A graduate of Economics and Politics BSc 2013, Economics MSc 2014, and Economics PhD 2020. Currently, Edoardo is an Economist for Deloitte LLP focused on quantitative modelling and data analytics.
Can you tell me a bit about your role as an Economist at Deloitte? What does it look like on a day to day basis?
I’m part of an economic advisory team which provides consultancy for both private and public sector. So the type of jobs that my team do are very varied, it could be anything from impact assessments of some public sector fiscal policy, all the way to looking at the profitability of banking sectors, forecasting, or demand for housing. The nice thing about it is that your expertise affects the type of work you’ll be doing a lot, so as a macroeconomist, I’ve been involved in a lot of public sector work, like looking at the impacts of different measures to increase government revenue, such as VAT, or even forecasting of the UK economy for banks. The tools I developed during my time (more than ten years!) at Queen Mary helped me develop the skills and methodologies needed for my current job, to be able to evaluate the problem at hand.
What drew you to study Economics? Why did you choose Queen Mary?
I was first interested in studying Politics at Queen Mary, however even when I started and was studying politics, there was a big emphasis on how economic ideas and theories shape politics and sociology, and all the other areas. So I was interested in studying those theories. As someone who was much more interested in the aggregate economy and macro-stories, theories of how economies create wealth, that drew me into liking economics more and more. Eventually, I specialised in Economics, through a Masters and PhD.
When I visited Queen Mary, I really liked that it was a campus university in London. That was essentially the best of both worlds to me. I wanted to come to London. I grew up in Rome, so I was craving the big city vibes in terms of my personal life. But also, with Queen Mary, it’s so close to the industry, for economics particularly, you’re literally between Canary Wharf and the City, so you feel in amongst that world. It’s very rewarding because you get to interact with the people who work there because of that proximity, for example having people from the Bank of England come in to speak. That’s a huge benefit.
Being part of the University of London is another huge benefit because you have access to seminars, expertise and experience across all of the universities that are also part of it. Queen Mary is part of a group of elite universities across the UK and those links to the other universities make your experience a lot more rounded.
I loved my time at Queen Mary, especially in the politics department and economics department, because the debate was always welcome. It was an agglomeration of passionate people, and you learn so much because people are coming from different angles, and you enrich yourself.
What was the subject of your PhD and what drew you to that subject?
The primary focus of my PhD was to study the role of uncertainty on economies and decisions of firms. With my supervisor, Renato Faccini, who is now at the Danish Central Bank, we published an article in the American Economic Review Insights, about the effect of Brexit uncertainty on firms and the UK economy. We took on board the Decision Maker Panel data set from the Bank of England and looked at the response to the uncertainty created by the Brexit referendum on firms. We built a model to represent that and to give estimates of how much that uncertainty weighed on the UK economy, and we found that most of the slowdown in growth post-2016 can be attributed to uncertainty arising from Brexit.
I think my interest in this came from the referendum result. My PhD started with a one year Masters in Research in 2015. So when it came to thinking about my research ideas, the Brexit referendum had a big impact. Even though standard economic theory was predicting quite a sharp recession, that did not materialise, we only had quite a gradual slowdown. So that provided a puzzle for my advisor and me to solve. I like to research current topics, and I think this is one of the reasons I went into consultancy because you’re always on the cutting edge of the economic problems that firms or governments face. So Brexit was the biggest economic problem to resolve.
How did your time at Queen Mary support life after university?
I think the strength of Queen Mary in terms of employability is that it’s not just the student support services, such as Careers – which are amazing – who can help, but also that the faculty is there for you too. After my Masters, I approached a professor for career advice, about getting into a PhD programme, pursuing academia, and he helped me inform my application. That really helped and shaped my career in academia, and choosing to do a PhD.
During my PhD, I contacted the Careers team to discuss my options outside academia, and they were really helpful in helping me draft a CV, and prepare for that transition between academia and the corporate world. That’s not an easy transition, but they made it stress-free and helped me translate what I had been doing in my PhD into what would be valuable for a company.
Why do you choose to volunteer, supporting recruitment activity at Queen Mary?
My time at Queen Mary was fantastic, I’ve always felt at home at Queen Mary, from day one. It’s been somewhere that has helped me a lot in terms of my career and gave me a chance to build academically, and professionally. It’s somewhere that a lot of people help you without you even realising. There’s a really good culture university-wide, of fostering the student.
The fact that Queen Mary is a university that takes a huge proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and the local community, that’s something to be very proud of. It’s very easy to forget that it is a privilege to go to university and lowering those barriers to entry - those obstacles people face - is fantastic. There are a lot of people who would like to go to university but can’t because of the cost, or they might think it’s an intimidating place. It takes investment, it takes hard work to make sure that these people have the opportunity to attend one of the best universities in the UK. So I feel a sense of wanting to pay back what I have received.
What would be your key advice to someone considering applying?
My advice would be to choose something that you’re passionate about because you might make a strategic choice, thinking about your career, but you also have to align it with what you care about. People know when you’re talking about something you care about, it’s not something you can fake. So to make your application easier, your life easier, try and think about why you want to do the course you’re doing. This is highly rewarded at Queen Mary if you’re passionate about a subject, that comes first and foremost.
I loved my time at Queen Mary, especially in the politics department and economics department, because the debate was always welcome. It was an agglomeration of passionate people, and you learn so much because people are coming from different angles, and you enrich yourself. When people talk passionately about something, there’s always something to learn.
What motivates you in life?
Curiosity. The path I’ve chosen may not be a usual one, because most of the time when you finish a PhD, you stay in academia. Going into the private sector was something I wanted to do because I was curious. It was the same with my PhD, I was curious about the subject and learning more. Then I wanted to experience something different and provide a new challenge for myself, to see if my skills were limited to one arena or not. Hopefully not, but time will tell! Understanding how economic incentives align in economies, and how humans behave in terms of production and consumption can be very helpful and make you think of topics such as climate change, covid-19, etc in a whole different way, it really gives you another perspective.
When you moved from Italy to the UK, were there any big surprises?
I moved to the UK for my high school years which I attended in Leeds. There were two categories of surprises. The first was, the school I went to when I moved here was a specialist science school, and the infrastructure was baffling. Actually doing experiments, for example, having labs as a normal thing in high school, was totally bizarre to me. As far as I was concerned, coming from Italy, that only happened in American TV and movies. It was really weird, but also amazing. The state of school infrastructure in the UK compared to other places is very high quality, it’s something we should be proud of. It’s also something that should be exploited a lot more.
The other thing is, that when I first moved to the UK, coffee wasn’t a big thing, especially outside London. I remember being with my family trying to find coffee shops open on a Saturday or Sunday morning and it was impossible! I’m glad that the quality of coffee in the UK has improved exponentially. I think food and drink was a bit of a shock, though I must say that I now love English cuisine so I think I’ve adapted quite well. Apart from the traditional English cuisine, which I like, there are a lot of influences from other countries. It means London is a huge place where you can try anything. Plus, you cannot say no to a full English!
Do you have any particularly fond memories of your time at Queen Mary?
All the graduations were amazing, because they represent your time there and your achievements, and to be honest I cannot wait to attend the graduation for the PhD, which has been postponed because of Covid. It’s also a time to share that with your family and your closest ones, so that’s really nice. The best times have also been with the people from my PhD cohort, it’s a journey and forming those relationships that last outside of the PhD is amazing. For example, we set up a PhD Economics football team, where a group of us used to play on Mondays. Those were great moments because it also makes you aware that whilst you’re there to do a job and to learn, in life, there are other things that matter as well. Oh – and Friday pub lunches!
What advice would you give to a student considering their career options or thinking of doing a PhD?
I think it’s the same as I said before, you have to do something you’re passionate about. Any career, academic or not, takes a lot of hard work. At the end of the day, if you don’t love, or even like, what you’re doing, it becomes very draining and painful. Even if it’s quite a well-regarded career. You need to know what you like to do, what you like to think about because you spend at least eight hours (and more) of your day doing it. So you need to make that experience as enjoyable as possible.
Second, I would say, go into an environment where you know that it is suitable for you. There are different environments in different places, and different people respond to different stimuli. That’s one of the key things that I’ve learnt in my time – the choice of the people you’re working with, the type of culture in the workplace, is one of the top things you can look for in a career. Spend some time researching, and thinking about what motivates you, some people love high-pressure jobs and thrive off them, others are more laid back, but that’s how they get the best work done, it depends on what works for you.