Monday, February 1, 2010

What’s new in January…

Earlier in Jan, I was in Amsterdam for the weekend, with a friend who goes to B-school at Wharton. It was fun hanging out with her after what seemed like an eternity since we last did this - while we were still neighbors in Boston. I must recommend the Anne Frank house -- its very surreal and poignant.

I just returned from a fantastic trip to Gothenburg, Sweden, where I visited my dear friends from Boston, and I got to hold their brand spanking new baby, spit-up and all. It was awesome to see them flourish and care for a newborn without breaking stride. We took a day trip to Vargarda in the beautiful snow-covered countryside, to see old friends who also live in Sweden. Watching their kids go downhill with their sleds was way fun. Its a blessing having friends with whom one can slip into a comfortable space – no matter how many months and years have passed since you last met them.

In the meanwhile, I have a few weekend Eurotrips planned until mid-April when I am officially done with graduation requirements. After this I plan on taking a two week trip each month for three months to S. America, China/Hongkong/Singapore, and N. Africa/Turkey/Lebanon.

Besides this, I am psyched that the Lev Fin team at Nomura has been awarded two major mandates by KKR and Permira. Things are looking up for PE. I am looking forward to joining Nomura in the fall. My 2nd year project with Warburg Pincus is going swimmingly and my extra-curricular education is going great guns. I'm currently reading "The Essential Buffet" which is a great introduction not just to Buffet himself, but a synthesis of the collective wisdom of Benjamin Graham, Charlie Munger and Philip Fisher.

"Cityboy" by Geraint Anderson currently serves the equivalent role of the "National Enquirer" or "Daily Mirror". I have to admit the book is a very very exaggerated take on bankers and is less ably written than either "Liar's Poker" or "Monkey Business". It's more a take on how the author adapted to the banking lifestyle – than a comment on how bankers behave, especially in this day and age.

"'Who is Cityboy? He's every brash, suited, FT-carrying idiot who ever pushed past you on the tube. He's the egotistical buffoon who loudly brags about how much cash he's made on the market at otherwise pleasant dinner parties. He's the greedy, ruthless wanker whose actions are helping turn this world into the shit-hole it's rapidly becoming. For one period in my life, he was me.' In this no-holds-barred, warts-and-all account of life in London's financial heartland, Cityboy breaks the Square Mile's code of silence in his own inimitable style, revealing explosive secrets, tricks of the trade and the corrupt, murky underbelly at the heart of life in the City. Drawing on his experience as a young analyst in a major investment bank, the six-figure bonuses, monstrous egos, and the everyday culture of verbal and substance abuse that fuels the world's money markets is brutally exposed as Cityboy describes his ascent up the hierarchy of this intensely competitive and morally dubious industry, and how it almost cost him his sanity."

Uhhhh …. Spare us the invective! But nevertheless it's a trove of funny anecdotes and British-isms (good Lord! These Brits have slang for every word that exists in the English dictionary including the word 'is'). Here is a link to the blog

On the music front, I'm suddenly into The Cure again with "Just Like Heaven" and have managed to nail-down the guitar chords to my all-time favorite song "Supersonic" by Oasis, amongst others.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shameless plug for London Business School (FT Rankings) …

League table winners and losers - By Michael Jacobs

Published: January 25 2010 00:01 | Last updated: January 25 2010 00:01 (Financial Times)

The Financial Times Global MBA rankings for 2010 see London Business School claim the coveted number one spot, having shared the prize with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2009.

Comments from alumni of the school's 2006 MBA class, surveyed in 2009 as part of the 2010 rankings process, point to a broad educational experience. "One of the best decisions of my life was to go to LBS for a full-time MBA," says one alumnus. "[It] has enriched my life, from education to career development, to making new friends and gaining new perspectives."

Another adds: "You not only learn from the school curriculum but from the deep cultural diversity of the student population. There is no place else that can offer this advantage to the extent that London Business School does."

LBS is ranked eighth in the world by the FT for faculty research, and it is ranked fifth for alumni recommendations in 2010. Compiled from data collected by the FT from the classes of 2004, 2005 and 2006, this indicator is based on the business schools from which the survey's participants would recruit MBA graduates.

LBS is almost top of the table for international mobility, too, second only to IMD. This not only reflects the international make-up of the student body, but also the world view of the programme. One alumnus explains: "I believe that this is one of the very few business schools that has really understood what a globalised world means, and one of the few in the world where one can have a real understanding of global business in the classroom."

The gradual rise of LBS in the FT MBA table over 12 years – it was ranked eighth in the inaugural MBA ranking in 1999 and had attained second position by 2008 – indicates a broader trend: the diminishing dominance of US-based schools over the past decade. Joining LBS in the top 25 in the 1999 rankings were 20 US-based schools and four other European institutions. The FT rankings introduced a top 100 in 2001 and, again, the top 25 contained 21 US schools. Since then, the number of US schools in the top 25 has decreased, reaching 11 in 2008, and this year. The remaining 14 schools in 2010 are made up of 11 from Europe and three from Asia.

One important factor helps explain this shift: from around 2005 onwards, the return on investment from studying an MBA, measured in terms of salary increase, fell considerably, especially in the US.

It was once commonplace for MBA graduates to triple their salary between starting their programme and three years after graduation. But such increases are now rare. Between the 2000 and 2003 FT MBA rankings, alumni from at least 20 of the top 25 schools enjoyed a salary increase in excess of 150 per cent. Given the US bias of schools in the top 25 during that period, almost all the big pay increases related to schools based in the US. In comparison, the 2010 table includes just two alumni groups out of the 100 with such levels of growth in income. Neither is based in the US.

Why has an MBA become less effective in boosting pay? First, while the calibre of students entering a programme has stayed more or less the same over the past decade in terms of age, experience and seniority, salary data relating to earnings before the degree have increased consistently year-on-year.

At the same time, salaries obtained three years after graduating from an MBA have not increased at the same rate. In fact, the average salary of the class of 2006 is more or less in line with that earned by the class of 1999, a decrease in real terms. Consequently, salary increases have been squeezed, reaching an average of just below 100 per cent in 2009.

In spite of the fall in the number of US schools in the top 25, the league of 100 still has a strong contingent of schools based in the US – 56 of those ranked in 2010 are located there. The UK is the second most represented country, with 17 programmes listed. Overall, the top 100 includes 20 different countries.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Africa trip update …..

I wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas! It's a bit late in the posting owing to the fact that I was literally in the wilderness and thereafter in transit from Africa to India, encountering delays and a lost luggage situation which took ages to resolve.

The Kili climb over 6 days was great fun - damp, wet, cold, dusty, tiring fun accompanied by large doses of banter and yuk-it-up! I didn't make it to the summit which was a slight bummer. Summit night (starting midnight) was stymied by a high fever and chills which in addition to Altitude Mountain Sickness (pounding headaches, nosebleeds, projectile vomit) made it a fool's errand to attempt a slope which at many places is a vertical climb with opportunities to go right off the cliff. At that point, its not physical endurance but mental fortitude that counts, and with a fever – this would have been a definite disaster. Like a good B-schooler, I would not have recognized when to call it quits and turn back, and would have kept pushing myself until I made a mistake and at the very least came home in a cast, if not in a casket. So I happily camped out at 4660 meters with others, while a few of my more able LBS colleagues successfully attempted the summit (both Stella Point and Uhuru Peak @ circa 5900 meters). I feel reassured that I could have made the summit (roughly 1300 meters more), the climb being about the same as Ben Nevis which I had successfully climbed in earlier this year.

I won't bore you with the usual story regarding the different terrains one experiences – rainforest, alpine desert etc. and the climes – cold, v. cold, raining, hot, v. hot etc. There are many blogs that tell that story. The only advice I would give potential climbers is a) 10-15% of the route is actually quite dangerous and b) attempt the summit over seven days using the Machame Route. Six days is a killer and the other routes do not allow for acclimatization.

Kili was followed by a safari in Ngorongoro Crater and then in the Seregenti. We stayed in tents, with the local fauna prowling outside, within meters of where we slept. The entire Africa trip was incredible – being so close to nature, being elemental. I've never seen a night sky so filled with stars. And the people we encountered were simply fantastic. Having read Guns, Germs and Steel and then having experienced the continent was a happy serendipity! I have great hope for where Africa is headed.

In the meanwhile, I finished reading "Bad Science" and "Predictably Irrational". I would not recommend the former. Now, I'm on "What got you here won't get you there" (see below, comments left by the author Marshall Goldsmith on my blog post). Its an amazing reckoning of the hard-to-self-diagnose interpersonal behavioural flaws that hold us back in our personal and professional lives. I needed this long-overdue nudge, and am using it to structure my resolutions for 2010. All in all, I'm pretty psyched about 2010, finishing up B-school by mid April and travelling more before starting work full-time in July. I'm looking forward to strengthening new friendships and renewing old ones. And I hope to catch up on a few lingering hobbies – brush up on French, play the two guitars which I bought off my flatmate and of course, hitting the links.

With that I wish you a prosperous 2010! More adventures to come!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Kilimanjaro, Serengeti and onwards

Apologies for the tardiness in postings from the great beyond. Life has been a bit busier than usual, although I took just one Advanced Finance elective this Fall trimester in addition to a block week on Corporate Turnarounds. The courses had both highs and lows, but all in all I like the block week format – one week, one elective, done! In the meanwhile, I interviewed with Morgan Stanley and had an invite to speak with Credit Suisse, but they way things were going, I decided to sign with Nomura. Additionally, a fellow LBS'er and I will be doing our 2nd year project with PE firm Warburg Pincus.

On the life front, I spent a few rejuvenating days in Boston for Thanksgiving, met up with old friends, walked my two favorite dogs, had roast duck instead of turkey for T'day dinner and went to a Celtics game. I'm almost through every past season of the Simpsons. On the books front, I'm reading Guns, Germs and Steel (which I should have read eons ago) – it's a fantastic treatise on why history evolved in the way it has. Most people point to the Renaissance and subsequent colonialization as being the root-causes for the way the world has turned out today, development-wise. They flippantly ascribe the ascendancy of the west to a suite of reasons that are easy to rationalize. But the truth is more complex than this.

Tomorrow, I leave for Tanzania with eight other LBS'ers – we're climbing Kilimanjaro – a 7-day semi-ordeal along the Machame Trail and then going on Safari in the Serengeti for a few days. Then onwards to Mumbai for me, where I'll see the extended fam. I will blog more about the climb on return. In the meanwhile, here is what's on my reading list (courtesy of James Montier). I doubt I'll get through all the books on the list by July.

Investment 101 -The classics

‘Security Analysis’ by Ben Graham and David Dodd (The sixth edition)

Chapter 12 of ‘The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’ by John Maynard Keynes

‘Theory of Investment Value’ by John Burr Williams

‘Manias, Panics and Crashes’ by Charles Kindelbeger

‘Reminiscences of a Stock Operator’ by Edwin Lefevre

Investment 201

‘Fooling some of the People, All of the Time’ by David Einhorn

‘The Fundamental Index’ by Rob Arnott et al

‘The Investor's Dilemma’ by Louis Lowenstein

‘Financial Shenanigans’ by Howard Schilit

‘Creative Cash Flow Reporting’ by Charles Mulford and Eugene Comiskey

Modern wonders

‘The Little Book That Beats the Market’ by Joel Greenblatt

‘The Little Book of Value Investing’ by Chris Browne

‘Fooled by Randomness’ by Nassim Taleb

‘Contrarian Investment Strategies’ by David Dreman

‘Speculative Contagion’ by Frank Martin


‘Robots Rebellion’ by Keith Stanovich

‘Strangers to Ourselves’ by Tim Wilson

How We Know What Isn't So’ by Tom Gilovich

‘The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis’ by Richard Heuer Jnr

‘Predictably Irrational’ by Dan Ariely

‘Mistakes Were Made, But Not by Me’ by Carol Travis and Elliot Aronson

‘Mindset’ by Carol Dweck

Hidden gems

‘Halo Effect’ by Phil Rosenzweig

‘Mindless Eating’ by Brian Wansink

‘The Inefficient Stock Market’ by Robert Haugen

‘The Margin of Safety’ by Seth Klarman

‘Your Money and Your Brain’ by Jason Zweig

‘Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance’ by Atul Gawande

‘Why Smart Executives Fail’ by Sydney Finkelstein

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

GSK CEO Andrew Witty and Dr Sanjay Gupta to visit London Business School

Following last year's successful healthcare conference headlining Roche Pharma CEO Bill Burns, McKinsey Healthcare lead partner Nicolaus Henke and Goldman Sachs Healthcare MD Jon Symonds, The London Business School Healthcare Club takes great pleasure in inviting you to the 2nd Annual London Business School Global Healthcare Conference to be held on the evening of 30th November 2009.

"Challenging The Status Quo" brings together some of the most influential figures in healthcare and offers a unique insight into key developments and emerging ideas in this dynamic industry.

Opening Keynote Speech – Andrew Witty CEO, GlaxoSmithKline

Closing Speech – Dr Sanjay Gupta, Chief medical correspondent for CNN & Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine

Healthcare Provision in Emerging Markets
Dr Gunther Faber (CEO, Healthstore Foundation)
Maria Largey (Director of Philanthropy & Strategic Partnerships, Opportunity International)
Adrian Gut (Head of Market Development, Medtronic)
Mathieu Lamiaux (Healthcare Partner, The Boston Consulting Group)

Innovations in Healthcare
Sir William Castell (GE board member, Wellcome Trust Chairman)
Alan MacKay (Global Lead Healthcare Partner, 3i)
Dr Genghis Lloyd-Harris (Partner, Abingworth Life Sciences)

Links to the conference: