Interviewer: Hello Ananya! This is Ashutosh, Secretary at Communiqué, IIT Kharagpur. Heartiest congratulations from our side for securing your placement at Nomura Global Markets. I’m pumped to be interviewing you, so shall we start with the interview?
Ananya: Thank you, Ashutosh. I appreciate this initiative of publishing these blogs by Communiqué. It genuinely helps the KGP community. Yeah, we can go ahead.
Interviewer: Thank you very much. Would you like to introduce yourself to our audience?
Ananya: My name is Ananya Sharma, I’m a final year undergraduate student at the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. I got placed at Nomura in the Global Markets division and will be joining them the full time around July this year.
Interviewer: That was great. Would you like to brief our readers about the role that you have been assigned in your company?
Ananya: Basically, there are four business divisions at Nomura, those are retail, asset management, wholesale, and merchant banking division. Global markets(Fixed Income & Equities) fall under the wholesale business. So, it’s a front office team role, which involves working on a team extension model that delivers pricing, modelling, and risk management expertise to the global markets business. My role involves working in close synergy with the global trading desk facing dynamic markets, pricing FX/Rates/Credit/ Equity derivative structured products, risk modelling, and optimal portfolio construction.
Interviewer: Please tell us about the general interview process for the companies you interviewed? Please mention the number of rounds and the nature of the interview process.
Ananya: So I was shortlisted for 2 profiles of Nomura (Global markets and Global risk) analyst, the management trainee role at American Express, and an analyst role at Arpwood Capital. By the time I interviewed for Nomura and Arpwood, I had received an informal confirmation from Nomura and it was my # 1 priority. So, I didn’t appear for AmEx. Nomura Global markets had a CV screening round after which we were directly called for the interviews. For the risk role, they conducted a test which had questions from probability and statistics, Mathematics 1 and 2 courses taught to us. The preliminary test focused on these topics. based on this test People for the interview rounds on a basis of the test. Both the profiles had 2 interview rounds followed by an HR round. Across the 2 rounds, you meet with people with varied seniority ranging from 5 years. to 15 years of experience. Usually, 1 or 2 of them are KGP alums. Each round was a mix of both domains and HR(convincing them why that particular profile mainly). Each round lasted from 30–40 mins. Then, the standard HR round at last after you clear previous rounds.
Both the interviews had questions from my internship experience, probability, puzzles, basic finance, derivatives, bonds, pricing models, etc. The discussion can be finance-centric if you have some relevant experience, else they check your problem-solving skills, and how quickly you can learn and apply them. There were some questions from python, data mining techniques, and PCA. Other rounds had questions from economics, various portfolio optimization techniques, investment strategies, and financial statements. There was a common question in all the rounds for both profiles — Why do you want to go into finance? Why Global Markets? These were some of the most important questions in all the rounds and hence you need to convince the interviewer absolutely, why you are the best fit for the role.
Interviewer: It was very enlightening. Would you like to share some insights about the recruitment process or some advice that would prove helpful for the aspirants of this profile?
Ananya: Sure. There can be three types of screening processes before interviews. A pure coding test, a mix of coding and aptitude, puzzles and quantitative questions, or a sole CV screening formally. For finance-related roles, one generally has a CV screening round(Nomura GM, DC Advisory) while Morgan Stanely, JPMC(GM), and Arpwood conducted a test for initial screening which you have to go through before appearing for the interview.
For the interviews, the first two minutes go with the introduction, and then in the process, you may be asked to briefly go through your CV or some specific project/internship which stimulates the interviewer’s interest. They asked me if I attended the presentation and had gone through the job description in detail. I had an internship in an Asset Management firm, so that was the first thing discussed in all interviews, the work I did there also had some similarities with the Job description.
The interviewer usually doesn’t have any idea about your work beforehand, so they’re looking forward to understanding that. Go through each project/internship mentioned in your CV and don’t get much into explaining the core details of your work unless they specifically ask about it. I followed a standard framework of starting with your problem statement, current techniques used to solve it, their limitations, the improvements you targeted, the results you achieved, and the feasibility of the solution in the market on a large scale. This worked for me pretty well as it keeps your description on track preventing unnecessary details. You can explain in detail if asked about any particular intricacies.
Interviewer: That was insightful. How did you prepare for the rounds, once you were shortlisted by the company?
Ananya: One should start company-specific preparation at least 4 to 5 days before day 1. For Nomura, I got the information about the shortlists one or two days before the interview for both profiles. I focussed specifically on my CV. I had an internship in a financial services company. So I kept in mind to go through all the concepts which were there on my CV related to that. Revising economics and basic finance concepts. I couldn’t do a lot because of time constraints. My specific focus was on getting the basics revised, as I didn’t have a finance specialization. For American Express, I went through standard ML-related concepts projects which I had on my CV, general case preparation, and as well as some previous year questions the details of which I had gathered from my seniors.
I prepared for the HR round well on the last day as they play an important role in non-tech or management trainee roles. You should know about the company’s business to a good extent, what they do and how they make money. These questions are usually asked for such roles. Your interest and efforts in joining them are one of the most important aspects they evaluate apart from domain knowledge.
Interviewer: That’s great. How do pre-final year students maximize their chances, and what resources and suggestions do you want to give to them?
Ananya: For pre-final years students, deciding on the profile you want to pursue, is the first thing you should focus on. Talking specifically about Analytics, product, consulting, or finance, you have your specific preparation for each of them. If you are targeting Product and consulting roles, practice-relevant cases and prepare well for the HR rounds. They need to be convinced that you are genuinely interested and a good fit.
There are some generic preparation materials for quant, like the 50 challenging problems in probability, Heard on the street, and Brainstellar puzzles are a gem of resources. You must prepare them well. Most of the questions will be asked from them, specifically, for quantitative, finance & analytics roles. Guesstimates are a must-do for most of the roles barring SDE.
For finance, if you have done any sort of certification, competition (CFA-IRC, etc) then those things are discussed the most usually in all the rounds. Specific resources would involve CFA level 1 or the finance-related courses offered by VGSOM, IIT KHARAGPUR. Try getting research projects in this domain at VGSOM, ISB, IIMs, or other foreign universities, internships in this domain will give you an edge in the CV screening round and a good amount of details to discuss during the interview. I can say for Nomura with certainty that having a finance background helps in CV screening rounds but after that everyone(Finance and Non-finance background) stands an equal chance of getting through depending on how you take the interview ahead and convincing them why you should be there. You should try to capitalize on your strength that is relevant to the domain. There was a situation during one of the rounds where I mentioned I am quite insane with mathematical calculations, following which they asked me 5–6 rapid 3–4 digits multiplication questions and they expected a quick correct response within seconds for each of them, I answered them all correctly and this changed the atmosphere of the interview completely from there. Such trivial things can make a big difference.
Interviewer: Yeah, thank you for providing such a broad view of all the profiles. Could you suggest some courses in Kharagpur or online courses, which would be helpful for the preparation for the finance profile?
Ananya: There are some courses, offered by the Humanities and Social Sciences Department, VGSOM, and Mathematics department including corporate finance and financial accounting, optimization methods in finance, time series modelling, investment management, econometric analysis, and financial analytics labs are some of the relevant courses offered by them.
If you have a specialization in financial engineering, most of these courses will be covered in your curriculum, else you can go for these courses. An elective in Financial Engineering offered by Industrial and Systems engineering is also a good course to kickstart your preparation. I didn’t go for any sort of online courses, all the experience that I have is related to courses in KGP and my internships.
Interviewer: What weightage do certifications like CFA or FRM have?
Ananya: This is, I believe, one of the most relevant questions for this profile. I didn’t have any of them. If I have to answer in a line, I would say they are not necessary. For people who have already done CFA or FRM, at any level, I believe you already have the clarity to non-tech prepare the curriculum well and most certainly your interview would revolve around these if you are shortlisted. For the rest of the people, I would say to get clear about the profile you want to go into. I would suggest taking thorough advice from seniors who have already pursued these certifications, as well as those who have not, and eventually ended up getting these offers. If you are convinced, you can go for it. The benefits involve giving you an edge in the shortlisting process, during the interview you have a lot of stuff to discuss which also brings some complications. You are expected to know more than the guys who don’t have these certifications and you cannot mess it up there. This is a kind of gamble I believe, as during the interview you have the opportunity to justify something which you have not done but having these certifications comes with a lot of expectations and you cannot leave it then. Apart from this, financial engineering also gives you an edge in the shortlisting process. CFA society also offers an access scholarship which reduces the examination fee to a very less amount, you can take advantage of that as well while you are studying here.
Interviewer: Thank you, that was a very good answer, it would have brought clarity among the aspirants. How important are PORs i.e. position of responsibilities for such profits or specifically for your role? Do they come in handy during the placements?
Ananya: In my opinion, PORs are more of an experience than a necessity from a professional point of view. If I talk from the perspective of the placements, it will help you during the HR rounds. While you are answering the HR questions, you can quote references from the experiences you have had. You have better chances of defending a particular HR question as the answer looks authentic while you give references from your personal experiences.
For the shortlisting process, it won’t help you in any sort of technical role, but for the non-tech roles, including consulting & product it’s a must in my opinion. It would give you a very good edge over other people. For finance, it can give you an edge in case of demand and supply constraints. It gives you a lot of stuff to talk about in the interview process and it reflects in your personality which is generally good to have if you are going to work in a client-facing corporate environment.
Apart from that, having various engagements here definitely helps in shaping your personality and that can be experienced only if you had one here.
Interviewer: Great. Earlier, you had talked about your internships, so would you like to elaborate more on them? How did they help during your placement?
Ananya: Okay, I think internships helped me a lot. My pre-final-year one was at a financial services company Edelweiss. My work was related to portfolio optimization which is one of the components of the job description for the Global Markets role. I think it helped me in the shortlisting process because I didn’t have any sort of certification or any other competition. The kind of work I did, gave me relevant stuff to discuss during the interview. For instance, I gave a lot of references from my internship experience. They were also interested in the work that I did there.
If your internship is specifically in the domain you are applying for it’s good for the interview rounds, and if it’s not relevant it’s fine too. It can give you an additional edge but cannot be a disadvantage if you don’t have one as most tech firms have a screening test having aptitude and coding-related questions. Relevant internship experience can make a great difference if you lack some other aspect like CGPA, etc.
Interviewer: That was awesome. Anything else that you would like to share with your juniors?
Ananya: Juniors, please keep these 3 things in your mind:
- Always ask the interviewer for a hint if you are stuck, solving a problem completely new to you with hints can have a greater impact than answering something you know directly without hints.
- Prepare for HR rounds properly if you are targeting Non-Tech roles mainly defending why you decided to go for that role. Attend the PPTs for Non-Tech roles if you are targeting them and read their job descriptions thoroughly it brings clarity to your answers.
- Saying NO is always a better option than answering abruptly being unsure of the details, and it will not hurt your overall evaluation believe me. This is what I have experienced multiple times including Nomura rounds as well.
- The placement process is very random. People may get into roles they don’t want or are not being paid, according to their expectations. I have seen it with my seniors as well as my batchmates. You can apply for off-campus opportunities if you don’t get into one of the roles of your preference. You have, six or seven months, before you join your company, there’s sufficient time. The placement semester can be hectic. Try to maintain your calm and schedule. It can be frustrating at times but trust your preparation. Believe in yourself and everything eventually, will go in the right direction.