A career in finance isn’t typical, probably due to the dynamic and volatile nature of the financial world. But its a challenge some are willing to take, aware of the pitfalls and risks !

Vatsal Kejriwal, our next pathbreaker, Financial Market Analyst at Futures First, studies the market and makes trading and investment decisions on the basis of sound research.

Vatsal talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about the sense of entrepreneurship and freedom as a trader, and the thrill of coming up with new strategies to deal with market changes, which never gets banal.

For students, tackling the market and trying to beat it with sound investment strategies is one of the most exciting areas in Finance. Go for it !

Vatsal, tell us about your background?

I was born and brought up in Kolkata, India, and that’s where I am currently based out of. Since childhood, I have always been more inclined towards extracurricular activities than academics, especially sports. So, growing up, like any other Indian teen, I wanted to become a cricketer. I used to play cricket and other sports every single day after coming back from school till late evening. In school too, I used to take part in everything, be it quiz, club activities, fests, or any other such activities. Luckily, I was good in academics too which gave me more opportunities to be actively involved in a lot of extracurriculars. Being from a middle-class family, when I grew a little older, my parents made me understand why I should shift my focus from sports and be more focused academically and I did so. 

I always loved economics, so I decided to pursue mathematics and economics for graduation. In 11th standard I also started realising how much I liked calculations and numbers which propelled my interest in finance. Unfortunately, I didn’t get economics for graduation, but I did a specialisation in Finance and alongside, I started doing FRM and CFA. I had planned that going into my 1st year, I will only have fun and not pay much attention to academics. I wanted to try out various fests and activities to step out of my comfort zone and just experience things. Then, I decided to get into internships in fields other than finance so as to understand if I had any interest in them. Then 2nd year onwards, I got serious and started with degrees and more internships. I started enjoying studying and working and more importantly balancing them.

What did you do for graduation?

I did my graduation from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata with Bachelors in Business Administration (BBA Hons.) degree. 

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual  career?

I wouldn’t say I had any key influencers or mentors who helped me choose this career. It’s mainly events, I would say. It all began with my parents’ wish for me to not pursue sports but be inclined towards academics. This, I guess, enabled me to start looking at things differently.

I never thought of a career plan until college. In school, all I knew was that I liked numbers and economics and would want to get into finance and not marketing or HR/PR. Even BBA was not something I had thought of. I wanted to do Economics Honors but got into B. Com and BBA and I decided to take up BBA because the timings suited me better. I’d say my 1st year of college was the turning point when I got introduced to CFA and FRM (Financial Risk Management) courses and realised how they were perfectly inclined to my interest. Then there was no stopping me. I kept giving back to back exams and got those degrees. Here, I’d like to mention my CFA and FRM tutor, Mr. Aswini Bajaj, who definitely was my mentor while I was pursuing these courses. He added fuel to my interest in finance and to a great extent, whatever I am today, it’s because of him.

Due to my hardcore finance background, I sat for the Futures First interview during Placements in college. Prior to that, I had done some trading in my own account and actually enjoyed it. So, it was easier for me to relate to this job. And once I got selected for the role, there was no turning back. I love doing what I do and every day is a new day in my career.

I’ve never been somebody who makes a 5-year plan and works towards achieving it. I like taking smaller steps – say 2-year plans- something like “I want to get both degrees in these 2 years, then I want to look for jobs”. Once I get the job, I’d work for 2 years and see how I like it and if I don’t feel that it’s my calling, I will try to change and think of another plan.

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted?

My 1st internship was in Marketing, in a business development role. The company was into Door-to-Door Services. I interned for 3 months in 2015. It was a home-delivery-service company. I pitched the service to potential restaurants, cafes and confectioneries and set up meetings to discuss partnerships with us and get their home delivery business outsourced to our company.

My 2nd internship was as a Public Relations Intern in CESC Ltd. I interned for 1 month in 2016. I got this internship through an internship program- “You Internship” by The Telegraph. I studied the existing customer engagement programs and researched ways to better the consumer experience and come up with a few new ones and created 5 projects on it during my time.

My 3rd internship was again in Marketing as a research intern. The company was Keytouch Business Ventures. I interned for 4 months in 2016. The company developed apps and helped clients with market research to improve the working of their apps. I worked on an upcoming app-based business venture by carrying out research work regarding technical and financial feasibility of the idea. I also carried out market research to understand competitors.

My 4th internship was in Finance as an equity research intern. The company was Swaraj Securities. I interned for 3 months in 2017. The company manages financial portfolios of its clients. I, as an intern, studied select listed companies thoroughly to understand their fundamentals and helped in providing investment recommendations and also helped in maintaining the trading database of the company.

Then I got my first job in 2018 in Futures First as a Financial Market Analyst. Currently, I am a Market Analyst in the Short-Term Interest Rate Market of Brazil. Alongside, I also trade in the Brent Oil Market. My job basically involves trading for the firm on my own account. I have to study the market myself and trade on the basis of it. Here, all the research work and trade ideas are developed by the traders individually for themselves. 

While I was doing these internships and jobs, I was appearing for CFA and FRM degrees. I started with my 1st exam in December,2016 and ended with both the degrees in May, 2019. Meanwhile, I also did a course on Advanced Excel to have better efficiency in it to improve my usage for finance. 

My approach or thought process during college was simple- try whatever you can and for as long as you can. I wouldn’t say that my non-finance internships directly helped me in my current career, but it did indirectly. I was pretty sure since day 1 of college that I’d like to go ahead with finance as my specialization. So, all these internships helped me gain knowledge in other fields practically. Theoretically, I was learning finance through college and the degrees that I was pursuing so these internships helped me get an insight of whether or not I have any interest in other fields. It made me realise that my calling actually was in finance. So, I moved onto a financial internship which helped me understand the workings of Indian financial markets and got me into a habit of research. Then, I started investing in my own account and trading a little in cryptocurrencies. And eventually, these learnings and understandings through internship and trading on my own helped me a lot in my personal interview for Futures First because the interview was focused on how I invested or traded, and on what basis did I make these decisions and how I reacted to losses or gains. Trust me, this is exactly what is required of me every day at work. It’s Emotional Quotient.

How did you get your first break?

I got my first break in the company where I am currently working. I sat for almost all the placement drives (related to finance). I didn’t have any particular company in mind. Of course, big names always impress you and that’s where you want to be. Futures First was actually the 2nd or 3rd company I sat for. Trust me, till date I don’t know how I cracked the online test. It was tough for sure, but I hadn’t prepared for any of my interviews at all. I thought my CFA and FRM knowledge would be sufficient.

For my Personal Interview(PI) too, I hadn’t prepared anything as such. I have always been a good speaker and know how to answer questions, which might have helped me out. But again, this is all because of the experiences I’ve had in college through fests, where I took and gave interviews, and interacted with people. So yes, degrees and marks get you selected for the PI, but you need to know how to apply that knowledge to be able to ace the interviews and get placed.

What were the challenges and how did you address them?

The challenges basically revolved around coping up with CFA, FRM exams and college. During college, I realized what I had been doing since school was memorizing and not understanding concepts per se. So, while taking tuitions and studying for these exams, I realized that I have to change my study method completely. The theoretical portion of the exams were huge and it would be very difficult to memorize everything and this wasn’t any school level exam in which I could go on beating around the bush. So, yes that was one challenge for me and to work on it, I used to study 10-12 hours a day for a few months before exams. After a point, it had become a little difficult to cope up with college studies and societal commitments. 

Also, during 2nd year of college, I reached a point where I used to leave home by 8:30 AM, be back by 9:00 PM, go to the gym after that and study before sleeping. Now, when I think of it, I have no answer as to how I could pull that off. The best part was, I was enjoying this routine, I never complained.

I guess it was my motivation and commitment to achieve what I had planned within the given time frame because I knew taking a 2nd chance for any of the exams would push back my career for at least a year and I just did not want that. I was very clear in my head that I have got only one shot at everything no matter what. I cannot waste even a year and neither give my parents the extra financial burden if I reappeared for the exams. Lastly, I have always been confident about myself, if I make up my mind to do something, I will achieve it no matter the stakes.

Where do you work now? Tell us what you do

I work at Futures First, Kolkata as A Financial Market Analyst. 

The only skill you need for this job is, I feel, being good with numbers and by that I don’t mean you’ve to be mathematically very sound, but you have to be quick with calculations. 

That’s it. And there is no degree for that. So, you just have to have an interest.

But I’d say, the most important skill set is EQ (Emotional Quotient). The amount of patience, determination, confidence, risk appetite, and the other traits that I have learnt here and that are required in this profession, I don’t think any other profession takes a toll on one’s EQ to such an extent.

I didn’t have to acquire any skills particularly for this profession. As I said, I had an interest in finance. That’s it. And about EQ, a few I had, few others I learn every day.

The beauty of this profession is that there is no “typical day”. Literally, every single day is new. What I learned today, might be of no use tomorrow. What view on the markets I have today, might be completely opposite to what I had yesterday. We are basically in front of huge screens, trading actively the entire day, keeping a tap on news, charts and everything.

And this is what makes me love this job. I am in a job theoretically, but it gives me a sense of entrepreneurship. I am working for myself, in my own account for my own bonus. I just have a few people above me monitoring the risks and guiding me. Apart from that, I am on my own with respect to strategies, research and everything else. This never gets banal. Every day is new and exciting.

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you.

It’s my first internship in my very 1st year of college. I knew a senior through some mutual friends. He had a start-up providing home delivery service for various items. So, my role involved getting in touch with various restaurants and cafes to get them on board and outsource their home delivery to us. I guess it was just 2-3 of us working. Now it sounds like such a small thing, but back then, it meant a lot to me. Like getting into formals, setting up meetings and talking to such senior people. I have always been an introvert but somehow in meetings I talk the most. Whenever I used to get a call asking me to go to a client and talk, I was ready instantly.

One specific meeting I remember was with an industry leader. While setting up the meeting, I thought I’d meet an assistant or somebody. I entered and realised he was the owner himself. I had no idea about the industry, or about the work they did as such. During the meeting, on seeing that I was not very well prepared, he told me to tell the truth no matter what. No matter how small or big your work is, just be honest, you will go a long way. And that’s when I promised to myself that that was the one thing I will follow my whole life. He asked me a few questions and I didn’t know the answer, so I answered on the basis of assumptions. Later, when I got back home, I confirmed with the owner if what I said was true- a few weren’t. I instantly emailed the person I had a meeting with, apologising and then gave him accurate details.

When I received my first salary ever from this internship, I bought my father a watch. So yes, it’s memorable.

Advice to students based on your experience?

One thing I always feel is that students lack in having a balance in life. Having seen a lot of seniors, juniors and even my peers, I’ve realised that at times they get way too involved in academics and give almost all their time to it, letting go of things they actually enjoy or love doing. A very basic example would be- people in my friend group used to completely stop playing during exams whereas I always used to make it a point to keep playing even if it’s for an hour because that’s what I love doing and it refreshes me in a way nothing else can. And trust me, I used to score better than others.

In these times, when Netflix is coming up as a great form of relaxation, use it. Use it more during studies I’d say, just to refresh yourself. 

All these small things used to be a motivating factor for me in the sense that if I completed a portion of my goals today, I would watch or play for a specific time.

Secondly, don’t try to make 5-7-10 year plans. Break down things. Make 5 plans of 2 years each. It makes you more focused, makes you achieve more and makes you feel better. It’s like ticking off points. 10-year plan is a single tick and it will take you that many years to get a single tick. Whereas, 5 2-year plans will make you tick it off 5 times, each time giving you a feeling of accomplishment that things are getting done, and you will look forward to the next thing, with a lot more motivation and confidence. 

Thirdly, try as many things as you can before settling in a particular field. Just try to get a firsthand experience in every field because it helps you gain overall knowledge and makes a lot of decisions easier for you since you’ve tried and gone through it. If today after reading this interview, you are able to relate to it and feel you’re inclined to the same field, I’d tell you not to get into it immediately, though you want to start laying a basic foundation in the finance field. But don’t limit yourself to it. Keep yourself involved in other fields too, at least for as long as you are in college and have the option to take these risks.

Lastly, try not to be idle for even a single month in any year starting from college life. Be it that you’re involved with societies in college, participating in fests or anything. But just be involved with something. Later, try to get as many internships as you can. It will do two things for you- a) will make you realise if you’re a 9-5 person, suitable for the corporate world and b) you will learn a lot of things that you can never learn only through academics. It will help you come up with ideas for yourself too.

One thing I regret not doing my entire life is reading. I wish I had developed a habit of reading. Be it story books, be it newspapers only, journals or whatever interests you. Just read as much as you can. It just opens up your mind in ways you can’t even think of.

Future Plans?

Trust me, I haven’t really thought of it. I had my 2-year plan made in 2018 when I started working. I will give a trading career 2 years and only then I will decide if I want to continue or change. And I am pretty sure after having gone through my interview, you’d know what I decided to do.

And hence, no plans as such. But yes, to think of it, at the back of my mind I do have a few things I could do like get a few more degrees and think of a another field in finance I want to try out in case trading doesn’t work out any time in the future.

For now, I am definitely sticking to this trading career and to the finance field for my entire life.