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Case Study: Ingrid

Personal details
Degree:MSci Maths and Stats Profile picture
School(s): School of Mathematics and Statistics
Year of Graduation:Jun-2005
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: Barclays Capital
Job title: Assistant VP, UK Insurance ALM Solutions
Occupational Sector: Insurance
What has been your route to getting your current position?

After graduating from St Andrews in 2005, I studied for one year at Cambridge where I completed Part III Mathematics. During this year, I decided that I wanted to try for a career in investment banking and began filling in the numerous online applications for graduate schemes!

What does your job involve ?

For three years, I’ve been working in the UK Insurance ALM Solutions team at Barclays Capital. I joined the graduate scheme at BarCap in February 2007 and, since the policy at BarCap is not to rotate graduates, I’ve been working on the same team ever since.

My team primarily covers UK life insurers and our function is to advise insurers on all aspects of ALM (Asset Liability Management). For example, if an insurer has a liability which is linked to inflation (i.e. a policy which pays out at least inflation to the policyholder) then we would transact an inflation swap which pays the insurer inflation in return for a fixed rate. As well as providing liability hedges, we also market asset-side ideas to our clients. Insurers will hold assets in order to generate cash to pay their liabilities. We might, for example, recommend that insurers hold european bonds instead of sterling bonds in order to generate a higher return. We would then also provide them with a currency hedge to convert the interest on the European bond back into sterling.

Since most of our clients at insurers are actuaries, we also have a resident actuary on our team and we advise on aspects of insurance regulations. This is a hot topic at present with the implementation of the new EU-wide directive for insurers, Solvency II.

What are the best bits of your job ?

In comparison to some other roles in investment banking, my current position is more varied than most. I’ve worked on a variety of structures for UK insurers including interest rate hedges, equity hedges, FX hedges and even commodities trades.

Moreover, our desk is responsible for every aspect of a trade with an insurer. This means we’re involved in the initial modelling of liabilities, construction of hedges and, hopefully, the actual execution of the trade.

Why were you successful?

It wasn’t easy to get a place on a graduate scheme and I, along with a lot of my friends, made numerous trips to London for assessment centres/interviews with various banks. The key thing is to remain confident and eventually you will find the correct team and fit.

I did do an internship and I think it’s fair to say that this helped in the initial stages of interviews with other banks (and also resulted in an offer from the bank where I interned). Saying that, I know plenty of graduates who did not do an internship.

One important read for anyone thinking about entering investment banking is Options, Futures and Other Derivatives by John C. Hull.

What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
Given that a lot of our clients are actuaries, it’s certainly useful to have a maths/statistics background for my role. Unfortunately, I don’t actually get to use much of the maths that I studied at university level. Saying that, you have to be completely confident with the relatively simple formulae used in modeling and I do think that having a mathematical background helps me grasp ideas about the mechanics of new products a little quicker.

There are, however, roles in investment banking which require more involved maths (e.g. option trading or quant roles)

What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?
There is no doubt that the hours in investment banking can be tough sometimes. They do depend on the team that you work in. Sales and trading generally have better hours, as their functions are more dependent on the markets being open. In my role, a normal day is 8am-6.30pm but there’s certainly an expectation that you stay later if there’s work to be done. On the other hand, in roles such as Leveraged Finance or M&A, you could well be working until midnight!