Essex Business School

Andrew's story

Man in trench coat standing outside Essex Business School

My name is Andrew Haley and I am a Performance Analyst at a London-based hedge fund.

How did you get interested in the field of finance?

I did my undergraduate in Business Management at ARU and then I went to work for a wealth management company for a year and a half. It was then that I decided that I wanted to push myself a little bit more and came to Essex to study my Masters. 

I studied business for my undergraduate degree because I wasn't really sure what I was doing with my life and I thought it was a course where everything was covered: marketing, economics, statistics. You name it, it’s in there. And then as I got into year two, I started to get more into the economics and the mathematical side and I came out of my undergraduate and I still wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to go into the finance area based on my interest from my undergraduate.

At this time, I had a friend who was working at a firm called Fisher Investments. Their asset management side is in the US and their wealth management operations are all over the world but are headquartered in London. So, my friend introduced me to the wealth management team and I managed to get started there in a Sales Associate role. I kind of did a bit of everything, some data analytics, but also pushing the sales through.

Again, I knew I liked finance, but I wasn't too sure what I wanted to do then, but because I was working on the analytical side, I became more and more interested in that. I started to drill down into that and started to look at what I could do as a career in data analytics and finance.

I realised that to push myself more into the asset management side of finance then I needed to have a bit more of a bulk of qualifications behind me. So, I started looking for a Masters. I came across Essex and thought, actually, that's absolutely perfect for me and what I want to do.

I took a year out and studied full-time but I worked part-time as well! I had worked at a call centre during my undergraduate course and I gave them a call and told them I was going to be doing a post grad and I needed a job for nine months and they said: “yeah, come on back”! There were even quite a few people who were still there from my first time and they were like “Oh, you’re back!”

Why did you choose Essex for MSc Finance and Investment?

It was a combination of things really. Essex had recently shot up the rankings and this really impressed me, and screamed out at me when I started my research. I thought: “okay, they must be doing something really good there". I started looking into the Masters courses and at the time I still lived at home and I knew I was going to have to do a Masters degree somewhere local or somewhere in London. If I did it in London then I’d have to pay for travel. If I did it more locally, it would be a lot easier for me because I could drive! The combination of circumstances was just perfect and that meant that, for me, there was no alternative.

I chose MSc Finance and Investment because I wanted to go more into the analytical side of finance. There were quite a lot of options but I wanted something that had both the mathematical side as well as the finance side.

I had a few choices. Computational finance was one of them but that's too heavy on the computing side for me, too much coding. If I wanted to be a front office developer then I think I could have done that, but I wasn't sure that’s what I wanted to do. And I know people at the hedge fund where I work at the moment who have done courses similar in computational finance and they say that area definitely opens doors but I wasn't sure it was for me.

I was more interested in mathematics, numbers and the economics of them as well. So MSc Finance and Investment had the best combination of everything I wanted. It had the core modules that I wanted to do and others that I wanted to have exposure to.

The Masters opened me right up to asset management. As soon as I had that MSc Finance and Investment with the Asset Management modules on my CV, I was getting more call-backs from recruiters and there was definitely a lot more interest in me because I had that Masters degree under my belt.

What were your most useful modules?

Portfolio Management, that was probably the most useful module in terms of what I was exposed to that now helps me in my current role. In my role at the moment, we have a lot of data come in from different areas, both internally and externally, and we have to bring it all together, and calculate our numbers off those data sets and then send it back to the business; so there’s a lot of maths involved. A lot of it is feeding data in and it spits out the numbers for you but you need to know at the same time what those numbers mean and if there's a problem, how you would back calculate it. 

Portfolio Management involved a lot of those equations and a lot of the mathematical thinking behind it is what I do now on a day-to-day basis.

Also, Dr Thanos Triantafyllou’s Trading and the Risk Management modules had a lot of information about types of contracts and types of assets and how they trade. You need to know that in order to know whether this number that I've calculated looks right and seems sensible for the asset or contract that I'm calculating it off. Those modules helped with a lot of my understanding of these areas.

I have just completed my level one CFA and there is a big module on quants and Professor Simon Price’s module, Research Methods in Finance, had a big quant focus and that really helped me for my CFA. 

Simon has also agreed to give me a reference for my PhD; Thanos will be my other referee.

Your current role

My current job title is a Performance Analyst. So, like I said, there's a lot of data that goes around a business and it's part of our roles to find out how funds have been performing and present it back to the business.

It’s a lot of maths and data science but I want to become a quantitative analyst, so for me this role has the perfect combination of everything I need to do in the future and the right exposure as well.

You work directly with the portfolio managers and the analysts as well. So, if there is a problem or if something doesn't seem like it's calculating correctly, you can go through them and you can drill down into those calculations and find out what's going wrong and go from there.

You get good exposure to other parts of the business as well. I know people on the sales side and obviously our numbers feed into what the sales guys are doing and how they articulate that to a client. So, we talk a lot to the marketing and sales guys as well.

Career ambitions

My future ambition is to be a Quantitative Analyst and if you look up those job roles online, even the junior ones, they're always looking for a PhD and then a Masters as a minimum. So, they really want PhD graduates in those roles. 

I never really liked education until I went to university, and then I really liked it, especially the research side. I get a kick out of looking into things and finding out what and why these processes work alongside each other.

I think that even if I didn't have a career in this, I think I'd still end up doing a PhD at some point in my life. It would probably be when I'm much older. But because I want to improve my career now, I’m doing it at this point.

I think my PhD thesis will look at econometrics. So, social science and social statistics mixed together.

My career ambitions probably sit within hedge funds. I want to stay working where I am while I complete my PhD and if you want to get to consultant level then you need a long career in it.