New Delhi: Wall Street has been reeling but so, too, have business schools.
In the last few years, jobs in investment banking and finance had become the favourite option among students. Salaries touched a dizzying Rs1 crore per year.
The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bank of America Corp.’s takeover of Merrill Lynch and Co. have raised much speculation on campuses across the country of how this year’s job placements will be affected.
Lehman Brothers hired 11 students from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, or IIM-A, in 2008; 28 in 2007; and 20 in 2006. A few days ago, in a business-as-usual way, it confirmed its participation for the summer placement season which opens next month at the University of Delhi’s Faculty of Management Studies.
In an interview conducted by phone and email, Kunal Maini, senior vice-president and head of the US dollar interest rate swaps trading desk at Lehman Brothers and an alumnus of IIM-A, graduated in 2002, talked about what business school students can expect this year.
Blessing in disguise? Kunal Maini is an alumnus of IIM-A.
At Lehman Brothers, he has vetted résumés and been part of the bank’s recruiting team, visiting his alma mater twice to hunt for fresh graduates.
He clarified that his views are based on his personal experience and do not reflect those of his employer’s.
What do the developments on Wall Street mean for Indian business school campuses?
There will be smaller contingents on campuses. The 15 panels which existed earlier will not happen. I have myself been on these panels. There will be a lot more videoconferences in hiring. Number of people we (investment banks) hire will go down in keeping with general downsizing, but I don’t believe that starting salaries will go down appreciably .
The bigger challenge is that people on campus will need to explore different choices in i-banking. When we hired and asked people which desks they want to join, it was always trading and structuring, both part of the capital markets system, rather than in M&A (mergers and acquisitions) or investment banking.
The structured solutions market will go down. I think people will have to look more towards proprietary trading models. Skill sets will have to include more mathematical rigour to take advantage of market inefficiencies: As the number of Wall Street firms decreases, there will be lesser players with capital to keep markets efficient.
So business school curricula will need to change?
It is hard to see too much of a change. They already teach a breadth of topics. Curriculum should be comprehensive, with more emphasis on hard-core mathematical topics. Of course, (the current changes) will be discussed for the next 50 years to see what really went wrong, as a case study in impact on leverage in interrelated financial markets.
Will on-campus pay get affected?
In my personal opinion, it will not get affected. When we hire associates, we are competing with the consultancies of the world. As long as Wall Street wants to keep talent from Indian B-schools, it will have to pay well.
What happens to pre-placement offers that Lehman has made?
I don’t know. There is so much flux in the system that no one has thought this out.
What happens to you?
Unclear at the moment; we all have to accept the risks associated with this line of work.
This upheaval may well be a blessing in disguise: I am still young, and this might well be a chance for me to get away and explore a different industry and a different world.