Jakub Čermák comes from Prague and graduated from the IES in 2018 with the best GPA of all undergraduate classes in recent history. As part of the Erasmus+ programme, he spent a semester abroad in Mannheim, Germany (Universität Mannheim). He continued his studies at the University of St. Gallen, where he obtained his Master in Banking and Finance degree. Jakub works as an Investment Banking Analyst in the London office of the investment bank Perella Weinberg Partners, he is a member of the Restructuring Team. Previously, he interned at EY, the investment fund Rockaway Capital or 180Degrees Consulting, a student-led consultancy providing pro bono services to non-profit organisations. He co-founded a group organising football matches and tournaments for students at the IES. Apart from football, his hobbies include tennis or reading - he is a fan of books on historical events in the world of Finance or magic realism.
Jakub, after the IES you started to study in St. Gallen. What did you have to do to be accepted? What are the criteria?
The application process for the Master in Banking and Finance (MBF) programme at the University of St.Gallen is similar to those for other top programmes with the same orientation. Several criteria are taken into account, namely the GPA from undergraduate studies, the standardized exam GMAT score, extracurricular activities and work experience as well as the cover letter. So, I benefitted from my previous results and achievements, but also had to put an additional effort into the preparation for my GMAT exam and considerations around how to best structure my cover letter.
Why did you choose this particular university?
Throughout the second year at the IES, I realized that while having a solid background in theoretical economics is immensely valuable and as a student one learns how to think about complex, abstract issues, it was not anything I would like to study further. I became more and more interested in Finance – the interest (further fuelled through endless conversations with my friends at the IES about interesting articles in the Financial Times or through some excellent courses such as Financial Accounting or Private Equity) brought me to Mannheim, where I basically only took financial courses during my Erasmus exchange semester there. It was clear to me that in order to get a chance to work in Finance in a top bank or a fund abroad, it is necessary to obtain a degree from a European “target” university. Taking into account the experience and recommendations of my older friends and colleagues, my general affinity to the German speaking world, the dominance of the university in the region and the fairly reasonable tuition fees, I concluded that the MBF at the University of St. Gallen would be the number one choice for me.
You currently work at Perella Weinberg Partners as an Investment Banking Analyst. How would you describe your job? What is your "daily bread" - tables, passing on information, reading daily new...? Do you focus on any particular sector?
I work in the Restructuring Team. When I joined the team as an intern in summer 2019, little did I imagine that the sector would be in the spotlight during the following year. Obviously, the pandemic put many companies, but also sectors in general under pressure, which has kept us incredibly busy recently. Although we are not sector-focused in Restructuring, the current situation means we spend a lot of time on companies in the travel industry, retail or oil and gas. As an analyst, I am usually responsible for putting together situational overviews based on analyses of financial reports, legal documents or market developments. When on a deal, I help build financial models and prepare reports for our clients. I find Restructuring especially appealing due to its complexity and the fact that the work includes, among others, detailed financial modelling (such as cash-flow models on a weekly basis), legal (e.g. what types of debt re-shuffling the documents allow) or strategic considerations (there are often multiple constituents in restructuring transactions – the company and its management, various creditor groups, owners etc., each of whom may have different motivations and objectives).
How did you get from St. Gallen to London? Did you dream of working in the City, or is it just a coincidence?
My goal was to try and get a job in London as it still remains the main European financial centre. The University of St. Gallen is the number one target institution for London banks in the German speaking world. Most banks therefore offer special workshops and events for students in St. Gallen as part of their recruitment efforts, and many institutions even organize the first rounds of interviews on campus. That was the case of PWP as well. Two months after I had started my studies there, PWP as the first of the London institutions organized a two-day workshop in St. Gallen, which was concluded with first round interviews. I was impressed both by the interesting content of the workshop and the PWP bankers who then joined us for informal discussions, and since I also managed to make a good impression during the interviews, I got invited to London for the next round and later received an offer to join the firm as an intern.
You had already gained experience in Prague before that - at Rockaway Capital as an Analyst. What exactly were you in charge of here and how did this influence your career?
During the 8 months at Rockaway I worked on various projects. I spend most of my time in the Fintech division, analysing investment opportunities and helping prepare various materials on the portfolio companies and their strategic development. Apart from that, I was screening start-ups for the Ventures division, helping with the initial due diligence on the MALL Pay platform or had the opportunity to participate in a kick-off of an international sell-side transaction. I realized that I feel comfortable working in a lean, closely collaborating team, and enjoy thinking about transactions and investment opportunities as well as helping to make these happen.
How do you perceive the current situation? Coronavirus, Brexit ..., probably not quite easy at present in England? How do the restrictions affect you?
Even though everyone does their best to facilitate everything for the new joiners, it is just more challenging to get to know everyone and get familiar with all the processes when people work from home. I benefitted from the fact that my team functioned in a fairly normal regime in the office throughout autumn. With the new lockdowns announced in January, this was unfortunately not possible anymore, and now I am starting my third month on home office. It is not anything I am particularly excited about, but I hope the light at the end of the tunnel is now clearly visible and things will get back to normal soon. In terms of Brexit, the conditions did not change much for us who had worked in London last year already, and the direct impact on M&A and Restructuring has not been that visible so far.
What are your hobbies?
The intensity of work is fairly high on weekdays, but I try to make sure I exercise regularly, either in a gym or at home now when the fitness centres are closed. When not locked down, we meet up with colleagues and people from other banks and funds to play football, the popular English five-a-side. I was surprised how excited the English people get around football, be it in discussions about the Premier League or on Tuesday evenings on a football pitch in Chelsea during our friendlies. I do my best to read regularly, I have started listening to audiobooks, too – I try to combine classic literature (magic realism remains my favourite genre) with some more technical readings. I have not managed to explore London and the UK much yet due to all the restrictions, but I hope I will be able to do so once everything returns back to normal and people are allowed to travel again!