My summer at J.P. Morgan

Most MBA summer internships ended 3-4 weeks ago and Darden classes started pretty soon after. It’s been great to get back to Charlottesville, reconnect with my friends and learn about their diverse experiences from May – August. The fact that I am learning so much about the firms they interned at during our conversations despite having met many of the same firms on campus got me thinking about doing a blog series covering some of the major industries/sectors in a Q&A format. I hope this will help prospective students and first years considering these different positions. Since it’s easiest to get ball rolling by actually writing the first post myself, I’ll start by sharing some thoughts on my summer at J.P. Morgan (JPM):      

What were you doing at JPM at this summer?

I was a Summer Associate in the Private Bank and rotated through the investor desk in the Financial Sponsors group and then the Equity Solutions team. I spent the entire summer in New York although close to half of the 50 associates in the class spent one rotation in a regional office ranging from San Francisco to Miami.

PWM is money management for ultra-high net worth individuals (~$25m+ in investable assets), endowments and foundations. Almost every major bank on Wall Street and several boutique shops provide this service. Some of the larger firms have hundreds of billions of dollars in AUM.

What are the major tracks within PWM and why did you pick the roles you did?

The Strategy and Solutions teams help form and implement the firm’s investment thesis. As mentioned, I spent one rotation in equity solutions that implemented the firm’s views on equity markets. This involved ideation through individual stock research as well as implementation through structures that used a variety of options/derivatives on indexes and stocks.

My other rotation was as an investor in the Financial Sponsors Group that advises private equity clients. An investor provides portfolio management services for clients and requires a breadth of knowledge across all asset classes.

I did not rotate in the third position i.e. the banker role – given my interest in more market-facing work. Bankers are effectively relationship managers and quarterback all relationships with existing clients and are also responsible for bringing in new business to the firm. Banker-Investor pairs then tag team clients once JPM is managing the individual’s funds.

What were your major projects?

Both my teams had long-term projects for me to work on. These ranged from FX analysis to build a portfolio of diversified currencies for clients to top-down analysis of a region with identification of investment opportunities across sectors and asset classes. Besides longer term projects of this nature there were a plethora of day-to-day projects to assist the teams with portfolio construction and asset class research.

However, it was really interesting that the work for my teams only constituted 60% of my deliverables. The summer associates also spent a lot of time on intern projects such as a client investment pitch where we each did a 30 minute presentation to a managing director who pretended to be a client, built a business development proposal to identify new markets the firm could expand into, market drills that tested our knowledge of current issues dominating the news, etc. We were also lucky to be provided with a lot of learning and development opportunities including a four hour weekly class with a Vice Chairman of J.P. Morgan and a speaker series where we heard from the heads of almost every group within the bank.

The final piece of the internship that I consider a project in and of itself was networking. I met over 150 employees during my 10 weeks in New York to learn about the different parts of the firm and also demonstrate the soft skills that are essential for success in this business.

In addition to all the work did you get a chance to have a good time?

While the projects described meant that 90-100 hour work weeks were not uncommon, JPM also made sure that the summer associates had an opportunity to get to know each other and senior management in a more relaxed setting outside the office. Some of marquee events for me included a trip to the Hamptons for all the summer associates with a Vice Chairman of the Bank, a reception hosted at a country club by the CEO of the Private Bank, cocktails at the Deputy CEO’s house, an evening at a Mets game (if only the U.S. Open had started while we were working!) and a closing dinner in the executive dining room with a panoramic view of New York City. A couple of pictures that capture some of the fun:

ImageImage

What can I do to develop the relevant skills to work in PWM / asset management?

As you would expect, finance, economics and investing acumen are essential to advice the sophisticated client base that a firm like JPM works with. The courses in Darden’s core curriculum cover a lot of this material but Professor Warnock’s Global Financial Markets is an absolutely essential elective for a successful summer. I had also had the opportunity to complete the CFA program before coming to Darden and it definitely gave me a significant leg up at JPM.

In terms of extra-curricular activities, anyone interested in investment management, PWM, equity research, etc. must get involved in Darden Capital Management at school. I am the Senior Portfolio Manager for one of the five funds in this $8m student run portfolio and the importance of DCM from a learning and development perspective cannot be overstated.

This was a long post but I hope it was helpful. Keep a look out for posts in the coming weeks where I will interview my fellow Darden second years that interned in other sectors ranging from consulting and corporate finance to technology and corporate strategy.

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

WINNING MIT Sloan’s EdTech Case Competition!

Image

 

A few weeks ago, a team from Darden won MIT Sloan’s EdTech Case Competition. I was fortunate to be a part of this team with my classmates Sarah Sanchez, Arsh Ghuman and Ayush Bharti. The competition was not only a lot of fun but a great learning experience for all of us. While my engagements as a consultant to the DC Public School Systems had required me to apply my functional skill sets to solve educational challenges in the past, the case competition allowed me to work with individuals from a broad range of backgrounds as we strived to solve a common challenge. It’s only fitting that the guest post on this subject is written by the former teacher in the group – Sarah. The post is also a very informative read for all the non-traditional applicants who are in the process of determining how they will leverage their skills in more traditional roles post business school. Without further ado, here’s Sarah:  

When I started business school eight months ago, my non-traditional background as a Teach For America teacher turned community ed reformer led me to seek every bit of “real” business experience I could find.  This determination – to extend myself and truly learn – is part of why I chose Darden.  The strong, broad, core curriculum and the case method forces every student to be engaged and prepared for class.  Part of the reason I chose to go to business school was to pivot from the education sector to the business sector.  While I knew my passion for ed reform would reside within me forever, I felt ready to spread my wings, flex my muscles, and apply everything I’d learned to an entirely new sector. 

I felt I had struck a balance between staying connected to a movement I hold close to my heart and exploring a new arena for the majority of my first year, until I received an invitation to participate in a case competition with my section-mate, Rohan Poojara.  Despite my best efforts to differentiate myself from education, my comments in the 8 months of class we shared must have given away my passion for correcting issues affecting children without access to quality education (sorry I’m not sorry) because Rohan reached out to ask me to be on his EdTech case competition team.  After about 1.2 moments of hesitation, I agreed to enter MIT Sloan’s EdTech Case Competition with a stellar group of bright, diverse individuals.  Our backgrounds are as follows: Rohan spent time developing strategies to improve teacher effectiveness in DC Public Schools, Ayush developed apps and other technology platforms for Credit Suisse, Arsh had experience as a consultant and a small business owner, and I was an elementary school teacher in Washington, DC.  I couldn’t imagine a better opportunity to integrate my expertise in education issues with the new “business lady” into whom I was developing. 

Joining this team and devoting the time and effort we put into our final product is hands down one of the best experiences I have had at Darden so far.  We did not know each other very well, but that did not stop us from gelling quickly around a purpose that resonated with each of us in its own way.  In many ways, our case team and experience working together was emblematic of the lessons we learn in both our hard-skill and our soft-skill classes at Darden.  We respected each other, listened to one another, challenged each other, and defined our own roles while collaborating at the same time.  An understanding of, and an unspoken commitment to these soft skills gave us room to show off our strengths, which ranged from software development to presentation design to an ability to think on one’s feet.  We were confident in our product yet humble in our delivery, and in the end, we were all shocked that we WON the whole competition!  Needless to say, I was thrilled to have won with this dream team, but more importantly, I walked away from the experience realizing the value in leveraging my strengths while taking risks.  If someone had asked me to participate in a private equity case competition (this would not have happened), I would not have been able to make the same contribution I was able to make to this team.  In other words, it’s IMPORTANT to know what you’re really good at – only then will you be able to push the boundaries learn even more, and become an even better version of yourself.  Many thanks to Rohan, Ayush, and Arsh for helping me discover this while at Darden.  It is undoubtedly a lesson that will guide me throughout my life as I continuously strive to be a better me.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Darden in Singapore!

My fellow blogger, Caroline Kalinoski, and I have both written about our December Kaizen trip to Miami. Our Section-mate, Su Liu, went on an arguably even more exciting Kaizen trip to Singapore over spring break with seven other Darden students and graciously agreed to share his experience: 

Image

Singapore

Spring break in Singapore?  This was the sixth iteration of the international Darden-Danaher kaizens, an event where Danaher Corporation, a $33b conglomerate, sponsors a handful of first and second year Darden students to participate in one of its week-long continuous improvement activities.  This year 8 students participated.

A few of us arrived a couple days early to check out Singapore.  We discovered that Singapore is a very friendly walking city.  In three days we packed in walking most of downtown, little India, Chinatown,  a day on the beach (Sentosa Island), the night safari, botanical gardens, and multiple trips to the Marina bay area.  The city was awesome, but the best part was by far the food.  It was everywhere and everything we tried was better than the thing we had before.

Durian

 

Image

I can’t in good conscience talk about this kaizen without bringing up the most memorable experience…Durian.  Durian resembles a spikey pineapple (see above).  The fruit itself has a large seed inside with the meat surrounding that seed and has a unique smell and taste. See this YouTube video for explanation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQj-hFfmYkQ

The Singaporeans love it so much that it’s their national fruit and one of their large theaters is modeled after the fruit.  For visitor like us, it was quite an experience…

After a weekend of fun we started our Kaizen bright and early on Monday morning.

Kaizen

Kaizen is Japanese for “improvement.”  It is a lean tool that was pioneered by the Japanese during their rebuilding efforts after WWII and has since become a catch-all for process improvement.  A typical kaizen is a week-long event with a very narrow focus.  The goal is to complete the improvement during the week (as opposed to other “events” where lists of ideas are generated that no one has time to work on).  Kaizen teams are typically composed of a process owner, sponsor, facilitator, a team of people who do the work, and sometimes outsiders for a fresh perspective.

 Image

Leica

Leica Microsystems, one of Danaher’s subsidiaries, hosted us this year.  They had the most amazing personnel I have ever worked with.  In manufacturing plants, particularly old plants, there’s often a self-defeating culture.  When it comes to lean and continuous improvement, you can’t get away from hearing things like, “We’ve done it like this for 30 years, nothing’s going to change.”  Leica wasn’t like this at all.  They had an amazing culture where everyone seemed open to trying something new.  It was really refreshing to see that kind of culture at a plant.

Our kaizen group was divided into 3 teams that each had the opportunity to work on a different area.  Each of the three teams was split into two standard work projects and one supply chain project.  I was assigned to a standard work team and my project was to support auditing and updating a visual board.  The visual board basically visually represented the current production/operations in the area.  It had places for hundreds of little yellow cards that represented customer orders.  Each of these kanban cards provided an instantaneous “snapshot” of how the process was doing and where inventory was held up.

We spent the first day in training, then the next three or so developing and implementing solutions, and the last day on a report-out.  Overall it was an amazing experience.  From a student, it’s very difficult to get a holistic picture of a company or role from a briefing, networking call, or interview.  The kaizen really provides a good view of what life is like inside a manufacturing plant and in particular what the culture is like at Danaher. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Solving World Hunger: Crickets?

I had discussed my participation in the Hult Prize in a blog post last month. While we did not win the regionals in Boston a few weeks ago, I had a terrific experience with my Darden teammates and learned a lot by speaking with like-minded students from other universities. We all found the winning team’s idea particularly inspirational and one of my teammates, Chirag Jain, wrote a blog post about the same that I wanted to share below:

The Hult Prize is a collaboration of the Hult School and the Clinton Global Initiative that attracts thousands of business students across the world every year. The prize is a start-up accelerator that provides the winning team $1 million to launch a business that tackles a particular global issue.

In 2013, the competition involved developing a solution to a global hunger epidemic affection over 200 million urban poor. Teams were provided a Case Study that challenged them to provide a solution that would significantly improve food security in urban slums by 2018. From thousands of applicants, 267 teams were selected and invited to 1 of 5 regional competitions. The Darden Team (pictured below) was one of ~50 schools attending the Boston regional.

 Hult-Pic 1

Left to Right: Chirag Jain, Rohan Poojara, Saumya Chaturvedi, Su Liu, Garrett Wilson

 Hult-Pic 2

FUD HUB: Low-cost platform supporting urban agriculture (Email JainC14@darden.virginia.edu for more information)

While we are confident in the merits of our own submission (see FUD HUB), I’m writing about the winning team and an idea that commanded the applause of an auditorium of students from across the country. The question is simple.

Would you ever eat a cricket?

While the question might seem rhetorical, the stunning fact is that some 30% of the world population is conditioned to eating crickets in their normal diet. Considered a seasonal treat, crickets are available from Africa to Asia and are commonly sold in poorer neighborhoods. Is this the groundbreaking thought that might make inroads into urban poverty and hunger?

Hult-Pic 3

Cricket Farming

There are a couple of elements to the proposal. The 3 factor model below outlines the various stakeholders and benefits below. But before proceeding, I must recognize the winning team from McGill University for their extraordinary idea. I am confident in this team’s ability to leverage inspiration into action, and am challenged to pursue the same. Congrats to the regional finalists (here)

1. Entrepreneurial Farmers

The team proposed a proprietary farming system that could be distributed to slum residents that could allow them to harvest crickets year-round. A low cost, portable farming solution, participants would be able to consume a portion of their harvest and sell the balance back to the company. This would not only provide nutrition at the slum-level, but also an additional source of stable income.

2. Sustainable Food Source

Crickets are a high-protein food source that are an excellent supplement. Given the high cost of meat, this is often absent in a low-income diet. Furthermore, crickets are low methane emitters and are far better for the environment than cattle. They also consume less land and flora per portion of edible meat.

3. Lucrative Products

Previous attempts at commercializing crickets have failed due to the limited size of the cricket market. The business relies to 2 additional sources of revenue.

After buying back the surplus crickets from its entrepreneur network the company can pursue 3 objectives.

A. Sell the crickets as is to consumers

B. Use the cricket proteins to fortify flour. This protein enriched flour can be sold at a premium in the market and deliver better nutritional value.

C. The cricket exoskeleton is a valuable source for Chitin, a long-chain polymer with applications in industry, agriculture and medicine.

Combined, these sources of revenue make the business model sustainable and feasible. It may not solve world hunger, but its one hell of an idea.

*************************************************************

Hult-Pic 4

*************************************************************

So why did this idea win? Will it solve world hunger?

No.

But it does represent a desire in us to unlock some secret formula for change. There were many great ideas present, but Crickets won because it dared to be different. It challenged our preconceptions and still met hte burden of proof.

Did it deserve to win?

Perhaps. Perhaps Not.

There were many ideas that didn’t win. Idea, that though dull, were the most needed. I’m not going to wave my own standard, but we chose infrastructure because infrastructure is sorely lacking. Some teams worked on micro-funding models because despite the emergence of micro-finance, funding is still lacking. Some teams developed market-making model because price visibility and stable prices are still lacking. I can’t list them all here, but these ideas are viable and beneficial. They are the simple, accessible, low-hanging fruit. The problem is that the low-hanging fruit is rarely inspiring. Its the ‘we could do that‘ in all of us that makes us belittle the simple achievements.

I really hope that the cricket idea takes off! It’ll inspire many of us to keep dreaming. However, I also hope that we will not forget the forest for the trees and miss the small steps that are required to make big ideas work.

Good luck to the 2014 Darden team and I hope you pursue a change you believe in!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Finals, End of LT and Sections, and Club Leadership

We’re in the midst of Term 4 exams at Darden. This may come as a surprise to some of you but the exam period is often the most relaxing in the term. When classes are in full swing, we’re busy with case preparation, networking/recruiting activities, club events and various competitions. All of this dies down for the exam week. Additionally, we’re free to give exams anywhere and at any time of the day. There are a lot of folks that leave Charlottesville and take exams from the comfort of their homes. Others finish up all their exams in a couple of days and take the remaining 4-5 days of the exam period to relax. Of course you always have a few diligent hard-workers (or unprepared slackers, depending on your perspective) like me who will be taking exams in the library until the last day. 🙂

Besides the onset of exams, the end of term 4 classes was bittersweet for another reason. When we return from spring break, we’ll have a few weeks together with our sections but then begin taking electives. While I’m excited about the classes I’ll be taking (Valuation, Global Financial Markets and Entrepreneurship), I’m going to miss the familiarity and comfort of working with my learning team and section on a daily basis.

IMG_5084

During the last few weeks of term 4, we also had elections for a change of guard in the leadership of the various clubs and organizations at Darden. I played an active role in several clubs over this year and am excited about working closely with the leadership team of these organizations to continue the good work done by the Class of 2013. In particular, I’ll be the Senior Portfolio Manager of the Rotunda Fund in Darden Capital Management, a student-run fund that manages over $6.5 million of the school’s endowment and provides students with the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in investment analysis and portfolio management. Given my interest in development and social impact, I’ll also be serving as a Vice President for Net Impact and the Emerging Market Development Club. Finally, I’ll be continuing my work on the Admissions Committee as we plan Darden Days for admitted students and of course the most fun position of them all – a Darden Student Blogger!

That’s enough procrastination – I’m off to study for my Operations final.

Aside | Posted on by | 5 Comments

Darden First Year – Second Innings

I’m excited about the upcoming long weekend as I’ll be in DC to witness President Obama’s inauguration. As he begins his second term, we (FY students) will be starting the second half of our first year at Darden. While the President did not enjoy a long December vacation as he tried to negotiate a deal with Republicans to prevent the country going over the fiscal cliff, a lot of FYs recruiting for on-campus internships probably felt just as busy. We were on job treks and then doing interview prep that involved some combination of cases, company research and technical review depending on our industries of choice.

So what did my break involve? I started with Darden’s New York job trek, aptly dubbed Week on Wall Street. This was followed by a week in Miami to participate in a kaizen event at Danaher Corporation’s Beckman Coulter facility. While we unfortunately did not get to relax on the beach given our long work days, it was a great learning experience. A classmate, Caroline Kalinoski, who also participated in the kaizen event and is a fellow Darden blogger, has written an entire post on our experience in Miami. Check it out here

After Miami, I went home to Mumbai, India for a couple of weeks. While this was my time to do interview prep, I also had the chance to spend some quality time with my family and friends. The only downside was that I fell sick for a couple of days. I guess one loses immunity to the Indian bugs after living in the U.S. for several years. This was particularly depressing as I couldn’t enjoy the delicious Indian roadside delicacies while I was recovering.

After returning to the U.S. last week, I started interviewing for summer internships and was fortunate to land a gig within the first few days. As I wait for classes to start now, I’ve been helping my friends and classmates with their interview preparation. Looking back at the last five months the camaraderie among my classmates, even when we were competing for the same position has served as evidence that everything I was told during my Darden interviews about the school’s collaborative culture holds true and is not a marketing line used by the admissions staff.

There’s a lot to look forward to in the months before we start our internships in May/June. This includes Darden Cup events like dodge ball, bowling and cricket (yes, cricket at an American business school!); more case competitions like the 2013 Hult Prize President’s Challenge that I’m participating in with some of my classmates; and preparing to take on leadership positions in clubs from graduating SYs. First, however, I’m waiting to see my section in class on Tuesday as we begin our last term of required courses together before splitting up to take electives. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Black November, UVA Investing Conference & Diwali

The month of November is caustically referred to as “Black November” by Darden first year students. The convergence of networking events, resumes and cover letter submissions for internships, exams, and the onset of cold temperatures requires us to bring our A-game every day to stay on top of things. While I have definitely felt the pressure during activities ranging from a grueling all-nighter for Deloitte’s case competition to just completing my case-load on especially busy days, it’s been an exciting month overall.

The event that led me straight to my computer to write this post was University of Virginia’s Investing Conference (UVIC) held at Darden over the last two days. I was eagerly anticipating the event because Vincent Reinhart, my boss at my job prior to Darden, was one of the speakers at last year’s UVIC and had really enjoyed the event. Over 650 visitors descended upon Charlottesville for the conference this year which boasted of an impressive line-up of speakers from business and policy arenas. They included Sheila Bair, former Chairman of the FDIC; Dennis Lockhart, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; David Rubenstein, co-CEO of the Carlyle Group; and John Taylor, the Stanford economics professor whose research led to the famous Taylor Rule for setting interest rates. Several experts from hedge funds, private equity firms, think tanks and corporations also spoke at the conference.  UVIC has definitely been one of my favorite Darden events so far and I’m looking forward to next year’s conference.

Image

Besides UVIC, this week has been a lot of fun as I have celebrated Diwali, the traditional Indian festival, on campus. There have been a host of parties and dinners that have been attended not only by Indians but by our friends of all nationalities representing the diversity of Darden and tight bonds in the community. I’m now looking forward to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner organized by the Student Affairs Office for all international students before I head off to spend the holiday with my family in Connecticut.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment