Dhanial Ullah

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What made you choose GCU and your specific course?

I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer growing up and then my dad said business is good to study as well so I studied business and law. I always kind of thought I would go and do corporate law. When I was at university in 2008 it was the time of the financial crisis and I started reading about what had happened to the big banks, the traders and the hedge fund trading. I just started to really like finance. I didn’t want to change courses so I focused the rest of my degree on picking finance modules. My dissertation was around finance then I went on work in finance.

I would say GCU is also a university where there aren’t many egos among the students. It promotes humility, everyone is very humble. It helped me when I joined university at 17 years to grow into the person I am.

What are your memories of University?  Were you involved in any clubs or societies?

My student memories include making a lot of friends for life. Also my lecturers were very good, especially Brian Pillans and William Henderson in the law department. I enjoyed spending time with them. What I liked about Caley was that it was quite different. There is the sense that it’s one site and everyone is so close to each other.

I’d get to spend time with people from different courses and the focal point was always the Saltire Centre. I think the university was good because even though you go to get you degree, it promoted people to be sociable and so it promoted networking.

I was part of the Glasgow Caledonian Muslim society in first year but apart from that I didn’t do anything else extracurricular – that’s one of my biggest regrets. I would honestly encourage any students currently at university to realise how important it is, both from a networking point of view and it shows that you’re passionate about a certain field by putting in your own time to achieve goals and learn.

Can you tell me more about your current role?

Pictet Asset Management invests money from clients in Germany and Spain because with financial assets we can invest in the stock market. We can invest in currencies, in the bond market and also derivatives as well. Because we’re a hedgefund, we can be a lot more aggressive than your normal investment fund. So we use the leverage which means that although we have one billion, we can borrow up to four times that and use that leverage to invest in a market to make returns for investors. So my job as an Investment Analyst specifically includes working with a team of people. I build models, I can screen for trade ideas so looking at charts, looking at variations between different currencies and coming up with trade ideas and discussing that with senior PMs. I make the final decision where we invest the cash.

I’ve been there for 12 months, prior to that I was working for also an investment fund in Edinburgh called Baillie Gifford. That was more of a traditional investment fund where it was more a pension fund. They had a five to ten year horizon investment rate; it was very low risk investment so you were investing in very small companies. We’re a bit more aggressive and we have a little bit of risk.

What is your greatest professional achievement?

I would definitely say passing the necessary UK regulatory exams, and the CFA, a Chartered Financial exam, are up there because they are extremely, extremely difficult to pass. I think the pass rate per exam is below 30% and to pass all three exams consecutively, I think less than 10% of people do it. I managed to do them all within 18 months and that’s definitely a proud achievement.

Also just getting the job that I’m in just now, I’m very proud of that as well because it’s very difficult to break into that industry unless you have a background in finance and economics. I was able to break in and compete against people from top institutions and it makes me proud that I managed to achieve that and I’ve done it the hard way by working for it.

What advice would you give to current students and new graduates?

Show tenacity. I would say it’s very hard to get a graduate job through the graduate programmes online that use algorithms so I would encourage them to think outside the box. It’s very rare that when you apply online, your CV is put in front of an employer because it’s screened by these algorithms.

Focus on which specific area you want to work on. Do you want to be a trader? Do you want to be a hedgefund manager? Do you want to work in operations? From there, research who the best employers are in the industry and make the effort to write handwritten applications to them. Say who you are, what you’ve achieved and why you would like to work for that firm and make your applications personal.

So I would say just show absolute tenacity and think outside the box because it’s a very cut throat industry, but if you differentiate yourself in the process then 100% of people will be willing to give you a chance.

What are your future plans, both professionally and personally?

I really enjoyed my time at university so much. I enjoyed my professional exams because I loved studying. I would love to go back to do an MBA or a masters one day. I would love to have that opportunity and do it at an international university abroad. Professionally the dream is to one day set up my own business.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I go cycling. I bought a bike when I moved to London and take it out every weekend so it’s an opportunity for me to explore the city. I’ve got a list of places I want to see so I set out in the morning and I cycle to that place, get some food and cycle back. It’s so much fun because it brings back the same emotions as when I was child cycling on my bike. You just feel so free, you’re able to think clearly and so that’s what I’ve been doing lately.

Other than that, I enjoy mixed martial arts so I train in mai tai which I actually started training at Glasgow Caledonian University. I signed up for the club at the Arc in first year and made some very, very good friends who I still speak to today. I still train mai tai twice a week regularly so that’s what I do in my down time.

 

Dhanial Ullah

Business and Law 2011