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London Connection Q&A: Artem Zhorin

ICEF BSc graduate 2012 Artem Zhorin tells about the importance of definitions and why big things are better seen from a distance >>

ICEF BSc graduate 2012 Artem Zhorin tells Peter Quinn from the online magazine of the University of London International Programmes about the importance of definitions and why big things are better seen from a distance.

Why did you choose to study with the University of London International Programmes?
I decided to study economics early in high school because it looked like a good application of mathematics to real-life problems and I really wanted to do something which could make a straightforward contribution to people’s lives. There was no such subject as economics in my school, therefore I needed to study everything by myself and solve plenty of problems without having any feedback.
I took part in my town’s contest in economics, was delegated to the regional level and, finally, won All-Russian competition in economics and received a scholarship which covered full tuition fees for undergraduate programme of International College of Economics and Finance at Higher School of Economics in Moscow. It is a unique double programme of HSE and the University of London International Programmes which combines best practices of Russian and British higher education systems: wide variety of subjects and emphasis on self-study.
What are the particular skills and insights that you gained from taking the BSc Economics degree?
Actually, these are a rather “classic” set of skills, which any good degree gives to you. Rigorous - both in their depth of content and mathematical apparatus - subjects are the foundation of a solid academic background. Low number of teaching hours demands self-control and discipline. External examinations develop advanced time-management techniques which make you maximize your mark given the specific duration of an exam.
Moreover, in most subjects questions are constructed in the way which requires not direct reproduction of a book or a study guide, but application of the grasped material and the ability to combine things, make connections or structure information. Thus, BSc Economics also develops such qualities and skills as complexity of mind and critical reasoning. Most university degrees are a set of different, often totally separate subjects. This is a convenient way to learn new things, since it allows you not to be buried under unmanageable heaps of information. But real life is never like this. Therefore, as a good specialist you should be able to apply the concepts from all subjects and not a single model to explain complex multi-factor economic problems.
Are there any specific transferable skills you gained?
Honestly speaking, since I continue my study of economics and finance these skills are not so obvious now. I am still in the same process of acquiring skills and constantly learning new things. However, I am confident that after a certain time it really will become evident how much this degree gave me and how helpful is the experience which I gained with the University of London International Programmes. Big things are better seen from a distance.
What is your top tip for someone who is considering taking this degree?
My tip for potential students contemplating BSc Economics is to think carefully about future plans and how this degree will fit into the latter. Do not take this programme only because it is famous or prestigious. Always think in advance about what you want to achieve and how you will get there. You should understand where you are going to be after graduation and whether this programme could bring you there. The programme is challenging but rewarding, and if you realise that it is what you need then take this degree without any doubts. It will never be a mistake.
What does it mean to you to be awarded a scholarship to study MSc Finance and Economics at LSE?
Of course, any scholarship is always a financial means to study at a university and to obtain a degree. From that point of view I am happy to be awarded the scholarship and want to use this opportunity to thank the International Programmes for this amazing possibility to study on one of the most challenging programmes at the LSE. However, for me any scholarship is also an independent outside indicator which gives evidence that I am on the right way. There are millions of possibilities in your life. You always should make a choice among them and you could never know which one is the best. Such an award is an excellent sign which directs you and gives reliance in what you are doing.
Finance has numerous practical and real-life applications. Do you hope to be able to use the principles you learn from the MSc to impact on real-life financial problems in Russia?
There is a widely accepted concept that university education gives you theoretical, fundamental knowledge, whereas most practical issues are learnt while working after studies. A lot of effort has been taken to break it, however the result is unsatisfactory. Actually, it may not be a bad thing, since the whole nature of higher education is to bring up a clever, broad-minded, deep-thinking person with solid knowledge of their subject.
I think that is absolutely true regarding my programme. It is not directly practical and it does not teach you how to deal with a financial crisis or how to issue a perfect bond. But what it does is that it provides you with keen insight into finance and makes you able to understand the roots of things. You may be an excellent practitioner, but then you only rely on your experience and intuition and it could let you down some day. Rerum cognoscere causas ['To understand the causes of things'], as the LSE motto states it. In turn, with a theoretical fundament you always could go from theory to practice and solve burning problems in Russia (there are really lots of them: the deficit in the pension system, infrastructure financing, proper regulation of financial markets) and deal with problems which you have never been aware of before.

The world financial system impacts on people worldwide, as the current financial crisis has shown. Do you think we need to develop new methods of regulating public finances?
I think that the problem is not so serious with public finance (which is thoroughly regulated by budget rules and fiscal laws) as with the whole financial system where investment banks and corporations are craving for more and more profits. It is always useful to start with definitions. Any economics student knows that the financial system distributes money from those who want to lend to those who want to borrow. The mechanism behind this is also simple – agents caring about their profit.
This is actually true for most economic markets, but the financial one went much further. In pursuit of more money financial organisations started to develop new instruments, complicated securities and to blur real risk ratings. As a result, the financial system became so wicked that the primary motive behind it disappears. In reality, it changed into the money-making machine. The annual turnover of funds is times and times higher than the real value of goods made and projects implemented using those funds.
Developing new types and forms of securities is good but what is important is that they help and make it easier to provide financing, not to make it easier to enrich market players. In my opinion, the whole purpose of regulation in the current situation should be trying to return the financial market back to its primary function. What is even more important, market players themselves should change their mind and moral motives. Ask a teacher why they decided to become a teacher and you hear an answer that is reasonable and, most probably, worthy of respect. Ask a financier why he decided to become a financier and you are unlikely to hear an answer. Except “money”, of course.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My main inspirers are my parents. Through the whole of my life they support me and help me to move further. They believed in me whatever happened and it is thanks to them that I achieved everything which I achieved. I could rely upon these people in any situation. Without them nothing would be possible. I am boundlessly thankful to them and want my mother and my father to be happy. Moreover, I often was surrounded by kind and responsive people who selflessly taught me and shared their knowledge. Particularly, I should mention my high school physics teacher as she bred me as a responsible and thoughtful student, and my sociology lecturer who showed me that economics is not all about numbers and that real life could be much more complicated and beyond the laws, contrary to what it seems to be for economists.
What is the one thing you would like to achieve in your lifetime?
I want to become a good father.

The online magazine of the University of London International Programmes >>