Katarína Líšková comes from Trnava, Slovakia. She graduated from the IES in 2018, during this time she also completed an Erasmus study stay at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain. However, after the Bachelor graduation at the IES, Katarína continued her studies and successfully completed her Master's degree at Cambridge, UK. Here she actively participated in student life and was active in several social, professional and sports associations. She was a member of the Darwin College Boat Club, the Women in Business Society as a Mentor and the Finance and Investment Society.
Katarína started gaining work experience in Prague while studying at the IES at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics and later at Deloitte in the Valuations and Financial Modelling team. Before moving to the UK, she completed an internship at the Slovak Ministry of Finance.
After studying at Cambridge University, Katarína stayed in the UK and joined J.P.Morgan in London. She is currently working as an Associate and focuses on FX options and trading.
In her spare time Katarina enjoys exploring London, travelling and experiencing new cultures.
Katarina, you have a Bachelors degree from IES, started master's degree at IES and then decided to continue Masters studies at Cambridge. Why did you choose this route? Many people go abroad straight after their Bachelor's degree...
At the IES, I liked the curriculum and the opportunities it gave me at the time so I was not in a rush to go elsewhere straight away. I initially started thinking about studying abroad whilst I was in Barcelona as part of the Erasmus programme. I started my Masters at IES and gained some work experience while I was applying abroad. The courses I signed up to during my Masters at IES were really interesting and useful for my studies at Cambridge university. Even now at work, I am using the knowledge I gained during the extra time in Prague, and am pleased to have made the decision not to rush the move abroad straight after the Bachelor's degree.
When you compare IES and Cambridge, is studying at Cambridge significantly more challenging or just different?
The experience is certainly different. In my experience, this is mainly driven by the environment rather than the courses themselves. At Cambridge, I had a rather unique experience as our class was relatively small which meant there were a lot of opportunities for discussions, making the topics come alive more. Generally, the courses at Cambridge covered a lot more content and therefore required a substantial amount of self-studying and analysing academic papers. The length of Masters is shorter in the UK, being only 1 year compared to Czech Republic, where it is 2 years. The studies at the IES gave me a great base line and it was easy to adapt to the high pace at Cambridge.
One of the things which stood out was the amount of academic and career oriented events during the year at Cambridge. I am aware that there are similar opportunities in Prague and perhaps I was more aware of these because I was only focusing on my studies while doing my Masters in the UK. At Cambridge, it is common that the students are involved in extracurricular activities - I personally used this opportunity to get involved with rowing for my college and take an active part in Women in Business Society as a Mentor, a Finance and Investment Society.
During your studies, you started in internship positions, both in the Czech Republic and in the UK. What is the recruitment process like for such positions, I assume there will be much more competition in the UK…
When I worked in the Czech Republic, it was always a part-time position to juggle work and studying. I particularly enjoyed my internship at Deloitte in the Valuation and Financial Modelling team, which helped to set me up for my career in finance.
In the UK, for internships in front-office roles in finance, a lot of the firms run summer or sometimes off-cycle internships which are usually 3 to 6 months long. The interview process for these could be lengthy and very competitive, and you need to start applying around 9 months ahead of the planned start date. Obviously, these things evolve, so I suggest if you are interested in a specific internship or company, that you look at their specific requirements.
In terms of my interview for a JP Morgan internship, I had to pass an online test, go through a video-interview and complete an all day assessment centre.
Since the internship process is highly competitive, with only around 1% acceptance rate for the top banks/funds, I was keen to attend as many CV-screened in-person events as possible for networking and to gain insight into the companies.
I was selected to attend a trading competition event at J.P.Morgan office in London before applying, which gave me a great insight into how the company works and whether I would like to apply. Whilst I was at IES, I went to Rome for Rotman European Trading Competition which also proved to be a helpful and relevant experience!
After my summer internship, I was offered a full time role at JP Morgan to start straight after, in September.
You are now living and working in London. You have worked your way up to Associate at J.P. Morgan. What is your daily routine? Spreadsheets, meetings?
Every day is different, which is what I enjoy about my role.
Initially, I was working in Trading, which involved a very high paced work, risk-management and having to think quickly in terms of pricing.
Last year I moved to the Structuring team, where my focus is on more complex, longer term deals, completing analyses and compared to trading it is more of a longer term bigger project work. I have an opportunity to participate on client calls and sales calls, work with colleagues across the world, and get exposure to a range of internal teams such as legal, market risk, and trading teams.
I am able to invest time in bringing up ideas for new products and trade/hedging ideas for our clients. My team is global, and we sit in London, NYC, Singapore and Japan so you are often collaborating across different centres.
How has your job description evolved as your career has progressed? What's been the most challenging for you?
Working in the Markets division at a large investment bank is a unique experience which I am very grateful for. With the events of the last few years and the reaction of the markets to this, it has certainly been a very busy three years since I joined JP Morgan and the time has flown by.
As I mentioned already, my job is varied. Even though I have been working with FX options, I had the opportunity to trade a few different currencies and exotics products over the years, which helped me get a wider understanding of the markets.
Initially when I joined the firm as an intern, my day used to be more structured with several regular tasks and ad hoc requests from my senior colleagues. Slowly, as I gained more experience and responsibility and was able to start risk-manage a trading position, I would spend time following the news, reviewing data to be able to make pricing decisions for clients and hedging the risk in the interbank market.
As you would expect, the job itself is high pace and demanding and you need to keep up with a steep learning curve, manage your workload, continue to grow and take on more responsibility to progress your career. This is exactly where not only knowledge but also skills gained at university come very handy and I believe the years at IES and Cambridge helped to give me a good base.
Do you have a work-life balance? Or are you giving everything to your career at the moment? Is working in the City sustainable in the long term?
Work-life balance means different things to different people so it is really hard to provide yes-no answer to this question.
There is no denying that working for an investment bank, the hours could be long, especially when you are still learning so much every day. For me, the time I invested in the beginning is certainly paying off and I am finding that with more seniority and experience, I am able to work slightly shorter hours, particularly compared to when I was an intern and was learning on the job.
Currently, I am in a stage of life where I am able to dedicate a lot of my time to work to develop myself and my career and personally, this is where my focus is at the moment. Having said this, I do have colleagues who have been doing this for many years and even have a family. Whilst I imagine juggling a career in finance and a family life is not easy, it is great to see them championing that it is possible to sustain this life-style long term.