Name: Heather Katsonga-Phiri
Degree/university: First class honours in Economics from the University of Cambridge
Year of graduation: 2005
Occupation: I work in the infrastructure advisory and structured finance team at Goldman Sachs
What do you do in your job?
The bulk of our team’s job is to either advise on infrastructure asset deals or do the financing for the infrastructure asset deals. We cover toll roads, airports and ports as well as social infrastructure, communications, and regulated activities such as water and electricity.
At the moment, I’m working on toll-road financing. As an analyst, I do some modelling. This involves projecting what the traffic would be on the road, what the revenues would be, what sort of cash flow would come out of the business, and what the return would be to shareholders at different points in time. Besides modelling – which I do on an Excel spreadsheet – I also spend a lot of time checking emails.
The ultimate aim is to advise the client, as well as look at the capital structure – the debt and equity of a firm, what sort of debt the company can handle, and what form of debt. Different types of debt have different terms.
What was your motivation in applying?
I thought the intensity of investment banking would be good to have as a first step in my career. Whatever I decide to do afterwards will seem much easier.
What did the application process involve?
I’d worked for Goldman Sachs as a summer intern and was offered a permanent placement. Part of the reason I’d got that internship was applying to SEO-London (Sponsors for Educational Opportunity) – which is aimed at giving people from ethnic minorities training opportunities in investment banks. That involved an online application. You then go through a numerical test, a normal interview and a case study.
The normal process of applying begins online. Those who get through are invited to a first interview which is firm-wide, then a divisional-specific interview and a final round of interviews. A numerical test and an assessment centre also form part of the application process.
What do you enjoy about your job?
The modelling. I like the numbers. I particularly enjoy being put on a project that is numerically challenging. By the end of it, you tend to have learned a lot of transferable skills. I like the group I work for too – they are very supportive. The whole environment in Goldman Sachs is intelligent and diverse, which I also like, and there’s plenty of opportunity to do social stuff. The company encourages you to mix.
Most challenging part of your job?
The hours. In my current role, I get into the office about 8.30am and don’t get home until 11pm or midnight.
Advice to readers considering a career in your field:
Be optimistic and positive. It really helps. Also, don’t just sit at your desk, but interact with the people you work with and the people outside your group, because it really helps to know who to contact when you have a certain problem. That goes for being on an internship as much as being in a
Investment banking can mean different things to different people and organisations. At its most narrowly defined, it exclusively refers to mergers and acquisitions, and raising money to finance mergers and acquisitions. A broader definition covers everything from buying and selling bonds, shares and other financial products to – as in Heather’s case – helping clients to raise money to finance a new business or activity such as an infrastructure project. Making the picture even more complex is the fact that many investment banks are now dipping into areas that were traditionally dealt with by retail banks and insurance firms. Many investment banks don’t mind what you’ve studied. "But you’ll need to have a strong interest in the financial markets," says Alison Trauttmansdorff, head of graduate recruitment at Goldman Sachs.