When applying for London Business School’s global business experience trip to Boston and New York, I had in mind that in my career I wanted to develop solar power stations in Africa. My intention had been to use the trip to understand what investors were looking for, so that I could ensure that my future projects were well aligned. By the time the trip came round, I had run the numbers for solar power plants in Africa and they weren’t as encouraging as I had hoped, especially for a continent with so much sunshine.
I arrived at the hotel bleary eyed and slightly disorientated. Not having been to the US before, it felt like I had wandered onto a film set. I found my way to a Starbucks and recharged with coffee and internet before launching myself into an incredibly intense yet rewarding week
We met with numerous high powered individuals and companies, in the world of American finance, including Seth Klarman, Harry Markopolos, Governor Deval Patrick, Fidelity Investments and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. We had an incredible snapshot.
A new direction came from discussing my future plans and vision with my cohort who offered some of the best career coaching I could have asked for. They pulled no punches in their advice, which is no surprise given that they are the future of international finance. They steered me towards private equity in renewable energy. A role that seems perfect, yet not one I had ever considered.
Inspiration came from Professor Andrew Lo of MIT who shared his work on novel ways to fund cancer research. As cancer drugs have become more targeted they have seen their market dwindle, impacting their profit margins and disenfranchising their current investors. However, by using securitisation and other tools used elsewhere in finance, it is possible to fund cancer research with debt and make the investment appealing to pension and sovereign wealth funds. This level of insight really gets the mind thinking about where else these financial tools can be used as a force for good.
Key financial contacts may seem like a given for a trip like this, however the generosity of the speakers was overwhelming and I feel, if I needed support from any of them in the future, that they would answer my call.
Finally – a whole new perspective. It may seem clichéd, but America really did feel like a land of opportunity. Despite the lingering echoes of recession and a government shutdown, life is good, things are on the up and money is available for the right project. I return however to the white stucco fronted streets of London with a certain warmth and renewed love for a country, which has allowed planners to do battle with developers and quiet but capable understatement to be the order of the day.