International College of Economics and Finance

ICEF Gave Me an Excellent Theoretical Grounding

ICEF 2006 alumnus Yuri Kiselev is now head of debt capital markets in Russia and the CIS at Société Générale. In an interview for the ICEF website Yuri talked about his career and education in Russia and abroad.

— Yuri, tell us about yourself! How did your career develop after you finished your master’s?

— After I got my bachelor’s at ICEF HSE in 2006 I decided to do a master’s at the Cass Business School at City University in London. At the beginning of 2007 UBS offered me a permanent position as an analyst, bypassing the usual internship for young specialists. In 2009 I moved to VTB Capital who had started to build their own investment activities on the debt capital markets. After a year, I decided that I was more attracted to international banking and accepted an offer to go back to UBS as a senior manager. Four years later I joined the debt capital team at Citibank as vice president. But less than a year had passed when I found myself in talks about the job of director with Société Générale and finally took their offer which I’m very happy about. I like what I do and the team of people I work with.

— Let’s go back to how it all began. What attracted you to ICEF way back in 2002?

— Choosing where to go took more time than choosing what to study, but after I visited the HSE open day, all my doubts vanished. I liked the atmosphere in the institute, the teachers and the prospects which lay ahead for me there. I realised that HSE was the place I wanted to study.

As for choosing a faculty, first I was drawn to studying for a double degree in English with University of London which opened up opportunities for future study abroad. I don’t think I gave it a lot of thought in 2002. I decided to apply for a master’s when I was in the third year of my bachelor’s. I was lucky, ICEF offered all the opportunities for it, you just had to get good grades and I could afford to boast about mine.

— Cass Business School is one of the best and provides practical financial skills. Did you have trouble learning them?

— No, not at all. ICEF gave me an excellent theoretical grounding. I think that is the point of the bachelor’s degree - to get the fundamental knowledge. On the master’s you learn how to put that knowledge into practice. It’s an opportunity to get an idea of how to apply theory and also to do something completely new. It was gratifying to realise my schooling at ICEF made studying at Cass a lot easier for me than for many of my fellow students. 

— How did you decide what to do after your first degree?

— I looked at descriptions of universities, their position in the overall rankings, which were the more interesting and stronger faculties, professors and careers of alumni. I had offers from LSE and Imperial College Business School. But I chose Cass because all the teachers at the business school were working or retired bankers, investment managers, traders, etc, who teach on the basis of real examples from their personal experience in work. I was interested in that particular approach to teaching and it determined my choice of university. 

— What advice would you give to new ICEF graduates who want to continue their studies abroad?

— When you chose a university abroad, don’t just go by the overall ratings. Of course Oxford, Cambridge and LSE will always come up on the list. A lot of my ICEF classmates went to these undoubtedly excellent universities but they are not the only ones offering high quality education. When you are choosing, take a good look at the faculties and the knowledge that you expect to gain.   

If you know the subject you want to develop in, look at the ratings which evaluate the teaching staff and concrete specialisations and courses. A business school might not have the reputation of LSE for example but in disciplines required for jobs in specific areas, they sometimes provide better teaching. 

There are also a lot of other factors which can guide you in your choice. In my case, I wanted to study in London because I think it made job hunting more efficient. 

— You have worked in Russian, Swiss and American banks. Are they different?

— I can’t say much about Russian banks as I only worked in them at the beginning of my career when all my attention was focused on learning and not on what was good or bad.

As far as international banks go, I think that collective and corporate culture is more significant than the nationality of the bank. I like the expression, ‘better to be a big fish in a small pond than a little fish in a big one’. Everyone understands it in whatever way suits them.

— What would you wish a newly graduated ICEF alumnus?

— Less than 50 roubles to the dollar! But seriously, to find a job that they like. You can’t earn all of the money anyway but it’s nicer to go to work everyday in a good mood because you are doing the thing you love. Good luck!

Ekaterina Rylko, for ICEF HSE

Interview on HSE portal >>>