From Football to Finance
Why study finance?
Why study finance? For the buzz, of course! My interest within this area was largely driven by my neighbour at the age of 16. He introduced me to penny stocks— BIG mistake. The adrenaline rush had me hooked immediately. It was that excitement and the feeling of sickness in your stomach that drew me in. That feeling was the only thing that came remotely close to the feeling I got on the field as a professional footballer. From that moment onwards, I began building the foundation to explore a career within the stock market should football come to end, whether that be at retirement (so I hoped) or through injury. Unfortunately, neither became true.
At the age of 21, I was diagnosed with leukaemia and my world fell apart. This was an incredibly tough time for me, but looking back I wouldn’t change it for the world. I feel lucky to have a level of appreciation, perspective and an ambition to succeed in life different to my peers. Cancer changed my life for the better. After a year of chemotherapy, I was chomping at the bit to get my life back on track and begin chasing my other dream of becoming a Morgan Stanley trader. I decided to take on a financial mathematics degree. My A-levels were taken alongside professional football, which was tough trying to balance the two and consequently my grades suffered. Frustratingly, this stopped me from attending a Russell Group university which was a setback for sure, but I was more determined than ever. If I could make it as a professional footballer, then I knew I could make it in the finance world. For my graduate application to have any weight, I needed proof that I could compete at that level. After two and a half years of hard work and dedication, I had put myself in a position to stand a chance of being accepted into some of the top universities.
Which university do I pick?
After further research on rankings, the diversity of the university and the opportunities to network, I was adamant that Cass was the place for me. I sent off applications to all universities that I was rejected from to study my undergraduate degrees as backups, but Cass was the one I wanted. To my delight, I received offers for all of my applications, but more importantly I got in the place I wanted!
What’s it like when you first start at Cass?
My Cass journey on the MSc Finance started with gentle ice-breakers and social events which exposed me to the international diversity of my cohort. We created WhatsApp groups with people from at least 15 nationalities. If you want to learn about culture, come to Cass! Through this network of international friends, I now have a sofa to crash on in most countries across the globe! In fact, they should really create a Cass Air BnB!
However, graduate application deadlines hit me hard, as well as some of the most difficult academic challenges I’ve ever faced. It’s difficult to juggle all these applications and exams after only being there for six weeks. No-one is superhuman, though, so that’s where Cass come in and support you. Their Careers Team is phenomenal; without their guidance, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now.
In October I began the application process for the Sales and Trading internship at Morgan Stanley. Here at Cass you are not only taught theory, but how this applies in practice which was incredibly invaluable for the technical aspects of the interview process, and will be for my career going forward. My success in all the other aspects of the interviewing process was thanks to the constant help of the careers team. I did practice aptitude tests, practice phone interviews and at least five practice interviews… what more can you ask for?
It was December, a final assessment centre stood between me and a job at Morgan Stanley. Getting to the final stage wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more. This was my moment to show that the impossible can be done, and I nailed it. A dream come true!
So what sets Cass apart from the rest?
For me, one of the biggest benefits of Cass is the people you meet. Both from a social side and an academic point of view. If you want to find out your competition for the best jobs in the world, then look no further than here. I have never met such a dedicated group of people in my life, if you can compete in this circle then you can compete anywhere. That’s not to say that we are all competing at Cass, the complete opposite in fact. People here realise the importance of building relationships and a network they may not need right now, but what they will need in the future. This level of maturity is what sets this University apart in my opinion.
Another benefit of studying at Cass is the trips, which are unbelievable! In February we travelled to Frankfurt as a group. We had insight into the perspective of some of the biggest banks in the world, we had culture thrown in the mix and also the chance to taste every German beer under the sun. But on this unique occasion, I was immersed from start to finish. Being able to travel and study abroad as part of my degree is an incredible experience that I feel humbled to be a part of. The only thing missing was the sun, but you can’t have everything, right?
Josef Jackson, MSc Finance (2019)