Alumnus Nik Kraus (MSc in Investment & Finance, 2019) talks about how he was able to build relationships with people from very different backgrounds while at Queen Mary and his experience finding a job during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Why did you choose to pursue an MSc in Investment & Finance at Queen Mary?
I long believed I wanted to be an attorney. My dad is a successful corporate attorney in the United States and I always figured that was the career path for me. I interned several summers at a law firm in New York City and actually started my law degree at Rutgers University. I have always had an interest in the financial sector though, and ultimately I decided to drop out of law school and pursue a postgraduate degree in finance. I chose QMUL after several people I knew in the UK recommended their finance programs.
What are your fondest memories of your time at Queen Mary?
I would say my fondest memories are those of simply getting to study finance while living in London. I am from the New York City area, so city life was not new to me, but London is easily my favorite place that I have lived. Specific to Queen Mary, I would say it was building relationships with like-minded people from very different backgrounds (cultural, religious). It has been interesting staying in touch with them and seeing where their careers have taken them.
Who has been your biggest influence and why?
Specific to my career, I would say my biggest influence has been my most recent boss. She was a managing director at JP Morgan for many years, and a protege of the current CEO of our company, Frank Bisignano. To receive mentorship early in my career from someone who has experience working at the highest levels of the finance industry has been invaluable.
Congratulations on your new job at American Express! Could you tell us a bit more about your experience job hunting amid the Covid-19 pandemic?
I was in my most recent role for about two years. I felt like I had learned all I could from the job so I began applying to positions at other companies in the financial sector. Given the current job market I didn’t expect a significant amount of interest in my resume. Millions of people have lost their jobs over the past year and I had heard stories of experienced professionals applying to entry-level positions out of desperation. In the end though, I received offers from American Express, BNY Mellon, and Citigroup, so I was in a position where I could choose where I wanted to work.
To receive mentorship early in my career from someone who has experience working at the highest levels of the finance industry has been invaluable.
Why did you get into this field? What opportunities did you see?
I always wanted to work in an industry that is fast-paced and competitive. The finance industry is both. If you are going to work in finance, make sure you know what you are walking into. The hours can be long and it can be stressful at times. It can also be very enjoyable. You will meet many smart, interesting people and as you become more skilled at your job it is very fulfilling.
Tell us about a hard decision you had to make in your career? How did you deal with it?
The decision to leave my company and accept a job offer from Amex was a difficult decision. Switching jobs is not something to take lightly. Until you actually begin the new job, you have no idea what the experience will be like. You have to take risks to progress your career though, and when an opportunity presents itself you have to take it.
What, in your opinion, will be the greatest challenge facing investors in the coming few years?
Inflation and figuring out when to exit the market before it implodes. We are, without a doubt, experiencing the biggest bubble in history.
What practical advice do you have for students interested in investing?
Regarding retail investing my advice would be to be patient and invest with a long-term horizon. Look to make gains by capturing long-term overall market growth, rather than by trying to make a quick buck speculating. Keep in mind that there are two sides to every trade. There is a good chance that on the other side of your trade is an institutional investor with more experience, more funding, and much better technology than you have. The most important thing you can do before investing is read some books and do your research. The first book I read on investing was The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham.
Where do you see yourself in 2030?
I am living in New York City right now, but a long-term goal of mine is to move back to London and work in the City or Canary Wharf. Hopefully it happens sooner than 2030.