“Sitting on the plane back to the UK, I reflect on the whirlwind few days I’ve spent in Omaha, and the incredible journey that has led me to this point. It’s been a week filled with unforgettable experiences and encounters that have fuelled my passion for finance and investing. As the plane soars through the clouds, I can’t help but smile, knowing that this extraordinary journey has only just begun.”
A front row seat with Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger
Every year thousands of shareholders and investors gather in Omaha, Nebraska to hear Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger give their annual update at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting. Considered by many in the investment industry to be one of the most important events of the year, it provides a rare opportunity for investors to hear from one of the world’s most successful investors.
During the weekend-long event, shareholders will hear updates on the company’s performance, insights into its investment strategy and current macroeconomic trends. The highlight of the event is a Q&A with Buffett and Munger – which can often last for several hours – where shareholders can ask their questions directly to the CEO and Vice Chairman.
For Juncheng Shen, the opportunity to see these two highly respected giants of the investment community up close was a dream come true. “As an investor who has been following these meetings for years, the chance to experience this global investor event in person was beyond words. I was thrilled to receive a student invitation from Berkshire Hathaway to attend this year’s annual shareholder meeting and to represent Cambridge Judge Business School and the Cambridge Investment Management Club.”
A 04:00 wake-up call, to join a queue of several hundred other excited attendees, meant that Juncheng was able to secure a front-row seat. During a 5-hour Q&A session, the audience heard from Buffett and Munger on everything from AI to banking failures and renewable energy to geopolitics, and even shared their wisdom on living life well.
Juncheng explains, “Despite their remarkable ages of 92 and 99 years, the ‘Oracle of Omaha’ and his partner infused the event with a blend of humour and profound wisdom acquired over decades in the investing world. When an audience member asked him about the major mistakes people should avoid in both investing and life, Buffett said: ‘You should write your obituary and then try to figure out how to live up to it’.”
Over the course of the weekend, there were lots of events taking place around the city. In addition to the Berkshire AGM, Juncheng attended the CFA Value Investing Dinner with John W. Rogers, Jr. of Ariel Investments, the Gabelli Funds Omaha Value Investing Conference, and VALUEx BRK2023.
“Meeting like-minded global investors was an amazing experience. One of the highlights was unexpectedly encountering the legendary Li Lu of the Himalaya Capital. I read his books many years ago, and it was fantastic to be able to talk with him in person.”
The journey to Cambridge and the Master of Finance
For Juncheng, his passion for investing was ignited at an early age, when, aged 15, he read the widely acclaimed The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. The book sparked his appetite for investing and a few years later he went on to study for a degree in Finance and Accounting.
During college, Juncheng decided to pursue a career in finance and was selected for the HSBC summer internship programme. After finishing his undergraduate degree, he went on to join HSBC’s highly competitive global graduate programme where he gained a broad knowledge of banking and finance.
“During my rotation, I gained exposure to covering major corporate clients and was able to participate in the entire deal process, including deal pitching, execution, and monitoring. The graduate programme helped me to not only develop my skills and banking knowledge, but also broaden my horizons in relation to the overall economy and the finance industry.”
While working at HSBC, Juncheng was able to hone his financial analysis skills, and this experience reinforced his interest in becoming a professional investor. He explains, “When working on clients’ capital market financing deals, I found the workings of the financial markets and the companies we covered to be fascinating”.
Certain that he wanted to transition into the investment management industry, Juncheng realised that he needed to expand his finance knowledge and pursuing a post-experience masters degree was the logical next step.
He explains, “I had a clear vision of the type of postgraduate degree I was looking for; a top-tier university with ample resources and a diverse student body, a post-experience programme that would enable me to learn from experienced classmates, and a programme that would specifically enhance my finance knowledge and buy-side skills to facilitate my career transition. After researching several options, I was convinced that the Cambridge MFin met all my expectations.”
Having made his decision, Juncheng applied early to join the 2022 cohort. He received an offer of admission – and was also awarded an MFin scholarship – and began his exceptional MFin journey.
The Cambridge experience and College life
Since joining the MFin programme in September, Juncheng has enjoyed being back in the classroom.
“The academic experience at Cambridge is highly interactive and engaging. The professors are extremely knowledgeable and possess both academic and industry expertise, which allows them to impart insights that go beyond the confines of the textbook. My classmates, who come from diverse finance backgrounds such as investment banking, central banks, and investment management, have contributed immensely to my learning experience.”
With a cohort of 91 students representing 28 different nationalities, there are plenty of opportunities to get to know one another and experience the different cultures that are represented within the class.
“The MFin cohort is incredibly close-knit. One of the major benefits of the programme’s diverse student body is the opportunity to experience different cultures first-hand. For instance, during the Hindu festival of Diwali, our Indian classmates organised a celebration for the class, where we enjoyed great food and cultural experiences. Similarly, my Chinese classmates and I organised a Chinese New Year party, where we made dumplings and introduced everyone to traditional Chinese papercuts and handwriting. These events were a great opportunity for everyone to come together and have fun while learning about each other’s cultures.”
When joining the programme, MFin students become a member of one of the 31 Cambridge Colleges. College life offers students the chance to enjoy the many traditions that an 800 year-old University has to offer, but is also an opportunity to meet students from across many academic disciplines.
Juncheng explains, “I am a member of St Edmund’s College, which is a friendly College for mature students (anyone over 21 years old). I enjoy College life, particularly the traditional formal dinners, which are held twice a week. Unlike other Colleges, there is no high table at my College so I have the opportunity to sit with both College students and fellows during the formal dinners. My dining companions often come from various subjects, such as physics, astronomy, computer science, and linguistics. Therefore, my typical Cambridge evening consists of wearing a gown (a type of formal academic robe), relishing delicious food, and having engaging conversations with someone sitting next to me from a different subject area”.
He concludes, “Living, dining, and socialising together with diverse individuals has expanded my worldview and fostered unexpected ideas, which I believe is crucial in the finance industry, where success is driven by people and innovative thinking”.
Life outside of the classroom
During their time in Cambridge, MFin students can take part in a huge range of extra-curricular activities, including sports teams, clubs and societies. There are hundreds of different university clubs and societies on offer, from wine tasting to rowing, and astronomy to Shakespeare appreciation.
When he joined the MFin programme in September, Juncheng soon realised that there were no student interest groups that specifically focused on investment management, so he decided to set one up himself and established the Cambridge Investment Management Club.
He explains, “The club aims to be the place for aspiring investors to congregate and learn, but also accommodate a wider range of investment methodologies and perspectives. Creating a club from scratch can be a challenging task, but I was fortunate to have the support of the MFin Executive Director, Marwa Hammam, as well as our club committee members and other MFin alumni from the outset”.
The club has successfully hosted ten events to date, and it has featured talks by investors from many renowned companies such as BlackRock, Millennium, Fidelity International, Amundi, GIC and Bloomberg. Reflecting on this achievement, he concludes “I am proud to say that the club has grown to become one of the largest student clubs at the Cambridge Judge Business School, attracting many individuals who are passionate about investment management”.
Juncheng has also taken up a brand-new pastime in recent months. “I have also developed a new hobby: punting! Although I wasn’t a natural at first (my first punting experience involved numerous collisions!), I’ve persevered and continued to practice, and after several attempts, I’ve gained more confidence and can now show my friends around – and thankfully, I have never capsized the boat!”
Looking ahead and future goals
With the Easter term well under way, students are starting to look towards the next step in their professional career journeys. After completing his MFin degree, Juncheng is planning to move from banking into investment management.
“My passion for investment management was already ignited prior to joining the MFin programme. However, the MFin has allowed me to unlock my full potential in this area. Through the diverse core courses and electives, the Equity Research Project, modelling courses and asset management talks, I’ve been able to grow and consolidate my knowledge and expand my experience in the field of investment management.”
And finally, what would Juncheng’s advice be to applicants considering applying to the Cambridge MFin programme?
“I highly recommend the Cambridge Master of Finance programme to anyone who is seeking a finance-focused post-experience programme. It is deeply embedded in the rich history and academic excellence of the University of Cambridge, setting it apart from other business schools in the world. Moreover, its unique programme design and experience provides me with unparalleled opportunities for personal and professional growth. And I feel fortunate to have met so many great friends and people here.”