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Who is Carsten Kengeter?

Just who is the man who’s replacing Jerker Johansson as head of UBS investment bank (together with Alex Wilmot-Sitwell)?

Fortunately, we can shed a little light on the subject, because we profiled Carsten for our student centre before he left Goldman in September last year. After our intro, here’s what he said….

Carsten joined Goldman Sachs in 1997 in FICC, Frankfurt. He became co-head of European Fixed Income, Currency and Structured Sales, based in London in 2002 and assumed his current role in the summer of 2006. Carsten earned a BA in European Business Administration from Middlesex University and a Diplom-Betriebswirt (FH) in 1991, as well as an MS in Finance and Accounting from the London School of Economics in 1992.


What attracted you to Fixed Income initially?

I started in M&A but it proved not to be my thing. I was no Michael Douglas! What attracted me to Fixed Income was the creativity required to establish new products. Fixed income markets were traditionally thought of as government and corporate bond trading. Because both of these became more compressed over time, more liquid- and electronically-traded, the FI guy had to become more creative. This is when solution-driven FI thinking really got off the ground – helping corporations or financial institutions to find creative financial market instruments.

I was interested in working where you could see a marked impact for clients and for the company.In fact it’s a structuring role – basically a production function. Products are created and
put together for distribution for clients.

What personality traits and skills are helpful in Fixed Income?

It helps if you are good at both quantitative and conceptual thinking. You need to be able to identify ideas and concepts to help a client raise finance or make an investment. In situations like that, the problems can be conceptually easy and difficult to compute, or vice versa – so you need to be able to use both sides of the brain!

If you don’t have the quant skills, but do have the “conceptual” and the “communications” abilities (what I call the two Cs) you are much better off than being clued-up on quants but no good at the two Cs.

Can you describe a typical working day?

First thing you look at what’s happening in all the other markets. ‘First thing’ differs from person to person – I like to be up early and in the office by 07h00. Many people get in before 08h00. Later than that isn’t much good when you’re working as part of a global organisation.
After checking the markets, there will be a morning meeting with a group of individuals responsible for trading markets, structuring products or distributing (or all of the above). This is an exchange of new ideas and a check up on progress of in-process ideas. The rest of the day for me will be back-to-back meetings, either internally or with clients. I might take a short break for lunch, which is when I usually catch up on emails.During the week, the day finishes with an evening engagement with a client dinner or an internal dinner to discuss current projects.

What is the most difficult aspect of your work?

Balancing work and the rest of my life. I try not to work at weekends (although I probably spend about two hours on important communications). You have to be able to rest and play. I always plan one or two hours’ sporting activity during the week, and maybe one evening is not work-related, and I’ll spend it with my family. It’s important to keep your life in kilter – the financial world isn’t naturally structured to cater for this, so it’s up to the individual to recognise overwork or an imbalance, and to counter-manoeuvre.

What aspect of your work do you enjoy the most?

The best part of it is when I’m working in a group of people. You do a client-related transaction that really helps out that particular client in a big way – that’s a really positive experience. It happens if you have a project with a gestation period of up to a year – it can be long-winded and complicated and involve lots of work and collaboration between client partners and Goldmans’ people, but the best bit is when you prove that the team is greater than the sum of its parts.

Carsten’s tips:

Almost always you will find a better solution when you get together a few dedicated people, rather than one individual trying to come up with the answer.

For Fixed Income roles the spectrum of qualifications applicable is very broad – we hire people studying subjects from Classics to Physics. If you are collaborative and competitive you’ll shape up.

A healthy degree of competition can stimulate you to produce better results than your peers. If you’ve experienced this, the Fixed Income world will not be alien to you.

Comments (36)

  1. “Carsten earned a BA in European Business Administration from Middlesex University and a Diplom-Betriebswirt (FH) in 1991, as well as an MS in Finance and Accounting from the London School of Economics in 1992”

    Hmmmm…. keep shorting UBS then. Before anyway lays into me for being an intellectual snob the point I am making here is that this is a person who appears to have tried to gain the ‘right’ education but only managed to do so at lesser institutions. It is not the same as someone with little or basic education but tons of raw talent.

  2. he has done pretty damn well though despite his poor academics
    it was so long ago – who cares?

  3. Cosa Nostra – you’re not an intellectual snob – you are, it would appear, illiterate.

  4. Wow this guy spends one evening a week with his family, as he likes to keep a balance between work and home. The balance being all work and no home.

    Who is Carsten Kengeter …. just another souless banker from the Goldman factory.

  5. Disappointed – what are you talking about? Do elaborate…

  6. If ‘Disappointed’ is referring to the typo – anyway vs anyone – then I apologise. My comment was typed very quickly and possibly without a huge amount of concentration. Do refrain from calling me illiterate old chap… awfully rude.

  7. Casa,

    Is LSE a ‘lesser’ institution?

    >>It is not the same as someone with little or basic education but tons of raw talent<<

    Oh, it's better… because it shows that the guy would have had to overcome the prejudice of brand whores like you and he still managed to get to a level which you and I can only dream of.

    Disillusioned MBA Reply
  8. UBS for some reasone is trying too hard to complement their managers. First the results driven Gruber and the smooth-talking Villinger. Now the conservative 1970s M&A Wilmot vs the wheeler-dealer salesman Kengeter. I wonder what is the logic behind this.

  9. Is Carsten Kengeter the new Barack Obama?

  10. middlesex university, what a loser

  11. Disillusioned MBA – Middlesex is primarily the brand I was referring to. Brand whore? Are you a Surrey MBA or something? If one is bright and one chooses to go for a conventional education (i.e. undergrad degree followed by Masters) then one ought to go to the institutions recognised as the best in the market. And I don’t want to hear some tosh about opportunities and background – I know many people who had the drive and ambition to be able to get to Oxbridge etc from places you would probably be too frightened to ever visit.

  12. Ossie Gruebel the CEO of UBS didn’t even go to college/university. He did a cadet-ship at DB and did his training on the job. He has one of the sharpest minds in the business and did wonders for CS. Who gives a s##t about the uni you went to. It’s what you do in the workplace that matters

  13. Cosa,

    I am not so insecure that I need to go around pushing my academic credentials to complete strangers – FWIW, and if it would cure your hang ups, then suffice it to say that both my MBA and my undergrad were from world ‘top tier’ institutions.

    The thing I’m trying to get to you is that the world is a lot more complex then that. It’s full of Harvard MBA’s who are doing mid management job in bureaurcratic companies; and what’s more, full of people who, for one reason or another, started off from a relatively disadvantaged position academically or career wise, and pull them themselves up to as good or higher positions than those who were raised with a silver spoon in their mouth or with the right cultural, economic, or social position.

    It’s easy to judge and pour scorn on someone just because they don’t fit tick criterion of what is respectable or not. The fact remains that given half a chance you’d be kissing a$$ to get a job from him.

    And the fact also remains that while you’re acting so haughty and holier than thou, he is the head of an investment bank, albeit a humbled one. I’ll bet my life savings that you’re about 10 positions below him.

    Disillusioned MBA Reply
  14. Ian – refer to my first post. Lack of attention to detail is amazing.

  15. Disillusioned

    1) I have made no reference to my academic credentials. Big assumption on your part.

    2) I may well be 10 positions below him – my original post said that I don’t have faith in his ability going forward. The world is indeed hugely more complex than any of us could realistically claim to understand. I don’t even value an MBA highly, prefer instead to believe that experience and talent are key drivers of success. However, if one is choosing to operate within the parameters that the market /society has ‘set up’ (i.e. by opting to go to university, and then to undertake postgrad studies) then it is difficult to understand why one ends up at places which are seen as sub-optimal. Simply put – I want to buy a large executive car (and money is not a limiting factor) – if I go for a large Daewoo as opposed to a Mercedes, for example, then it will always be seen as the choice of someone who did not quite know what they were doing. With educational establishments one can iterate a stage further and reasonably assume that the ‘lesser’ institution was chosen because of a lack of ability or (and this is actually worse) lack of understanding of market perception and position.

  16. “Who gives a s##t about the uni you went to. It’s what you do in the workplace that matters”

    Unfortunately the Banks do and you can only prove yourself in the workplace if the Banks hire you from one of the top tier unis. So it should be: who gives a s##t about your determination and motivation when your Uni matters more.

  17. Cosa,

    1) This was a rebuttal to your mistaken belief that just because I call you a brand whore (which you certainly are) that I must be someone who doesn’t aspire to nor has achieved academic excellence

    2) The thing you pick upon is his first degree 20 years ago. How can that, by any measure, be a reasonable position? “I don’t have confidence in him…and look as supporting evidence, he went to a “crappy uni” 20 years ago”. Leave aside the fact that LSE saw something in the guy. As did Goldman Sachs

    We don’t know his reasons for choosing Middlesex, it could be lack of judgement like you say. It could also be economic duress, or poor secondary education opportunities meaning he had a bad start

    What ever the reason, he’s overcome the original shortcomings in his profile and come out on top. That to me is something to respect not one that deserves opprobrium.

    Dont u understand that he would’ve had to overcome so much prejudice of ppl like you to get where he is?

    Your posts smack of the privileged upbringing of someone who has no conception of the challenges that life can throw at someone who happened to be less fortunate then them…

    Disillusioned MBA Reply
  18. I think “brand whore” is totally inaccurate -do you believe that the top universities are not actually better universities than the others and just an example of “branding” over substance? What I still don’t understand about investment banks is why they are still actively pursuing GroupThink, by deliberately employing identikit people with identikit CVs. Havent they noticed that that strategy didn’t work very well?

  19. Guys it doesn’t matter if he went Middlesex University because he had to have done really really well there to get into the London School of Economics for his post graduate degree (the part of his education no one mentioned) as well as survive the tough culture of Goldman to rise to the top.

    Michael Sherwood (Vice Chairman at Goldman – voted most powerful man in European Finance 2 times in a row by EFinancialnews) only did an undergraduate degree from Manchester. Manchester is not the greatest school when it comes to recruitment (I know what I am talking about I went there too).

    Traders only care about how much money you make. It does not matter whether you have an MBA from Harvard or a PhD from Cambridge. Only one thing matter. How much cabbage you can make. This is the reason traders look down on MBAs

    An appropriate quote from the classic movie Wallstreet:
    Bud Fox: This is really a nice club, Mr. Gekko.
    Gordon Gekko: Yeah, not bad for a City College boy. I bought my way in, now all these Ivy league schmucks are sucking my kneecaps.

    However, graduating from a good school even if you one does a weaker (read: easier degree) helps get you to the interview.

  20. Opps people did mention LSE. Sorry hadn’t read all the comments!

    The BIG BIG BIG BIG problem with the UK graduate recruitment system is that no matter how well you do at university if you did not get a set number of UCAS points you will never be considered for a top graduate job. I agree that firms should look at consistent performers (who do well throughout – in school, university etc) but to base the minimum entry criteria on something students did when they were 18 sounds silly

    I believe the American recruitment system is much better. Everyone gets a fresh start once they enter university. The graduate jobs only depend on university GPA. Also, if you do really well you can always transfer to a better uni something that is impossible in the UK

    So even if a student is on a high First Class in the UK in a tough subject like Mathematics or Physics if he didnt get 3 or 4 As at A’Levels and therefore didnt get into a top university he wont be considered for graduate programme at top firms. Whereas someone on course for a 2:1 studying Geography* at Cambridge with 3A’s will be nearly guaranteed interviews with at least some great firms

    * Not to say Geography is easy ofcourse

  21. I went to Middlesex and all I got was this lousy job!

    Wee Jock Poo McPlop Reply
  22. Ha, ha – this thread is crazy, you’re practically calling this guy thick because he went to Middlesex Uni, what 18 YEARS AGO! Get a grip, for God’s sake, he’s not some spotty student now, is he? This guy obviously knows what he’s doing, far more than people like Cosa. “I know many people who had the drive and ambition to be able to get to Oxbridge etc from places you would probably be too frightened to ever visit” – what are you, some sort of wannabe investment banking gangsta??

  23. Get real. Everyone knows that, beneath the posturing, university selection in the City is typically about “jobs for the boys”. All that stuff about “the right range of skills” is mostly nonsense. Everybody here prefers to pick someone “just like me”. Tarquin will hire Tarquin at Bank A, who will sell to old-uni-friend Tarquin at Bank B and other-uni-friend Tarquin at Bank C. It is a great system when you join the club.

  24. Bravo disillusioned MBA!

    Its the nature vs nurture debate.

    Consider someone who got a degree from an average university, then someone who got a degree from a good university. Who would you employ?

    Now consider the former grew up in a crime-ridden drug infested estate, with bad single parenting, attended a poor school with large class sizes and inadequate resources, then eventually achieved an average university degree to the latter who lived in a affluent surburb, had an attentive nanny, attended a high-fee varied educational school then achieved a degree from a good university?

    Its an extreme example and Im not suggesting either one is better. Just that you need to take more into consideration then the university someone attends. If you hire people Cosa Nostra and anyone else on here I hope you do not disregard applications just on what university they went to.

    siddique_adnan Reply
  25. This will be my last post on this as I am sure it is not worth wasting much more time on.

    Disillusioned: “Your posts smack of the privileged upbringing of someone who has no conception of the challenges that life can throw at someone who happened to be less fortunate then them…”

    Big fat assumption which actually happens to be about as inaccurate as is possible.

    My background – born and brought up in a northern mill town, council estate, studied hard and got to private school on 100% assisted place scheme (Conservative party policy to subsidise less privileged children to give them a chance). Made it to Oxbridge, and from there to banking. So, I do not come from a privileged background – possibly quite unconventional for the area of banking I made it to. Very easy for me to get where I am – no. But I understood the importance of achieving to the utmost of my capacbilities and that meant actually realising things like the difference between Middlesex and Cambridge.

    Look, fact of the matter is this – either he was bright enough to get to top school / uni and showed complete lack of judgement (my position) or he wasn’t bright enough. Simple.

  26. Henwee,

    “Tarquin will hire Tarquin”

    Funnily enough… one of my colleagues used to be called Tarquin… and we went to Habberdashers too.


    EXACTLY my point. I went to crapsville high school, got modest GCSE partly because >50% of the time either teachers were on strike, or there were no teachers or they were completely appalling. Then the shock of getting those GCSE’s woke me up, went to a sixth form college, worked my butt off, got great A Levels, went to top uni, became an ACA and an MBA etc. etc.

    But point is I had to FIGHT the prejudice of why I got poor GCSE’s which I was studying for at 14/15 when I was applying for jobs at 22 yrs old. I was at a significant disadvantage even with my first class degree (am not boasting, just laying out the facts, we’re all anonymous anyway) I was at a disadvantage cos of those GCSE’s. Very frustrating.

    Now compare my experiences with Tarquin who had the best education that money can buy at Habberdashers and. Wish my dad had been rich enough to send me there but he wasn’t and I had to settle for what I got in my blue collar town.

    Disillusioned MBA Reply
  27. Cosa,

    You’re pi$$ing against the wind, my friend. Please read my last post.

    You remind me of another of my ex-colleagues who asserted that just because he came from a middle class state school background and worked hard and got into Oxford, anyone could do it and it was only intellect and hard work which separated people.

    Can you, with all your supposed intellect and talent, not countenance the fact that maybe, just maybe, there are differences in the experiences of state school and poor backgrounds too?

    Read my experiences. I did not even have the chance to make it to private school even at the secondary level. You can boast all you want that you were a hard worker at 10-11 and that is the only reason you got to Private school but I make no apologies for neither having the opportunity neither the impetus nor incentive at 10 years old to get into private school.

    People like you will appreciate the experiences and hardships of others because you’re so attached to your way of thinking that you can’t even conceive things could be different for other people. I wish I could take you back to my school in the 80’s. You wouldn’t be so self righteous

    Disillusioned MBA Reply
  28. I honestly don’t understand the discussion about someone’s former university education and the ability to lead a troubled global investment bank out of a crisis to restore its credibility and reputation. Before making any judgment, why not let Mr. Kengeter do his job first and then denounce him afterwards. I think it’s the right time to give a “low profile” banker a chance to do this economy some good. Were it not the so called super talented bankers with top class education background who got us into the mess where we are at the moment. There are too many egos and snobs out there. They had their chance and messed it up. Some sort of down to earth approach will do each one of us a little good.

  29. Guys – a Masters at LSE is not impressive, especially not for international students. If you can pay, they admit you.

  30. Cosa Nostra – you don’t know what you are talking about !!! You obviously have nothing better or more eventful to do in your life. The London School of Economics and Political Science is one of the world’s premiere academic institutions and well done to Carsten for the degrees he has obtained.

  31. “Cosa” will probably puke his custard when he reads that I am a Zimbabwean who, after achieving mediocre A-levels still had the geist to graduate from the National University of Lesotho with First Class Honours. “What a crappy profile ?” I can hear him splutter in disbelief? Maybe. But Goldman Sachs loved my tenacity !! Go figure !!!

  32. gotta love the work-life balance… one eve home and few hours a week sports… not a good investment as in a few years this guy may be found dead in his office with a heart attack. these dudes dont understand the most fundamental values in life, i wouldnt give them a dime to manage.

  33. I also spent 1 year of my undergraduate degree at Middlesex University for no other reason than willing to study in Europes most important financial center. There, I met quite a few people from top and internationally ranked European universities that “earned” the right to study abroad as exchange students for being the cream of the crop at their respective universities. Let me tell you that these students literally struggled all year long and were only able to deliver approx. 30% of their marks 2.1 (Upper second class) and 70% 2.2 (Lower second class). I am not trying to say that Middlesex was more difficult than their universities at home, but this tells that “brand” is not synonym of best preparation. These guys were taken out of their “environment” and suddenly did not appear that smart! Many of them were brought down to earth and learned from the experience.

    I graduated with First Class Honours at Middlesex and after doing all the required tests and interviews at investment banks I started working for a top one from scratch. I am working for one of the top Wall Street banks in NY. I also earned my CFA charter while working 80-90 hours a week, but I was hired without it.

  34. So what if he went to Middlesex University? He now earns more than all of you put together!

  35. having worked with the ceo at goldman and followed him to ubs, i would say that he has more charisma than many other oxbridge, hbs or yale educated goldman peers…which is why he was made partner and why he is ceo…m sherwood also a great example, i would say that I love reading these posts because most posters have no idea what differentiates an outstanding performer at an investment bank (who incidentally will make more than 10 Mio USD/year) and a poor performer…it is not the school they went to…

  36. @cosa-nostra

    Can’t believe it, the guy is a partner at GS, head of FI and you dare think he is a lesser guy because of Education? You are no-one mate, please try to make something out of your life first and then you might criticize.

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