For the first seven years of his career Rohan Wilson only knew one thing: derivatives trading. By 2014, however, he decided it was time for a change.
“I was stuck in a niche that was heading in the wrong direction. Advancing in my role was getting difficult as there were far fewer derivatives openings than in 2007,” he says.
Wilson wanted to move into risk management, a job function that was growing not contracting.
“The technical nature of the role and its increasing importance to all areas of financial services meant working in risk had always appealed, but initially I wasn’t sure how I’d get my foot in the door,” says Wilson.
To give himself the broader financial skills he needed to transition into risk management, Wilson enrolled in the Masters in Finance programme at London Business School. He chose to study part-time (LBS also offers a full-time MiF).
“I wasn’t interested in just being a manager, so I didn’t want to do an MBA. Then I looked at the makeup of previous classes and immediately recognised that LBS attracts very high quality people to its Masters in Finance,” says Wilson.
He describes the degree as the “bridge” between his past and current careers. Wilson now works for risk management consultancy Avantage Reply in London – and it was his experience on the LBS programme that got him there.
“It’s a holistic learning experience at LBS,” says Wilson. “You get new skills and knowledge not just from the world-class faculty, but also from your classmates, alumni, guest speakers and career advisors.”
Wilson, for example, used the extensive LBS alumni network (which extends to more than 42,000 people globally) to arrange meetings with about 20 risk managers and find out what it’s really like working in their field.
“This is especially important when making a career change. Speaking with LBS alumni gave me more in-depth information more quickly than through my own research,” he says.
Wilson says the LBS faculty are “very credible” because they bring both academic and sector expertise into the classroom. “They can tell anecdotes about working in the industry. Anyone can read from a text book, but to have actual experience is what sparks students’ interest,” he adds.
Unsurprisingly, given his career aspirations, Wilson chose credit risk as one of his elective modules during his Masters in Finance, which he completed last year. “LBS lets you tailor the programme to meet your needs. In my current role I’m using the understanding I gained from the risk course while consulting for credit departments of investment banks.”
Other modules helped Wilson in different ways. “Financial engineering gave me fluency in advanced quantitative methods. I’m now part of a quantitative working group at Avantage Reply and I can handle more technical projects than I could before the training.”
The practitioner course taught by Lyndon Nelson, deputy CEO of the Prudential Regulation Authority, was among the highlights of the MiF, says Wilson. “He gave me real insight into regulatory thinking at the highest level. This helps immeasurably in my job when I’m advising regulators, investment banks and global custodians.”
Wilson also attended LBS Finance@Work panel discussions involving senior speakers from global banks. “Now that I’m assisting these same banks in my consulting work, I’m doing so with more insight, having already spoken with and gone to lectures by some of their leaders.”
The “amazing diversity” of his classmates enhanced Wilson’s experience of the LBS programme. “At LBS there’s a great variety of ages. There were MDs at banks in my cohort. And people came from across the spectrum of finance – from investment banks to central banks,” he says.
The 2015 Masters in Finance intake at LBS was made up of 50 nationalities. “We had someone from Uzbekistan who’d been working in Madagascar, for example. I got to interact with people I wouldn’t otherwise get to meet.”
This class diversity made for more stimulating conversations when Wilson worked in case-study groups, a key part of the LBS programme experience. “These discussions opened my mind to new ideas about finance because I heard so many different perspectives.”
His close interaction with fellow students at LBS is now paying dividends for Wilson in his risk consultancy job. “As a derivatives trader I was operating in quite an aggressive and male-dominated environment. But as a consultant, I’m adapting to the needs of a more varied client base,” he says.
“Having worked well with a diverse group of people during the Masters, I can now better understand where my clients are coming from. I can appreciate the perspective of someone in wealth management, for example,” he adds.
If there’s one word that sums up Wilson’s experience of the LBS programme, he says it’s “confidence”.
“I’ve now got more of it,” he explains. “In my consulting role, I can talk to anyone in finance – from private equity to M&A -- and broadly know what they do and what trends affect their work. And after meeting so many managers on the MiF, I’m used to speaking to very senior people and not being intimidated.”
Wilson originally wanted a risk role at a bank, but he says LBS put him on the risk consultancy path.
“I went to an autumn recruitment event at the school and the careers advisor said I should speak to Avantage Reply. And when I got an interview with them, I was even able to talk to LBS alumni who’d worked in the company. I came well prepared,” says Wilson.
Being an LBS MiF student helped prove to his new employer that he was “serious about making a big career change”.
“I was at a leading business school dedicating time and resources to my career. And the programme experience was giving me much wider skills than I’d had in derivatives,” says Wilson. “LBS made me a better candidate and as a result I’m now in a job that I find more challenging and more interesting.”
Image credit: cirano83, Getty