Could you introduce your educational background and career pathways?

I graduated from The Scots College in 1997 and took a gap year in London for a year, at a rugby school. Following that, I studied Agricultural Economics at the University of Sydney in my first year, then transferred to a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Finance and Economics. After university, I worked at JBWere briefly, then moved to London in 2007, where I started at Goldman Sachs, right before the GFC. From there, I’ve worked for 13 years at Goldman and am now a Managing Director, heading Sales-Trading for Europe, Middle-East Asia (EMEA).  

 

To what extent did economics at a high school or university level affect your decision to enter the financial world?

I think I was interested in the markets and companies from a young age, where I would always read the ‘Companies’ section of the newspapers every day. This interest influenced my decision to study economics on a tertiary level. Completing my degree, I naturally pursued a job at a financial services firm as it aligned with my interests and studies.

 

With a background in the financial services industry, did you have any moments when you truly appreciated or experienced the impacts of understanding economics?  

It would have to be during the GFC when I witnessed the differences in responses between those who have and have not studied economics. At work, it was a complete chaos. I walked out of an office that genuinely worried whether we would be able to even cash from an ATM and yet outside of my taxi, everyone else was completely unaware of the upcoming crisis and went about their usual routines. As the Americans say, there is Wall Street, then Main Street. While having this early knowledge of the financial crisis to come was due to my position at an investment bank, it was an example  where I realised those who studied economics had a clear advantage in understanding and interpreting the situation. In retrospect, it truly was a weird experience living through two different worlds.

There is Wall Street, then Main Street.

 

Do you think there is a disconnection between those who have and have not studied Economics?

I wouldn’t say it is a disconnection but rather think it is highly relevant and important to have a basic understanding of economics, whether it be supply and demand,  compounding interest rates or financial markets, as this directly influences your capacity to understand and interpret economic policies. For example, a basic understanding of economics would be required in interpreting the Australian government's policy that allows the public to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation funds during COVID-19. For those approaching their retirement ages, tapping into these funds would relatively not matter. However, for those who are only in their 20s and 30s, the money they withdraw from their superannuation accounts would be a much greater amount due to compounding interesting. Therefore, they would need to critically consider whether they truly require the additional funds, or if they can actually manage. This is just one example where it is essential to understand basic economics to respond to economic policies that could very well influence the trajectory of our lives. Personally, I would be uncomfortable with my daughter not understanding basic economics and the fundamentals of the financial markets.

Albert Einstein - Compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it, he who doesn't, pays it

 

Can you tell us about your personal life? What do you do during your spare time?

I work at Goldman Sachs – there is no spare time! It definitely is quite full on. I know people may think that work gets easier as you become more senior, but the reality is that the higher you are, the busier. Usually, I get to work at 6:30am and get off between 8-10pm - getting off at 5pm on a Friday would be considered lucky! So it definitely takes out a lot from you, which is why I try to exercise at least three times a week, two of them being HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions. Work is a constant pressure as even at home, you're thinking about the markets, clients and ways to generate more revenue, so engaging in those HIIT sessions really take things off my mind. In my spare time I try to spend time with my family, especially my 7-year-old daughter. She’s into horse riding, so we’d go horse riding every weekend when I have time and sailing is also enjoyed by the family. It's much less glamorous than it appears in movies and television– it’s a cycle between work and home. However, there are perks like eating out with clients in fancy restaurants, which is always a bonus.

 

Has working from home during COVID-19 somewhat been a 'blessing' for your family relationships?

In a sense, yes. It’s definitely not common when your daughter comes in the room at noon for a hug or kiss – that’s something I can never have at work, naturally. I even had breakfast with my wife and daughter this morning, which was a very nice change because I’d mostly be eating breakfast alone in my office. It’s also been welcoming to be able to see my daughter every day because at times, I'd see her on last on a Sunday night and then the next time is Thursday. Working from home has definitely brought some benefits.

 

In a world driven by technological advancements and innovation, would you still recommend studying economics?

Absolutely. I understand that STEM knowledge is essential for the future, but it is also very important to have a grasp of how the economy and economics policies work and impact our lives. I’d personally recommend a combined degree where you study STEM with a ‘social science’ like economics as the combination of the two different systems of logical thinking and knowledge would make you quite potent. I can speak that in recent years, Goldman has been skewed towards hiring students with a strong aptitude towards both economics and STEM, so I'd definitely encourage students to study in economics in conjunction with a practical STEM degree.

Combining economics and STEM would make you potent for the future