• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site

'I have always wanted to be versatile'

'I have always wanted to be versatile'

You are currently based in London. Have you always known you wanted to live abroad?

My home town is Naryan-Mar, which lies beyond the Arctic Circle and is part of Arkhangelsk province. When I was three, my parents moved to Samara, where I did eleven years of schooling at a classical school preparatory to the university. It was in my final years at school that I made my mind to study economics and finance. I chose to go to HSE and complete one the most promising financial economics programmes at ICEF. I took interest in finance thanks my high-school years when I began to learn stock trading – the experience I was absolutely blown away by. Naturally, I wanted to do my degree at one of the most prestigious education providers in Russia. Together with English as the language of instruction, the prospect of doing a double degree at reputable universities in Russia and abroad has been a huge asset.

London won me later, in 2010, when I went to the London School of Economics for its summer courses. I had learned a lot about London by the time I got there, and I felt it fit me perfectly as a place to study in, to work and live.

London boasts such a high cultural diversity and has an incredibly high concentration of fascinating people

This has probably been, and still is, my biggest impression of this place. London is simply unrivaled in terms of international experience, professional communication and perspectives.

Can you give examples of how London can benefit professionals as the world’s global financial centre?

The first thing about it is opportunities. As with any professional, I would like to work in a place that would open wider horizons for me, and London stands on a par with New York as to achieving one’s professional potential through involvement in top-level international transactions. The second great thing about London is its truly nourishing and inspiring environment. This city helps you to change and makes you want to demand more of yourself. You learn to look critically at what you do and to benefit as much as you can from cultural diversity.

In London, you feel like you’re globally minded. You learn to understand and accept different points of view by adopting a person-centered approach. I’ve noticed how one and the same thing can be approached differently by people in Moscow and London, and how international experience can be a clue to understanding the world and your own self. In a cultural environment as diverse as London’s, it’s easy to meet a lot of fascinating people who think outside the box, making you want to break away from stereotypes. Such people can be encountered everywhere here – they are in finance, business environment, legal services, and scientific community. They forge a culture of well-deserved professional success. They make you want to be a better person and a better professional.

Social environment is per se a very important factor in a person’s life. Last time we met I mentioned ICEF as a community of people I have benefitted greatly from – the community of students who are highly motivated and want to succeed where they feel really can. Coupled with the outstanding faculty and highly supportive administrative personnel, this promotes healthy competition and rapid growth at ICEF. In London, as environment as productive as this is even more manifest, and you appreciate it all the more.

Both of your degrees are honours degrees. What motivated you to study hard?

My excellent progress at school earned me a gold medal, and I thought I was smart enough to be able to continue to excel in mathematics at ICEF. But, ICEF’s academic standards proved a way too high and there was a lot to learn for me. One big challenge was English. It wasn’t until I entered the 11th grade that I started to seriously learn it.

I used my dictaphone to record the lectures so that I could listen to them again in the dorm and absorb the English terminology

Nor was it easy to level up my knowledge of Economics in parallel with English as two pillars of the educational process at ICEF. In my first year, graduating with honours seemed completely outside the realm of possibility, but I continued to try and do better anyway.

My good academic performance earned me the maximum possible discount on tuition fees at the end of my first year. Competition had a role to play, too: knowing that you are going to be ranked at the end of each term makes you want to do better, as in sports. It was my goal to be a well performing student, but the real impetus came from the fact that your good academic progress won’t go unnoticed at ICEF. This is exactly what helps students to arrive at an excellent result in the end.

Going back to sports, you played in HSE football team. Are team sports really helpful in your career and life?

I have always wanted to be versatile, and sports is one of the areas where I was able to excel and which helped me to acquire my personal identity. I played football also during my years in Samara. With so many like-minded people at ICEF, we created ICEF Footballers team and sparked interest in football in more students. Football became that social circle where I built my core friend group. We are still communicating very closely and meet every time I come to Moscow.

Before our studies began at ICEF, we were given an orientation speech and the first encouragement we received was not towards academic achievements but came down to a phrase, “We’ve got to win this football championship! Let’s do it!” That sounded so obvious to us that we had nothing left to do but get together and play our best. In our fourth year as ICEF football team, we became the champions of HSE in mini-football, winning trophy after trophy in pursuit of challenge. HSE is a truly unique university in this sense, with opportunities for students to pursue their passions. We played every season on weekends. Every game was a long awaited event. We couldn’t wait to see the end of the week. Every weekend promised a new team to play against!

About Oleg Bezumov:

Oleg graduated from ICEF magna cum laude in 2012 and earned his master’s in Finance from Imperial College. As a student, Oleg enjoyed playing football and became a champion of HSE mini football team as the most prolific striker. He started his financial career in 2011 at RosAtom where he covered M&A before joining Goldman Sachs office in London in 2014, where Oleg gained a track record of more than forty corporate deals summing up to $125 bln over the course of six years and rose to the post of an executive director. Oleg holds the title of 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30 winner in Finance & Investment.

I continue to play football almost every weekend here in London. It has given me new friends and expanded my social ties. There are now even more interesting people in my life I have met by playing football together with and who I know will stay in my life.

What made you choose Imperial College? Apart from its being based in London.

After the summer school at LSE and my internship at Rosatom, I realized I was not yet ready to go into industry. I wanted to gain more of international experience. With a possibility of employment in London, doing a master’s in Great Britain did seem the best option. And on the other hand, I was looking to get a narrow specialization, while my chosen master’s programme offered a greater flexibility with mathematical courses.

Unlike other master’s programmes, which seemed rather theoretical to me, the one at Imperial College had the right balance between the applied and the quantitative. It offered the advanced course in financial mathematics and a range of electives in the second term that I found useful. With my solid theoretical background from ICEF, I was looking to do a programme with more applied courses.

Didn’t a duration of one year seem too short a time to acquire new knowledge and prepare for London’s job market?

Not when you are a fast sleeper, as my colleagues joke. It was a difficult year, indeed, but I knew my master’s would open up a new door for me, so I made it my goal. There were courses in the first six months that didn’t keep me study hard, so I used that extra time to look for vacancies. I sent out my resume to more than one hundred companies. My first employer was Nutmeg Investment Management, a London-based company that manages multi-asset ETFs worth billions of pounds and that has recently been purchased by J. P. Morgan. It’s been years since I left Nutmeg, but it’s nice to know it is still making good progress.

Job search is a full-time job. There’s no secret to it other than law of large numbers, interview training and networking

It is advisable to apply as many employers as you can. Make your resume high-quality, meet new people and try to make the right impression on professionals. Some people manage to land a job in London early in the academic year, while others do so by the end of the year or sometimes end up with no offers. It all depends on the amount of effort you are putting into job search and, to a lesser extent, on luck. Sometimes, luck comes when you are fully ready to grasp the opportunity.

What were your expectations as a first-time employee?

I discovered how multi-faceted the financial world is. As students in Moscow, we tend to think there are two career paths for us as Finance majors – consulting and banking. Once in London or New York, you find yourself amid much more job opportunities available in many different areas of finance. To me, the job search was a way to re-discover the realms of the profession I was trained for. I didn’t limit myself to a domain or brand. Instead, I kept my door open to research, banking, asset management, analytics, quant analysis. I seemed to be interested in nearly everything, it was my goal to land a job in finance in London. But still, the fact is, with targeted job search you can enter your desired workplace faster. I have finally identified the maximum of four to five areas I could start my career in while keeping my door open. As a result, I started my career in asset management and then moved to banking.

Was it easy for you to switch to banking?

More interesting than easy. Because asset management and banking are two completely different fields. I have worked at Goldman Sachs for more than seven years, and I joined it because long-term asset management lacked dynamism. Asset management comes down basically to market analysis and analytics, alternating with some action in the form ETF portfolio alignment once a month. My duties involved also programming and building models for calculating the historic returns to be used in advertising campaign.

Every second train car in London Tube had an advertisement featuring Nutmeg historic returns calculated based on my model

With even more analytics than you can think of, I began to miss action. Peaking levels of dynamism were exactly what I found in IB. Even though I continued to be an analyst and financial model builder, I experienced a huge increase in my social activity. I liked how the many sides of banking came into play for me.

What contributed to your success at Goldman Sachs?

An investment banking career progresses along a standard path including two to three years as Analyst, four years as Associate, Executive (or VP), and six to eight years to Managing Director. Your progress is preset for you if are prepared to work hard and productively. I first joined the team covering the emerging equity markets in Russia and CIS-countries (Detsky Mir IPO and Polyus re-IPO), Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe and Africa. The analytics and the transactions I was involved in, including on Russia’s equity market, have given me a unique experience, serving as a pillar of my career in banking. I even happened to meet David Beckham, who I was a great fan of as a child. We welcomed him in our office as a speaker representing UNICEF.

There wasn’t a day in my career I didn’t learn something new. My mind was like a sponge, soaking up endless events. What drove me was the fact that my performance was productive. It kept the clients and the team satisfied, and I was proud of how well I performed – the live transactions that enter public domain, some featured on the cover of Financial Times and the front page of Bloomberg.

World’s biggest IPOs according to Bloomberg
World’s biggest IPOs according to Bloomberg

Working at a level as high as this requires a responsible approach. You become responsible not only before yourself but also the financial industry, for the outcome of a multibillion-dollar transaction can decide the fate of companies and even strategy of the entire nation. You come to realize your mission and how one particular deal can lead to a company or shareholders finally achieving their goals, spurring progress in the industry and the economy as integral parts of the financial world. I did like exploring the specifics of different geographical areas, but I felt I wanted to deal more with strategies and M&A, so three years later I joined IBD and, specifically, Natural Resources, where I became able to cover the entire range of corporate transactions.

What would be the topics that make transacting in IB interesting?

Our team has an extensive range of tasks that covers a variety of sectors including petroleum, power engineering, renewable resources of energy, mining and even infrastructures. This is what attracted me most towards my new team. I am responsible for energy sector, represented by petroleum industry as we know it and by renewable energy, which is currently going through industrial revolution.

The ways we consume and generate energy will be completely different in 10 to 20 years, and the reshaping is already happening: renewable sources of energy tend to generate greater profits, while electric vehicle markets experience further growth, as do the investments in hydrogen energy, etc. In the future, as the energy system enjoys higher degree of automation and makes use of various energy sources, consumers will become producers wherever deemed fit.

I see a lot of potential in these current changes because they offer a greater room for communicating with the client to crystallize their goals through corporate transactions. I therefore position myself as a banker covering both the conventional oil and gas sector and the newly emerging renewable resources and infrastructure projects, with an extensive track record in corporate transactions.

Working in IB can be emotionally strenuous. How demanding is your role?

Working in IB is closely linked to transactions, which in turn are inseparable from deadlines. Unlike consulting, IB can keep you working on a number of transactions at a time, and the number of hours you put in them depends on how wide the focus field is and the deadlines to be met. IB does involve a hefty amount of pressure, so the industry is currently revising its corporate paradigm, fueled by the need to make employees more capable of handling the work-life balance.

Having a hobby is vital and a way to rebuild internal strength, although someone working in IB may find it next to impossible to make more time for themselves

I get my energy from sports – football, tennis, alpine skiing. I once even ran a cross-country skiing half-marathon in St. Moritz. I love travelling and have been to thirty countries. I also like making electronic music tracks, and I play the guitar and the piano. I think I read a lot – more than 25 books a year. And I surely love investing as part of the  job, within acceptable limits, of course.

What would you advise a student who is planning to start career in finance in London?

Prepare your springboard well in advance. That’s the most important thing. There is cut throat competition in London’s financial world, so the choices as to internship providers and summer schools to put on a resume need to be done as early as the first year of studies. Those of the interns who successfully complete their internships can be lucky enough to land jobs in their third year. They approach their finals knowing they can skip master’s degree cost.

Another important thing is to keep your career options open. Acquire as much professional knowledge as you can. Follow the market trends to stay aware of what might be the best fit for you. Trends tend to change every two or three years, offering more opportunities to find your true career passion by considering different areas. If you feel you are more into investment, why concentrate on banking? Or, if you feel you want to get more international experience, doing a degree abroad might be a good option to explore the international labor market. Another option would be to get employed by a multinational and gain experience in other countries through rotation.

My advice to today’s students is stay hungry. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t be afraid of uncertainties. Learn to take you failures easy. They are valuable life lessons. If you haven’t failed, you have never set your bar high enough. And, more importantly, enjoy the process of your moving on and the results you get.

What do you think contributed to Forbes choosing you the winner of its 30 Under 30 rating in Finance? What are your personal success factors?

There have been several contributing factors, I think, one being my extensive coverage of transactions worth a total of more than 125 billion dollars over my seven plus years at Goldman Sachs, as well as the various transactions I have facilitated in different markets and geographical locations. It is the strong transactional track record that is crucial to one’s prestige in the financial industry. One high-profile project my team participated in is the world’s largest IPO that raised $ 29 billion for Saudi Aramco. Needless to say, I take a great deal of professional pride in what I do.

My personal key to success lies in achieving personal fulfillment, when you use your every day to learn more and grow together with your team in terms of responsibilities, skills, and monetary base. I measure success by the extent to which a person can expand their potential on a daily basis. Working for Goldman Sachs, I was pleased to note I can still set the bar higher for myself even when I think I’ve reached my ceiling.

The main success factor is education and the skills one receives from family and university, as well as passions. My family instilled in me the thinking that hard work and knowledge can get you far ahead, while HSE and ICEF taught me how to handle different types of tasks. It's nice to know my professional achievements have received high rankings, but, in fact, I owe them not only to myself but also to my family.