Amir Smailbegovic was a speaker at last week’s SSPP careers panel. He completed his PhD at King’s a few years back and told the assembled students about his life in banking.
What happened after you finished your PhD?
Amir worked on a post-doc for a while after his PhD but found that he wasn’t doing enough research but instead was spending a lot of time completing grant applications. At the same time a group of his peers were having a good life in the City and that seemed very attractive! He had done a year working for the World Bank in the US prior to his MSc/PhD and knew that he enjoyed that kind of world. He joined a Japanese bank as a trader and moved later to Daiwa in Hong Kong to set up a new trading desk. After a while, he decided for personal reasons to return to London.
What do you do now?
He works for RBS, as chief operating officer of a section of the bank. He is directly responsible for about twelve people and indirectly manages about 400. He realised that, rather than enjoying the trading side of the bank, his strengths lay in working with people and so has been able to use those skills in his new job. He doesn’t particularly use his ‘Dr’ title!
Why did you not stay in academia?
Partly because of the reasons outlined above, that there was no longer enough research in his role. Partly too a desire to use the analytical skills he had gained, in a different context.
What might you go on to do after this current role?
Amir stated that it would be possible to move to a similar role but in a different sector, for example pharmaceuticals. Equally, there would be other roles within the bank that might suit him.
How does one get into banking at the moment and what else can you do in banking?
Getting a job in banking is harder than usual, at present, because there are plenty of bankers who have been let go from banks, all competing with graduates for those junior roles. Remember that only 5-10% of bankers actually do the trading; the rest of the companies are the back office roles of research, operations, sales, HR, training, marketing and so on. Some banks have specific PhD routes, for particular quant roles. Amir himself has never actually applied for a job within the banks he has worked for – he has always been headhunted by a recruitment consultant.
Like the sound of this? Come on the City Course! (see previous posts)