not very strong, I decided to give it a shot. (LBS requires that you have a background in finance). I have some background related to the finance industry from my day to day work experience and b-school, but I'd say that is peripheral.

Eventually I've applied to the following schools:
- Oxford
- Princeton

LBS and Oxford offered me an interview, which I'll write about later. (Both of these interviews have already occured). I have been putting off sending the application payment to Princeton, which I should do pretty soon.

You may wonder why I did not consider any other schools in the U.S besides Princeton. There are very good schools in the U.S. that send a considerable portion of their yearly graduates to IBs annually. However, those (NYU, Harvard, Wharton) are all MBA schools, without any dedicated program in Finance. There are also some pretty good Financial Engineering programs such as Haas School of Business in Berkeley, but this is really targeted towards quantitative finance, i.e., you need to become a math jock and your life revolves around formulas. This might be a good thing for some people, but I am looking for a leadership position in the finance industry, not a technical position.

MBA vs. Masters in Finance

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have an MBA degree from a non-top tier US business school. After realizing how important the school label is for getting hired into a top investment bank or a consulting firm, I had to make a choice. Which B-school do I apply to? Should I apply to another MBA program, or a M.Sc. program that specializes in Finance?

First, if you have an MBA degree from a US Business school, you typically cannot apply for another MBA program within the US. That's pretty intuitive. I was told that U.K. business schools actually do not care if you have a previous MBA degree, but I decided against applying to any MBA program at all, for the following reasons (in no particular order):

1) I don't think I value the MBA education from a top school after my current MBA degree. the curriculum is the same among MBA schools, and the only difference is the quality of faculty and student body.

2) Getting a second MBA is a very loser thing to do.

3) Full time Finance programs are typically one year long, whereas MBA programs are 2 years long. There's a big financial difference.

So ended up applying to Finance programs only...

First Post - What is this blog about?

As my first post, I guess I need to explain what I am trying to accomplish with this blog.
Well, here it goes. .

I am a 29 year old guy, who currently is a business development manager at a high tech company in the US. I've got an MBA, which helped me realize the wonderful world of finance. Call it passion, greed, love for money, challenge. Whatever.. I just want to get into the finance industry.

After struggling to get a job in some high profile investment banks, I faced the reality: the business school I've graduated from is not a high profile school that bulge bracket investment banks like to hire from.

Instead of quitting, I started looking for alternatives. One of these alternatives was a radical one, which was the one I decided to pursue. Going back to the graduate school! After a bachelors and masters in engineering, as well as an MBA, I am planning to go back to the grad school to get what I want. My plan is to get into one of the best schools in the finance field, and work my way into the finance industry.

I know this dream will not be easy, in multiple aspects. It will be a huge financial impact, as I am looking into getting a full-time Masters in Finance. This will mean quitting my nicely paid job, and taking a large debt. I live in the US, and since the programs I am looking at are mostly in the UK, it would also mean leaving my lovely newly-wed wife for a year. The list goes on and on...

Hence this blog's reason for being. I am an archive freak. I like going back in time and looking at my thoughts. I also like helping other people in due process. So I decided to start a blog that I would post anonymously, and share my experience with the world.

I have also setup an email address to communicate with the world regarding this blog. You can contact me at finantic (@) gmail (dot) com with any questions or comments you would like to make privately. Otherwise, commenting to each post is also enabled, and I encourage you to use it for all your public comments.

This blog will be publishing an RSS feed, and if you are interested in what I have to say, I encourage you to subscribe to my RSS feed. I use Google Reader for reading my RSS feeds, and I highly encourage you to use it. It's a great product.

That's it for now.. Next couple of posts will be about my applications to finance schools.