Q&A Interview with Ahmad Abou Merhi - Cass Accounting & Finance Student

NimbleFins is conducting a series of Q&A interviews featuring top students at different universities across the UK. Since education is one of the most important factors in determining a young person's future success, we want to share experiences of the next generation of professionals as they head off into the work force.

photo of Cass Business student Ahmad Abou Merhi
Ahmad Abou Merhi, Cass Accounting & Finance Student

This interview is with Ahmad Abou Merhi, who is studying Accounting & Finance at the Cass Business School (part of City, University of London), expecting to graduate with a BSc (Hons) in 2018. Ahmad is also Founder of The Cass Exposure, the student-led newspaper of the Cass Business School.

We recently spoke with him about his experience within his program and what he's planning to do with his professional future.

What influenced you to pursue this degree?

A common misconception among university students is that Accounting and Finance is only for accountants and bankers to be. I see it differently, I believe that no matter where your desire falls in the business world, having a strong foundation in the core of the business is key. In my opinion, no matter what area of the business world you are an expert in, if you lack accounting and finance knowledge, you have cracks that can be abused by counterparties when it comes to the real world. Therefore, I decided to pursue my BSc in this area specifically as it paves a well-defined path for my further steps down the road.

What has your experience in the program been like at your university? Why should other students consider your degree and/or university?

A rollercoaster of emotions.

My experience as an Accounting & Finance student at Cass Business School has been such a good one that I have decided to contribute back to the department, and thus was elected as a programme representative in October 2016. I believe that it is tremendously easy to settle at Cass, and that is a significant factor when it comes to international students. In addition to that, Cass has offered me precious insight into the real world which placed me in the driver’s seat when I applied for summer internships. To put it into perspective, I had to decline offers / withdraw applications from the likes of HSBC, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Credit Suisse when I decided to put pen on paper for JP Morgan Chase & Co. This shows that Cass’s investment in me offered me something that is highly undervalued by humans; it offered me "a choice." Apart from all of that, the most important aspect of the program in my opinion is the priceless knowledge and experience the lecturers share with us throughout the years. The fact that the course is not book-oriented makes it much more valuable for students who seek to learn more than words off pages that they can buy from any bookshop.

As for the degree itself, the content is spread across a broad variety of areas which allows students to develop a rich understanding of an exceptional range of topics. This widens the scope of possibilities that our students can benefit from when it comes to designing their career paths. It is a crucial factor when it comes to evaluating university programmes as university students should have such an exposure to allow them to shift horizontally and experience different career opportunities before committing themselves. Objectively speaking, I do not know of a programme that offers content that can match ours at Cass.

As for the university, what is better than a university that is shortlisted by Times Higher Education to become the University of the Year? A university that is based in Central London that is shortlisted by Times Higher Education to become the University of the Year. Trust me, nothing feels better than having JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Citi Bank, BAML, and all the other tycoons at your doorstep.

Have you participated in any internships? If so, where were they and can you tell us about your experience?

I have recently completed an internship at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and no words can describe the role it played in my personal and professional development. Being part of the biggest American bank in the world offered me invaluable coverage to all aspects of the business world. My daily tasks offered me exposure to front office, middle office, and back office across the whole globe, which reflected the importance of diversity and globalization in our industry. Alongside that, I was mentored by senior positions due to the flat structure of the firm, who not only offered me excellent professional tips, but showered me with life and career advice. Overall, walking into JPMorgan was an exciting moment looking ahead to my days within the premises, however walking out was even more exciting due to all the experience I have under my belt now going back into the lecture room.

What is the best piece of advice related to your field of study that you have received?

  1. You are an Olympic runner and the Olympics are in 3 years. No one blinks an eye if you are the fastest man in the world today, what matters is that you are the fastest man in the world then. Moral: Time yourself wisely.

  2. A town was flooded with rats so the mayor announced that for every rat tail handed over by any citizen (i.e., a rat kill), a $5 reward would be given in return. Do you know what happened? The citizens started growing rats. Moral: Regardless how appropriate a solution might seem; it can always act against you.

What are your future career plans and aspirations?

Walking into my final year of BSc, my sole focus is to finish this wonderful journey on a high note. Following that, I aim to remain settled at Cass Business School and pursue further education in MSc (Hons) Shipping Trade & Finance. After my MSc, I will take a horizontal shift within J.P. Morgan and seek opportunities in their Asset Management entity, as opposed to my previous contract with the CIB. Hopefully down the road, I hope to make a name for myself in the Shipping Finance niche industry and return to education for my MBA / EMBA within the UK or abroad to further develop myself and add more value to the firm. Apart from all of that, my ultimate aspiration is to see my beloved country of Lebanon climb a high economic slope in which I would love to take part in the long run.

Do you have any tips on financing an education?

You are a soldier, and just like any soldier, the lower the funding you have the harder you need to work. Students need to understand that to be supported, they need to work hard. No support will knock on your door if you show no thirst and commitment. Plenty of scholarships are out there for hard-working students to grab, so if you work hard you will be paid off. This does not mean that fully-supported students should not work hard, they should honestly work harder. Comparing education investment with our investments in life, this one is the most flexible when it comes to controlling the investment’s return. Therefore, I highly encourage students to make the most of their time at university as the further you develop yourself, the sooner you will repay your debt. As I am an overseas student, I do not have as much knowledge about the financing opportunities available within the UK, but I am sure that showing hard-work and dedication will open a lot of sponsorship opportunities.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Never hesitate when it comes to asking questions. I truly believe that the person who asks a question appears as a fool for 2 minutes, yet the person who does not ask remains a fool for a lifetime.


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