The Cambridge Judge Master of Finance (MFin) class of 2008: where are they now?
L-R: Raymond Shuai, Arun Bhojwani, Simon Taylor, Shalen De Silva, Andreas Schreiner, Rob Shaw
The Master of Finance (MFin) programme at Cambridge Judge Business School began in 2008, right in the midst of the global financial crisis that has affected the banking system and the operation of financial markets around the world.
The first MFin class (MFin 2008) had 23 students, and the programme has since expanded to the current class of 59 students representing 29 different nationalities.
We caught up with some alumni of that first MFin class, who shared memories about their studies, life in Cambridge and how their career has changed since they first walked through the doors of Cambridge Judge back in 2008.
Then: Associate, McKinsey & Company Now: Managing Director, Deutsche Bank, London
“It was by chance that I read the news about the launch of the MFin programme on the Cambridge Judge Business School website. The unique proposition got me excited right away and I reached out to the programme’s director, Dr Simon Taylor, with my application even before the official process started. And so, it turned out that I became the first student on the list.
“During my time in Cambridge, I kept a weekly diary. Despite not being a big writer, the first moleskin notebook was quickly filled as there was so much happening that was noteworthy: ‘aha’ moments in class, wisdom from great personalities, new perspectives, college and university life in all its facets and a lot of craziness. It was one of my best and enriching years, and one that earned me friends for life.
“Upon completion of the degree, I returned to my management consulting job with a boost in confidence and it was not long until I felt the desire to apply my acquired skills within a global financial institution. The knowledge from the programme turned out to be fundamental and continues to help me in decision-making and contributes to my success.”
Then: Senior Financial Analyst, Equity Capital Markets, Bank of America, New York Now: Vice President, Central CCAR and Stress Testing, HSBC North America, New York
“After working in investment banking for a few years, I decided to go back to university to enhance my professional experience with finance theory. I had previously visited Cambridge and absolutely loved its vibrant intellectual atmosphere, so naturally I wished to become a member of the community. When searching for suitable programmes at the University of Cambridge I was pleased to discover the newly launched MFin programme at Cambridge Judge.
“I very much enjoyed the MFin core curriculum taught in a small class setting by distinguished faculty: Simon Taylor, Gishan Dissanaike, Paul Kattuman, and Richard Barker, among others, and the opportunity to take electives with the MBAs which suited my professional interests. The MFin speaker series, equity research competition and consulting project were also a rare opportunity to meet and collaborate with finance leaders in the UK.
“The studies gave me a solid theoretical foundation for my career in finance. Moreover, it allowed me to form long-lasting friendships with Cambridge classmates, faculty, and staff that inspire me to be more and give back to the School.”
Shalen De Silva
Then and now: I was working at Deloitte and looking for a lateral move into banking. This was not possible in the throes of the financial crisis of 2008. Taking a year out for the MFin facilitated this.
“After graduating, my fellow MFin friend Benoit and I spent the summer in Sri Lanka working on our final project on socially responsible investing in post-war Sri Lanka. Then I took a job in banking at BNP Paribas in Singapore, which subsequently lead me to work on the leveraged finance desk at Sumitomo Mitsui for six years.
“In 2012, I helped a group of Singaporean doctors incorporate and run an NGO to fundraise and scale-up to create the cataract and cleft surgeries and medical outreach work in Asia.
“In 2016, I decided to take a leap of faith and explore ways to work and make a meaningful impact through my work life and have been enrolled in a Master of Public Health programme at Harvard.
“Academically, I am carving out an expertise in innovative financing mechanisms to mobilise private capital towards global health causes. Concurrently, I am launching a startup that will use a blockchain-based platform to transform labour markets and promote financial inclusion and empowerment for a global workforce.
“The most important thing I have learned is that life is too short to not take a punt and explore our curiosities. The MFin, all those years ago, offered the perfect safety net and set of skills that afford me this privilege to explore.”
Then: Finance Officer, African Development Bank, Tunis Now: Senior Financial Officer, Pension and Endowments at the World Bank, Washington DC
“Before MFin I had been working for several years – first in asset management and then the Pension Unit of the African Development Bank. The principal motivation for studies was to put my finance career on a solid footing and to take my career to the next level. Now, 10 years on and several post-MFin career moves later, I can look back with pride and fulfilment that the studies have opened new vistas for me.
“One of my most enduring experiences was the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008 right about the time the programme was being rolled out. Indeed, the Lehman Brothers collapse came literally as we were settling in for the commencement of the course. There is no better time to be a finance student than during the time of a stupendous crisis.
“In the days and months that followed we got thoroughly immersed in the intellectual debate of the time. I have remained conscientious and these issues are never far from my mind as I organise and conduct financial planning seminars as part of my work. In all a wonderful experience, a great programme, and so it will be for many years to come.”
Then: Associate, Investment Banking, Ambrian Partners, London. Now: COO and Co-founder, OpenAlpha, Hong Kong
“After the MFin I moved to Hong Kong to work in corporate finance for Jardine Matheson and KPMG. I started my own confectionery business in 2014 which I sold in 2017. Recently I founded a new company to develop an institutional dark pool and custodian services for crypto assets.
“I signed up to the MFin programme to consolidate my knowledge in finance and to experience life in Cambridge. The highlights include finding lifelong friends I met both on the MFin and MBA programmes, and attending talks from industry leaders. I still remember Bob Diamond’s lecture at the School in the middle of the global financial crisis.
“Since leaving Cambridge and working for two large corporates, I decided that life as an entrepreneur suits me best. I have been actively involved in the startup scene in Hong Kong since, and the MFin gives me a strong background and credibility when dealing with investors.”
Then: Statistical Modeller, Health Dialog, Cambridge Now: Executive Consultant – Data Scientist, Atos UK, London
“Coming from a scientific discipline – data sciences – dimmed to change the economic system and the businesses’ vision, I was very eager to venture into business management.
“A preliminary meeting with Geoff Meeks, his openness of mind, his vision, and the specifics of the MFin programme helped me to decide. Cambridge’s reputation did the rest in convincing me to give up my then current role and good prospects to apply for the now famous Master of Finance.
“Although very intense, it was a great year. Firstly, as intended to acquire key business expertise and then to build personal and professional relationships. With a French education this was a tremendous introduction for me into the Anglo-Saxon world and their business acumen. But also the pride of being part of the world-famous University of Cambridge.
“Today, this year is an even greater year. Besides, embracing fully the spirit of the University, the Master of Finance is still proving to be very valuable in my career.
“Moreover, I deeply feel I’m part of Cambridge, its culture, contradictions, and brightness.”
“To think the post-crisis years have now reached double digits! Starting the MFin during the financial crisis was a blessing in disguise – what a chance to reflect.
“My then-employer, Babcock & Brown, no longer exists but that experience of the private funds world combined with the MFin led to roles across private equity, growth technology and hedge funds. My itch to operate at the more entrepreneurial end of the finance spectrum saw me joining forces with an old friend of mine to help set up Apera Capital – a private debt fund. We now have four offices, capital available to invest and have completed four transactions.
“We have made good progress but there is still plenty to do in order to establish a long-lasting business. The MFin provided a solid base but it is only the beginning.”
Then: Analyst at ABN AMRO, London Now: Senior Manager of Securities and Futures Commission, the financial regulator of Hong Kong
“I was working in an investment bank and wanted to do a masters degree in finance to take a break and deepen my financial knowledge. The newly set up MFin was the perfect fit for me.
“The programme offered a very comprehensive curriculum, ranging from corporate finance, equity derivatives to venture capital. The weekly City Speaker series enlightened me with the wisdom and experience of different speakers from the industry. As one of 23 students, I was blessed to get along extremely well with classmates from various countries and backgrounds. We became good friends quickly and had great fun inside and outside the classroom – and I still meet many of them regularly in Hong Kong. Outside the classroom, the beautiful Cambridge campus is second to none and spending a year here was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“After graduation, I joined the financial regulator in Hong Kong. The programme enriched my financial knowledge and helped me progress quickly in my career, in particular to ponder more comprehensively when making policy decisions. The experience is definitely one of my most memorable and enjoyable in my life.”
Then: Risk Analyst, Citi Now: Investment Associate, MetLife Investments (Asia)
“Before the MFin, I was solely a market risk analyst. After a few years working in the same field, I was looking for a course to consolidate my knowledge and to diversify my understanding of the industry.
“The MFin programme opened my eyes to the wider finance industry and exposure to the business world through classes, presentations and speakers. The experience of being in touch with leaders in different fields, especially during the group consulting period, will be one of my strongest memory from MFin. The flexible course structure and practical coursework gave me the skills for my current role.
“Everything offered by Cambridge Judge Business School, combined with Cambridge’s activities and student body, made the programme a unique experience to all who were very lucky to be part of it. I will always look back on my MFin experience with gratitude and fond memories.”