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In this edition of Career Series, we have Raj Maheshwari and Rahul Dandwate. 

Raj is an Electrical Engineering alumnus from the Class of 2018. He’s currently a Senior Analyst at Deutsche Bank and has completed Chartered Financial Analyst Level 2 (CFA L2).

Rahul is an Engineering Physics alumnus from the Class of 2019. He’s currently an Analyst at Deutsche Bank and he previously worked at Dolat Capital as a Quantitative Analyst.

Through their academic and corporate experience, they give us insights into their journey so far and tips on how to leverage opportunities and venture into the realm of Finance!

How did you decide upon the fact that you wanted to pursue finance?

Raj: The field of finance is very broad but I have always liked the field of investing and the means to do it. With an interest in businesses and some background in mathematics, I realised in my days in IIT that my interests aligned closely with something in core finance. However, without any work experience in finance, it wasn’t a straight choice because you have so many other options. The best thing I did to make up my mind about it was to talk to more and more people about it, people who were working in different roles in the financial industry to get an idea of what the day-to-day work was and whether that excited me. I also started reading more about the industry and specific roles that I could go for, which helped me get a better understanding of the industry even before I joined it.

Rahul: I majored in Engineering Physics; specifically, I was interested in theoretical high energy physics. I have worked on various projects on quantum field theory, which are more on the mathematical side. Being so much inclined to physics, I hardly ever thought about pursuing a career in finance (or anything apart from physics). And therefore, I didn’t even sit for the campus placements. Eventually I got selected for a master’s in physics at Stony Brooks University but wasn’t completely satisfied with it. This led me to being frustrated by the idea of a physics career. The problem in academia is that a lot of excellent people are fighting for only a select few positions; this happens not just for higher studies but even after that, for professor positions. Finally, in my last semester, I decided to switch to some non-core field. I chose to go in quant finance because, firstly, it involves a lot of statistics and mathematics which was the kind of stuff I was interested in. Secondly, I was in general interested in finance, I used to read up about finance and economics related stuff. Having this, I therefore decided to give finance a shot and luckily after a year I am enjoying this field.

Did you consider the option of higher studies? Do you have plans to pursue higher education? If not, why? If yes, what all programs are you looking at?

Raj: I did. However, I did not want to study more before deciding what it is I wanted to do in the long-term. For some people, it is clear very early on but I saw a lot of options which I wanted to explore. I do consider the option of higher studies including MBA and Masters in Finance (and other Masters programs in Management) but with just two years of work experience, there is some time before I have to make that call. It also depends on what your plans are- you want to switch fields, develop expertise, get better jobs, change geography. Deciding that can take time (a lot of B-schools abroad get students with 4+ years of work ex) and I do want to explore more before I go for higher studies if I have to.

Rahul: Yes, I plan to go for higher studies but after 2-3 years. The options that I am considering are MS in quant finance or an MBA. Now, these two programs will land one in different kinds of jobs, so before committing on either I first want to take some exposure to this field and understand my interests.

Did you have any internship experience in the said field? How did that help?

Raj: I had no prior internship experience in finance. I did do some algo trading remote projects but honestly, that has close to no relevance in what I do today. However, I cleared CFA L1 before I appeared for interviews during placements which helped not only by adding value to my CV but also to develop a basic understanding of finance and things people look for in an entry level role. Of course, it helps if you put an effort to learn about related topics in finance- investing, financial instruments (bonds, options), quantitative finance etc.

Rahul: All of the internship experiences were physics related only. As I said, I hardly ever gave a thought about not doing anything but physics. Under my internship, I worked on a project in quantum field theory. So, I wouldn’t say it directly helped with getting my jobs, but I had developed skills during my undergraduate studies which indirectly helped me. In fact, a lot of people with a physics degree end up going into quant finance, because the skill set required for both is quite similar. It is used in the way that the pricing of derivative contracts and understanding the risk associated with them require the use of sophisticated mathematics and statistics. While doing a physics degree you end up using a lot of those techniques which eventually helps.

Tell us about your job. What do you like/dislike about it?

Raj: I work in a team which specialises in Debt Financing and providing Derivative (Swaps, Options) solutions to clients. The team provides loans and hedging facilities (using derivatives) to corporates and to various funds. My role as a junior member of the team covers almost all aspects of the work of the team, from deal work- modelling, pricing, documents, client discussion, pitch and presentation etc. to monitoring existing transactions to ad-hoc work which keeps popping up. The good part of the role is that you have a lot of freedom to take up more and more responsibility and an opportunity to move to the front-office eventually (London for me). As a junior member of the team, you do start with some grunt work but that can quickly change depending on the level of involvement you want in transactions.

Rahul: I only recently joined DB, so I won’t be able to comment much on that. My previous job was at Dolat Capital, it is a high frequency trading firm. There I was in the options market making team; options are a derivative product that are traded on the exchange. I was involved in making low latency strategies. Despite being a small company, I learned a lot in my last year there; the quant team there was very good with half of them from some IITs and other half were physics PhDs. People there were actively involved in trading and equity investments, which even I was excited about. So, all the discussions about stock, market views helped me lay my ground and develop fundamentals in stock markets. It was enough to get me started and to be able to enhance my understanding further on my own. This was a major plus for me because personally I am very much into stock markets. 

My role at DB is involved in global markets where I will be dealing with FX and Interest Rates. I am expecting to learn about different over-the-counter products that are dealt with between bigger financial and corporate institutions. Investment banking was a thing which I had wanted to explore, and this new role will give me that exposure.

There aren’t many dislikes because being my first year into the industry there is always something new to learn and take, which one finds useful in their career.

How has your experience been until now?

Raj: I’ll describe the experience I’ve had in 5 sections- quality of work, quality of colleagues, learning/growth opportunities, amount of work and exit opportunities.

  1. Quality of work- Probably one of the best in DB Centre Mumbai. The team I work in is one of the top European players in structured finance and hence the work (after a certain point) is top quality. It depends how much responsibility one wants to take and there’s a reasonable amount of grunt work when you start but that can change quickly (within 6-12 months) if you push for it (This can vary a lot depending on the team you work with).
  2. Quality of colleagues- Very smart people, some of the best people in the industry globally!
  3. Learning/Growth opportunities- The learning curve is steep but also depends on how much you want to get involved. The people I work with are very experienced and skilled so as far as the work is concerned, you get to learn a lot of things in specific areas.
  4. Amount of work- The workload is not too much. Have rarely worked on weekends in 2 years. A normal day for me would be 10-11 hours of work.
  5. Exit opportunities- If you are aiming for Private Equity or corporate finance roles, my role is probably not the best to have. In that case, you should aim for more corporate finance focused roles. My team however has a very good ratio of people who permanently move to the front office (London).

Rahul: Things have been good till now. In the initial part of your career, there’s always something to learn, no matter where you are or even if you are not completely satisfied with your company or role. And rest things about my previous year I have already mentioned in my previous answers.

Difference between work and environment for Rahul between Dolat and DB: As I said earlier, this is my first month into the new role and that too with the work from home setup, so there’s not many things that I know. But some obvious things are there, I moved from a relatively smaller scale to an enormous organization, so the way things function is different. Like understanding the business here is a much bigger task and to get enough working knowledge of things takes much longer time than at Dolat.

The reason for my change was that I wanted to explore multiple types of work in my initial part of my career so that eventually I can decide better on where to settle. Plus, investment banking sounded interesting to me, so I had to explore it.

 

What message/advice would you like to give to a student preparing for a job similar to yours?

Raj: If you do want to work in Finance, try to understand different sections within finance, what roles are offered and what are the differences in those roles. You can only understand this if you start reading about such fields (PE, VC, IB, Quant etc.), what the requirements are in terms of skills and past work experience (this is important) and talk to people who have worked in such roles.

Rahul: A general advice that I would give to you if you are thinking of going to financial institutions is to actively follow economics and finance related news that is happening in India and the world too. The reason being you will understand better whether you are interested in doing similar kinds of stuff and you will understand better the work you do. Since these are not the kind of things that we study in engineering, it’s better to start preparing in this direction a bit early on as it takes time to develop an understanding. Also, I would suggest reading a bit on derivatives instruments (not the ones in Maths :p), interviewers might ask about them, so having even a basic understanding would give an impression of your genuine interest in the subject. Apart from this, I would highly recommend you taking the course on Capitalism in the HSS department by Prof. Anush Kapadia. I cannot recommend that course enough, it gives a very good idea about macroeconomics. You will develop a good understanding of the subprime crisis (much more than by just watching The Big Short), and it’s super fun.

Looking back, what would you have done differently?

Raj: I got a good flavour of the different sub-industries only after I joined DB and spent some time here. I do not expect anyone to actually understand the differences within these specialised roles before working and as such, there is not much that I could have done differently about it. You work and develop your skills and interests and accordingly steer your career trajectory as you go along.

Rahul: Maybe doing more statistical courses would have helped. Pricing of derivatives requires some understanding of mathematics and statistics, so had I done more formal courses on statistics, then I would have been a plus. 

Not sitting for campus placement was definitely a mistake, I would strongly recommend you sit for placements or at least defer it to next year, even if you plan to go for higher studies. Having a backup plan is always a good idea