International College of Economics and Finance

‘At ICEF, I got the knowledge necessary for working in finance, while also making some enthusiastic friends’

This past summer, Srdan Todorovic successfully defended his Master’s thesis and graduated from ICEF’s Financial Economics programme. He now works in VTB Bank’s retail operations and is considering further graduate studies at HSE. In this interview, he talks about his favourite courses and teachers, what he got out of the Master’s programme, and how learning in Russia differs from Serbian education.

‘At ICEF, I got the knowledge necessary for working in finance, while also making some enthusiastic friends’

What was your educational background before the ICEF Master’s and why did you choose our college to continue your studies?

Before pursuing my Master’s, I graduated from the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation with distinction, where I got a Bachelor’s from the Faculty of International Economic Relations. Of course, when choosing a subject for further studies, I wanted to get a quality education, which would be useful for me in the future. Since I have lived most of my life in Russia, and Serbia and Russia are close in many ways, I opted to continue my education here.

I had three key criteria for choosing a Master’s at ICEF. Firstly, it is taught in English. After getting my Bachelor’s at the Faculty of International Economic Relations, where one needs two foreign languages, I wanted to keep up my language skills, and ICEF was the ideal place to do this. The second thing would be the teachers. The great thing about ICEF is that its professors have PhDs from leading European and American universities. Thirdly, the students there are very smart and motivated. The accomplishments of the programme’s alumni over the years have shown that ICEF attracts eager learners, and the opportunity to study and compete with these people can help one to improve.

How did you find out about the Financial Economic Master’s programme? Did you look at any other programmes?

I found out about the ICEF programme from my friends who at that time were pursuing an undergraduate programme here. I was intrigued because I only heard positive things. I found out about the programme in the fourth year of my Bachelor’s studies and looked into applying for it. There were other options, but, bearing in mind ICEF’s advantages, it was clearly the best choice.

Were your expectations met?

Yes, the programme met all my expectations. I got the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge in regards to finance, while also finding several enthusiastic friends, with whom I am still in contact. I would like to note that the programme actually exceeded my expectations. Students get a unique opportunity to get in contact with the programme’s alumni – informal meetings are organized with them as part of the study process.

After finishing your Master’s, what did you find most valuable at ICEF?

I think the best thing about ICEF is the people who you can meet during studies.

In regards to lectures and the study process, the most memorable courses were “Financial Economics II: Corporate Finance” with Sergey Stepanov and “Corporate Valuation Cases in Mergers and Acquisitions” with Vyacheslav Ivanov. These courses have helped me to understand the practical side of finance, which, of course, is a key factor in developing a career. I would also like to mention Ilya Schurov’s course - “Python for Data Collection and Analysis”. This was particularly useful for my Master’s thesis, which required automatic collection of large volumes of data, and also provided a basis for the further application of this programming language in practice. Furthermore, I really liked Oksana Smirnova’s seminars on financial economics and financial econometrics. Furthermore, the staff at the programme office was always ready to help me in regards to any problems I might have faced.

Please tell us about your thesis. Why did you select this particular topic?

For my Master’s thesis, I wrote on “The Influence of Trade Liberalization on M&A Deals”. After the first year, I had an internship at ICEF’s International Laboratory of Financial Economics, where my supervisor was Carsten Sprenger, and one of my jobs was to collect data on M&A deals in Russia. It sparked my interest in this topic. Secondly, current economic and political developments (trade wars, sanctions, regional trade agreements, etc.,) have had an enormous impact on how companies operate and how they approach M&A deals. These two factors were important for me when I was deciding on a Master’s topic. I am grateful to my academic supervisor, Professor Sprenger, who assisted me in developing my thesis topic and gave a chance to work at the laboratory.

How is studying at ICEF different from Serbian universities?

I can only comment on Serbian education from what I’ve heard from my friends, who have studied and are studying there. I think that the common features outstrip the differences. For instance, University of Belgrade launched a double degree programme in 2017 with LSE. It’s a Bachelor’s degree, similar to the ICEF programme, as it is based on LSE materials with visiting teachers.

What are your future plans? In which sphere (and country) do you want to work?

After finishing my Master’s, I wanted to apply my knowledge in real life. So, it was important for me to work in the finance sector. I am now working in both finance and data analysis in VTB’s retail business. Thanks to the ICEF Master’s programme, I not only got new knowledge but learned how to manage my time better, which, in turn, is important in my everyday work. However, I am also interested in continuing my research in corporate finance. So, I am now looking into doing a PhD at HSE.

Sofya Urmancheeva, for ICEF HSE