Abbas graduated from the University of Exeter in 2022 with an MSc in Finance and Investment. He shares his experience of his time at Uni and how it prepared him for his career as a Risk Analyst.
What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?
Since I left Exeter, I have been working with Aviva Investors as a Risk Analyst, and alongside I was working with the University of Exeter as Post Graduate Teaching Associate for the Degree Apprenticeship department. This was a part-time role with the University, where I supported working professionals taking professional finance exams including the Investment Management Certificate (IMC) and the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). I delivered masterclass sessions and designed lectures for the specific modules of these examinations.
‘…biggest highlight? It would surely be receiving the Deans Commendation award that was given to me for exceptional performance in the programme… Along with this I was also fortunate to receive the Departmental Merit Award for Accounting and Finance and the Investment group prize. ‘
As a Risk Analyst at Aviva Investors, a global investment management company and a part of Aviva group, I design investment risk packs for real asset and money market funds for portfolio managers, to ensure that the client funds stay within the risk parameters. I sit in the second line team of risk management function where I provide expert analysis to the fund managers.
Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?
I chose this career as it gives me an opportunity to go beyond my current skillsets and knowledge that pushes me to do better. ‘Real assets’ is a niche investment asset class where the availability of information is less than perfect and scarce. As a risk analyst in the that division, it allows me to apply rather more judgement and critical thinking to take decisions (than any another asset class such as equities or derivatives) to challenge portfolio managers. Alternative investments as a subject had always been close my heart ever since I started studying finance and this role has given me an opportunity to make a career out of it.
‘I sit in the second line team of risk management function where I provide expert analysis to the fund managers.’
What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?
Honestly, it’ll be difficult to pinpoint one biggest highlight of the programme as I can think of many. But if I must look back and identify the biggest highlight, it would surely be receiving the Deans Commendation award that was given to me for exceptional performance in the programme. This is given to the students that demonstrate outstanding quality in their assignments and for the incredible performance in their modules at the cohort level. Along with this I was also fortunate to receive the Departmental Merit Award for Accounting and Finance and the Investment group prize. This was for the performance being so exceptional that I had obtained highest average mark for accounting and finance (twelve-month programme). This is certainly the biggest highlight for me.
What did you enjoy most about studying here?
Well, back when I came to Exeter the government had introduced a second national lockdown in the nation, and consequentially there wasn’t a long list of things we could do and enjoy living there. But as situation improved and places opened up I enjoyed walking around the quay in Exeter for an evening stroll, experience its peaceful environment and absorb the scenic beauty it offered. Exeter is a small city so, you can get to any part of the city within an hour or so. Be it for buying essentials or for going on a trip. So, you end up saving lot of time. Given its location advantage, over the weekends, I travelled with my friends to the picturesque beaches of Devon and Cornwall, which was a great thing.
Why did you choose to study at Exeter?
I chose University of Exeter primarily because of the modules it offered under my course MSc Finance and Investment. These modules aligned well with my skill-sets and long-term career goals. Further, the alumni strength of over 140,000 students was quite powerful and some of them indeed worked in the companies that I saw myself working at. Moreover, University of Exeter Business school is positioned amongst top 10 schools in UK for finance and accounting as per the Times 2023 and is ranked 137th best university as per QS Ranking 2023. And lastly, I was awarded partial scholarship by the University to study here. These factors helped me chose Exeter as my choice for my post-graduation.
‘…being open to opportunities, having a will to learn new skills, and building relationships are fundamental things for career growth and for staying relevant in a dynamic financial market.’
What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?
To begin with, a career in finance needs a robust command over modelling and excel skills. Efficiency is highly valued at job and hence the skills in exploring the potential for automating the daily tasks cannot be stressed enough. These skills allow you to have sufficient time to take on other important tasks that needs to be done in a time bound manner. Moreover, my previous experience in delivering masterclass sessions to the university students, and being an ex-investment banker at a boutique firm talking to investors, developed strong conversational skills to convey the message succinctly and with sound conviction to my colleagues. Lastly, a few things go beyond skills and experiences that may be useful in any career. For instance, being open to opportunities, having a will to learn new skills, and building relationships are fundamental things for career growth and for staying relevant in a dynamic financial market.
What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?
To a student who wishes to pursue a similar career, I think I have top two tips for them. First, is to have solid understanding of the job requirements and a judgement whether or not they align with your skills and goals. Your career is a function of your skills and the opportunities you are presented with. So, it’s highly important to research about the role and develop the skills needed to take on the responsibilities. For instance, in my career, having strong conversational skills that demonstrates the sound understanding of the asset classes in play, is an advantage in talking to the portfolio managers on their risk appetite for the funds they manage. Secondly, I’d advice to forge networks with the alumni and the students who graduated with you. These are the people who have had similar journey to yours and know where you may come from. These relationships will highly be useful during your initial stages in the finance career. You can get in touch with them either directly or through professional networking sites like Handshake or LinkedIn.