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Master’s In Finance: Bob Hoogendoorn, Cambridge (Judge)

Student Name: Bob Hoogendoorn

Graduate Business School: University of Cambridge Judge Business School

Describe Yourself In 15 Words: Always looking for a challenge.

Master’s Graduation Class: 2020.

Undergraduate School and Major: Tilburg University, Business Administration.

Current Employer and Job Title: Bank of America Merrill Lynch (London), Investment Banking – M&A Advisor for Infrastructure Funds.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Before starting the MFin program at Cambridge, I worked several years within the EMEA M&A team at PwC in Frankfurt and worked for the same firm also in the Netherlands and the Caribbean. During my time at PwC I was actively engaged as a volunteer in several social responsibility projects. One of the highlights of these experiences was teaching primary school children the importance of finance and household budgeting. As part of these lessons I was able to teach them the relevance of having a dream or an ambition, whether that is simply a future purchase or something else you want to realize. Once you have that dream, it’s a matter of defining the best steps that help you to get there. For me, social involvement is an important part of achieving a successful career. It’s an opportunity to share lessons learnt and to help those who need it. Similarly, in my current role, I started a fundraising campaign for Honeypot Children Charity, focused on providing children from disadvantaged backgrounds a good childhood. To raise funds, I will aim to run the 2021 London Marathon under 3 hours.  

Describe your biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: Firstly, the mere fact of having the opportunity to pursue a degree at Cambridge is a big personal accomplishment for me, especially as a first-generation university graduate. However, if I had to describe my biggest accomplishment during the program, it would be reaching a balance between achieving success in education, getting the most out of the social events, competing in sports and laying a foundation for career opportunities. Achieving a sense of balance is one of the most challenging parts of the MFin program since everything takes place at a high level and there is an enormous range of activities to engage in. A year in Cambridge can truly be described as a rollercoaster. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, and an important part is therefore knowing when not to participate. The academic program is rigorous and demanding while the sports clubs can be competitive and often play in a top league (some are international champions, training seven days a week). In the end, the MFin program only lasts one year and there are only a limited number of hours in a day. It is a major challenge to get the most out of all these experiences without diminishing the quality. 

Finally, it was a real privilege to be elected as Class Representative within the University Faculty Board. I enjoyed the opportunity to represent the interests of my classmates and to experience how the governance within the university works. One of the objectives our cohort pursued was the introduction of specialized academic tracks. It is great to see that the MFin program actually re-designed the curriculum and introduced these tracks in 2021, so the new cohort can benefit from our initiatives. 

What was the key factor that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The key factor for me was the Cambridge heritage and the opportunity to engage with highly talented students from all types of programs. The University of Cambridge is well known within many disciplines and most programs are globally top ranked. I was looking for a post-experience Finance Masters but did not want to select a university solely based on the academic part. While many business schools could offer a relatively similar curriculum, none could offer this type of degree with the reputation and history of Cambridge. Furthermore, I saw it as a major benefit to be able to engage with students outside of finance and business. 

For example, Cambridge is a place where, during a lunch break, you could potentially meet an Astronomy PhD student who is about to join a NASA science mission looking for life signs on Mars, or natural science students who are trying to tackle climate change within their field. This is very inspirational and has kept me aware of the importance of different disciplines outside of business. 

Finally, sports are really in the DNA of Cambridge and this has been an integral part of my decision to pursue the MFin program. There is a large variety of clubs available and it is a unique way to connect with other students. During our first week we attended the “Freshers Fair,” where all the university clubs are presented. 

What led you to choose a Master’s in Finance over an MBA? In the beginning I considered the MBA program as well, mainly due to the post-experience nature. However, I found the MBA subjects having too much overlap with my prior degree in Business Administration and wanted to avoid repetition. I was particularly looking for a highly-specialized master’s program that would give me critical finance skills to further succeed in my (M&A) career. Therefore, the MFin seemed like the ideal combination, offering a cohort with professionals, a global network within finance and business, and technical financial subjects. Also, the curriculum of the MBA tends to be relatively general, to fit the wide variety of students. I was committed to continue my career in Corporate Finance/M&A, so it made much more sense to further specialize in that specific field. 

Fortunately, the MFin program runs closely to the MBA at Judge Business School, so I was able to expand my network there as well. 

What has been your favorite course and how has it helped you in your career? The Private Equity course by Aleksander Grzeszczak was one of the most practical and engaging courses during the program. Alek has a longstanding career in investment banking and private equity and was able to bring his experiences to the classroom in a highly unique way. From describing how he faced the dotcom bubble (while working in Telco M&A) to tough negotiations with shareholders. We definitely felt like we were actually attending the board meetings. It helped my career because his practical way of teaching makes it very useful when facing similar projects in real life. For example, knowing certain concepts is one part of the learning curve, but Aleksander taught us how to interpret these concepts either as a buyer or a seller and how to make it serve your financial interests. Also, we had to complete many case studies including negotiations, which definitely helped bonding with my fellow classmates as well. 

What role did your school play in helping you to land your first job out of the program? The school played a valuable role mainly from three different dimensions. Firstly, Judge Business School has very good relationships with employers which gave me an opportunity to meet with firms both on campus and at recruitment events in London. Second, the careers office is very helpful when it comes to preparing applications and for organizing mock interviews and assessments. Third, the MFin alumni network is very strong. It has always surprised me how helpful the alumni are when reaching out to them, even if they graduated from Cambridge many years ago. 

As an example, during the program I was committed to completing an internship over the summer as a way to implement my skills into practice. The MFin team helped me prepare for my interviews and assessments and I was fortunate to receive a summer internship position within the M&A division at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London. 

How did your classmates enhance the value of your business school experience? My classmates played a fundamental role to my overall Cambridge experience, and they continue to play an important role even after graduating. Arriving in Cambridge can be quite intimidating, but from day one I was surprised how open and welcoming all the classmates were. The MFin has a relatively small class size of around 70 students and because we spent so many hours together working on case studies and attending social events, we got to know each other very well. During our year we helped each other a lot on courses and job applications. Even after completing the MFin program I remain in contact with the majority of the class and I am very happy many of them were able to move to London as well. 

Who was your favorite faculty member and how did this person enrich your learning? Basically, every professor had some unique way of enriching our learning. However, if I had to name someone in particular, it would be Prof. Oğuzhan Karakaş – he has an incredible sense of humour. Prof. Karakaş taught one of the most challenging courses, on microeconomics and portfolio optimization but was able to make it fun and engaging. His ability to compare different portfolio structures with movie characters was absolutely fascinating. Not to mention his comparison of investment risk aversion with the need for race driving, where risk appetite is likely to diminish as someone’s preference to drive fast diminishes as well. His way of teaching enriched my learning because his anecdotes and examples make it easier to understand and remember complex financial topics. It enriched my experience because of the huge amount of fun we had in our class. 

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s graduate Master’s program? Consider thinking beyond purely your career objectives and try to imagine what you want to get out of your year in Cambridge. You will dedicate a year of your life, leave your job, move to a totally new place. How do you want this year to look like? Which types of experiences would be most valuable to you? And how will this fit into your long-term goals? Thinking critically of how all the opportunities available – within and outside the program – will serve you well in achieving that crucial balance. Then, direct your energy to the most valuable elements. 

What was your best memory from your Master’s program? This is a very difficult question – as the whole year in Cambridge is one big collection of great experiences, amazing people and interesting challenges. The best memories range from a variety of moments. How I got allocated to a team with the most motivated students, over-practicing an equity research presentation for a (real) hedge fund where we practiced at night until the lights in the business school went off. Despite the endless rehearsals, we ended up nailing the Q&A while improvising as a team. We then celebrated our successful presentation with one of the many formal dinners. Perhaps my best memory was the varsity running match against Oxford. During my time at Cambridge I was part of the cross-country running club (Hare & Hounds), and was invited to join a varsity match. Varsity is an annual competition between the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford, going back to the 1800’s. I remember how our team travelled to Oxford, how I stood at the start line (all Oxford dark blue on the left, all Cambridge light blue on the right), going head to head on a final sprint against an Oxford competitor. I do believe that was a once in a lifetime experience and probably one of the (many) great memories from my time at Cambridge. 

DON’T MISS: MEET THE MASTERS OF FINANCE