Alex Ma









By Alex Ma

From investment banker to financial wizard – pursuing a MBA degree in Hogwarts

Four months ago, when I was sitting in my office at the CBD of Singapore, bidding farewell to my colleagues and shredding the pitchbooks I spent days and nights putting up together, I thought I finally can take a break from the investment banking life and seek some inner peace at my dream school. I chose Oxford over other offers from top business schools like LBS and MIT because I was looking for a getaway from the modern city and the Said Business School had a very good reputation in asset management and private equity which fit my post-MBA career ambitions.


Oxford was simply astonishing at first sight. It is a real Hogwarts for those who cannot do magic. You get to meet the most amazing people in this small classic town and you can live a life that many of the most influential leaders and thinkers in the world had lived.

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Honestly, in my first week at Oxford I thought I would spend the rest of my year here drinking whiskey every day in the castle or rowing for my college which is celebrating her 700th anniversary this year. Yes, seven-hundredth anniversary (1314 – 2014). It is NOT a typo!

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But I was wrong……GPA, ECA (extra-curricular activities) and sleep, out of the three things you can only pursue two. If we add in the fourth item which is Career (job-seeking), you are really lucky if you can even pursue two…

When I was totally swamped by case readings, home work and assignments, recruitment events, networking dinners, extra-curricular involvements and sports, I knew that I was wrong about the MBA program. I was literally living the investment banking hours in Oxford, the only difference was that I wish I could have 30 hours a day so that I can spend more time in Oxford and get more involvements. Time flew too fast and in the blink of an eye, two months of my MBA studies have passed.

Let me give you an example of my typical week in Oxford (Nov 24 to Nov 28):

Monday – 

8:45 to 12:15 – Analytics class

12:30 – 13:30 – Lunch meeting with EMBA

13:30 – 16:45 – Firms and Markets class

17:00 – 21:00 – Oxford Finance Lab (intensive financial modelling workshop)

22:00 – 23:00 – Oxford Business Network for Finance meeting

Tuesday – 

10:00 – 12:00 – Interview (skype)

12:00 – 13:00 – Lunch meeting with MBA study group

13:30 – 15:00 – Analytics tutorial session

15:15 – 16:45 – Leadership Fundamentals class

17:00 – 18:00 – Career consultation session with senior bankers

18:00 – 21:00 – Oxford Finance Lab (intensive financial modelling workshop)

21:30 – midnight – Drinking/networking at King’s arm

Wednesday – 

8:45 to 10:15 – Leadership Fundamentals class

10:45 – 12:15 – Technology & Operations Management class

12:30 – 14:00 – Lunch meeting with Exeter College friends

14:30 – 16:30 – Mock interview sessions (for the upcoming interviews next week)

17:00 – 19:00 – Group discussion on the Private Equity Challenge (post-event summary)

19:30 – 23:30 – Company presentation and networking drinks

Thursday – 

9:00 – 12:00 – Reading cases in the library and mugging for homework

12:30 – 13:15 – Career consultation session with the recruiters

13:30 – 16:45 – Business Finance class

17:00 – 18:30 – Mock interview sessions (for the upcoming interviews next week)

19:00 – 21:00 – Formal dinner in Exeter College

21:30 – 22:15 – Skype call with College alumni (hedge fund manager in New York)

Friday – 

8:45 – 12:15 –  Strategy class

13:30 – 15:00 – Technology & Operations Management class

15:15 – 18:30 – Group discussion with MBA study group

19:00 – 21:00 – Dinner with EMBA

21:00 – 23:45 – MBA Movember party



So if you are looking for a holiday that could offer your a decent degree after one year, please don’t choose Oxford. If you want to get a good MBA degree with distinction and at the same time have enough time for sleep/travel/lifestyle activities, maybe Oxford MBA is not for you.

Oxford has too many things to offer and one year is simply too short to enjoy everything. Often I had to choose whether I would like to dine with the senior bankers from City of London in the Old Bank Hotel, or to grab a drink with the private equity fund manager in the Ashmolean Museum, or to meet the undergraduates from my college studying PPE who might become the next PM, or to watch a decent performance in the Sheldonian Theatre, or to finish my homework due tomorrow in the library…Oxford has more to offer than you could possibly accept, so just be prepared for the wonderful year ahead.



Last but not least, for those who want to pursue a career in the financial industry, Oxford is NOT isolated from the financial markets despite the fact that it is an hour away by train from London.

Let me address two of the most common questions I got from potential MBA candidates:


Question: You know….Oxford is far away from London, will banks come to Oxford for hiring purposes:

Answer: please find below the snapshot of the presentation schedule (finance-related) for Week 2 and 3, just to give a simple but self-explanatory example

  1. Credit Suisse: Company Presentation – Mon 20th October (Week 2)
  2. Morgan Stanley: Female Brunch – Tue 21st October (Week 2) (Urgent Deadline)
  3. Bank of America Merrill Lynch: Campus Connect – London Universities – Mon 21st October (Week 2)
  4. Citi: How to read the FT – Wed 22nd October (Week 2)
  5. Bank of America Merrill Lynch: GCIB Presentation and Dinner – Wed 22nd October (Week 2)
  6. President’s Drinks – Thu 23rd October (Week 2)
  7. Morgan Stanley: Investment Banking and Global Markets Dinner – Thu 23rd October (Week 2)
  8. Finance Fair – Thu 23rd October (Week 2)
  9. Citi: Company Presentation – Mon 27th October (Week 3)
  10. UBS: Male & Female Dinners – Mon 27th October (Week 3)
  11. Sankaty Advisors: Firmwide Presentation – Tue 28th October (Week 3)
  12. Credit Suisse: Quantitative Careers at Credit Suisse – Tue 28th October (Week 3)
  13. Bank of America Merrill Lynch: Making Real Connections at Oxford – Tue 28th October (Week 3)
  14. Bank of America Merill Lynch: Global Corporate Investment Banking 1:1 Information Sessions – Tue 28th October (Week 3)
  15. Credit Suisse: Technical Skills for Finance Interviews – Wed 29th October (Week 3)
  16. Rothschilds: Recruitment Dinner – Thu 30th October (Week 3)
  17. RBS: Dine and Discover – Thu 30th October (Week 3)
  18. Deutsche Bank: College Cluster events – 28/29/30th October (Week 3)


Question: Is Oxford MBA good enough for a buy-side position?

Answer: please kindly refer to the recent article on efinancialcareers. Oxford MBA is ranked 4th globally in getting a job in hedge funds, private equity and asset management.




Welcome to Oxford and we hope to see you in the MBA program soon!




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