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Master’s In Finance: Shruti Iyengar, London Business School

Student Name: Shruti Iyengar

Graduate Business School: London Business School

Describe Yourself In 15 Words: Math geek, footballer, self-professed comic. Passionate about measurable social impact and catalyzing women investing in women.

Master’s Graduation Class: 2020.

Undergraduate School and Major: Nanyang Technological University, Mathematics and Economics.

Current Employer and Job Title: Sustainable Ventures, Investment Associate.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: One of my earliest projects as an innovation consultant represented an early win in my career and paved the way for my career in impact investing. I was responsible for the impact measurement of an SGD 50mn government grant program supporting innovation across seven sectors in Singapore. This had never been done before at such scale and was a formidable task that demanded a high level of robustness in the methodology. I interviewed over 250 SMEs with my colleagues, synthesized knowledge of sectors ranging from precision engineering to food manufacturing and built a comprehensive econometric model from scratch.

The intricacy of the modelling of both social and financial impact was validated as highly rigorous by the Chief Statistician and went on to become a benchmark methodology and best-practice to assess the impact of various other grant programs across agencies. We highlighted the key drivers, and our data-driven recommendations were implemented and have gone on to ensure meaningful impact is created for the most deserving SMEs. Ultimately, this project inspired me to work towards making impact measurement the norm, beyond simply a bonus.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as a graduate student:  My biggest accomplishment at LBS was organizing the first LBS-Oxford Impact Investing Trek in Asia, which created a new partnership between LBS and Oxford and strengthened ties between the impact investing networks of the UK and Asia.

Having witnessed the stunning growth of the Asian impact investing sector first-hand, I was excited to create an opportunity for students in the Western Hemisphere to learn and gain exposure to this space. I worked closely with Oxford’s Social Impact network to bring together 10 leading impact investment firms across Asia for a group of 30 chosen graduate students from both schools. We designed a curriculum covering the entire impact investing cycle, with each firm presenting a module as an interactive, real-life case study. Students found the sessions to be useful and engaging and highlighted the increased clarity they gained about their career choices after these sessions. The panelists touted our curriculum to be exhaustive and found the speaker line up to be truly representative of leading investors in the space. This partnership cemented the foundation for like-minded students from various schools to come together and has already culminated in networking events.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I chose LBS for its interactive learning experience, which would act as a springboard for a long-term career pivot. I had looked at self-learning, such as the CFA, but decided the experience of meeting and learning from peers and leaders in my industry was immeasurably more valuable. LBS more than exceeded my expectations in this regard. 

In addition, given my educational and work background in Asia, I sought a change in geography and exposure to new cultures. Being in a city as diverse as London gave me the chance to meet and work with people from different walks of life, which deeply enriched my academic and professional experience. Finally, the scholarship opportunities at LBS helped reaffirm my belief that LBS strives to be an inclusive place, which was well-aligned with my values.

What led you to choose a Master’s in Finance over an MBA? Having studied Mathematics and Economics and having worked in impact and strategy consulting for 4 years, I had grown to become a generalist. However, after learning about impact investing, I grew more certain this would be the most powerful way I could make a lasting difference by being able to directly influence execution on the ground. Speaking to various impact investors, I realized my career move required a core financial skillset. The Masters in Finance at LBS was the perfect answer with its comprehensive curriculum, broad-ranging practitioner courses, and exposure to industry experts which enabled me to become a specialist.

What has been your favorite course and how has it helped you in your career? One of the courses that truly expanded my understanding of the world was Emerging Markets, taught by Paulo Surico. While I chose the elective purely out of intellectual interest, it ended up adding great value to my understanding of the economic and political history of various developing countries which I hadn’t yet traveled to or studied. Interestingly, it has helped me greatly in my career. As I review business models, discuss entry into new markets, and assess geography-related risks with portfolio companies and other start-ups, the course has enabled me to be more sensitive to geographic and cultural nuances and more exhaustive in my risk evaluation and mitigation strategies. 

What role did your school play in helping you to land your first job out of the program? LBS gave me the opportunity through platforms such as the Social Impact Club to interact with leaders in the sustainability and impact investing space. I was able to expand my network and learn about the various roles available, the scope of work, and the career pathways that would be feasible. My internship with British Red Cross, where I worked for an LBS alumnus, was pivotal in helping me understand how advanced the impact investing space was in London, who the key players were, and how I could meaningfully contribute to it. From time to time, it was the more experienced industry experts in other LBS programs, such as the EMBA and MiF part-time, who were my sounding board while deciding my next steps, and offered me valuable guidance to not just “get a job” but to build a purposeful career. 

How did your classmates enhance the value of your business school experience? The highlight of my experience at LBS was the amount I learned from my cohort every step of the way. Whether on a football pitch or in the classroom, peer sharing was critical to me having a fulfilling experience. Often my classmates that had more in-depth experience in the finance sector patiently taught me the basics and equipped me with a range of tools that help me on a daily basis in my job today.

I also relied on the support of my classmates in the midst of the pandemic. While the business school experience relies heavily on in-person socializing, we supplemented this with virtual socials and games, supported each other’s learning and recruiting through online working sessions, and checked in regularly on simple things such as grocery runs. This enabled so many of us to feel at home despite being so far away for so long.

Who was your favorite faculty member and how did this person enrich your learning? Although the Finance faculty at LBS are many in number with vast experience in the space, my favourite faculty member was Gary Dushnitsky, who taught Financing the Entrepreneurial Business at LBS. The course was useful in helping me understand the venture capital and growth equity space, from building CAP tables to tackling complicated business growth challenges. Gary in particular was not only highly knowledgeable with vast industry experience, but was also a wonderfully engaging teacher. He understood the class dynamics well and helped students who were shy to speak up on their own. Most importantly, he broke down the issues we would discuss into bite-sized problems that felt solvable and rewarding to contribute to.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s graduate Master’s program? Know your narrative. Invest time thinking about the rationale behind embarking on a Master’s, and why this particular one. You will meet lots of people jumping on the MBA bandwagon – be sure you do what is right for you regardless of what’s popular.  

Understand your career options. While applying, talk to people doing the roles you aspire to be in after the program. They will give you the most honest and useful feedback on the value you can derive from the program, what is feasible, and how you can make the most of your time in it.

Set clear goals. Students enter the program for a variety of reasons, ranging from academic to career to networking, and it’s easy to get lost in the chaos. Given how tight the timeline of the program is and how intense it can be, have a clear focus on the end goal, while remaining open to new ideas and pathways to get there. 

What was your best memory from your Master’s program? The most memorable part of my Master’s program was the time I spent with my study group. The six of us came from six different countries, collectively spoke ten different languages, and had studied and worked in diverse geographies and sectors. It was truly amazing to see how our varied perspectives made us stronger rather than weaker. 

Of the enormous time spent as a group, I vividly remember the orientation day, which included team-bonding games and activities. Aside from all the career and academic help we offered each other, the orientation helped us learn about each other’s families, cultures, experiences growing up, and truly gave us a chance to understand, empathize, and be compassionate towards each other. Beyond trusted colleagues, they have gone on to become some of my closest friends.

DON’T MISS: MEET THE MASTERS OF FINANCE