Hector Athanasopoulos
Equity Research Analyst, NBG Securities
MSc Finance & Economics (2013 - 2014)

Tell us about yourself and your background.

I hold a BSc Economics with major in Econometrics from University of Piraeus in Greece and an MSc Finance & Economics from WBS, which awarded me with the WBS Scholarship as a student with outstanding background.

I graduated from WBS in September 2014 and I began my career in the fintech industry in June 2015 as Risk Modelling Analyst working on the asset management arm of a software company. Despite being really enthusiastic about econometrics and risk management, creativity and judgmental decision-thinking were missing from the role and after 2 years I changed my career path and went into alternative investment research. Later in 2019 after having well-equipped myself with research experience, I shifted my career into another asset class and since then I have worked as an Equity Research Analyst covering Energy/Materials/Industrial/Utilities stocks.

Why did you decide to study at WBS?

I researched many European universities for over a year, looking at their prospectuses, the content of the modules, and their standings in terms of research and industry standards.

Back in 2013, WBS had a good reputation based on ranking lists of worldwide business schools and despite the university being quite young, WBS was one of only 3 UK business schools to be awarded the top five-star (5*) research rating. My strategy was to choose a business school in which I could actually expand my knowledge from professors actively involved in research, not just teaching, and definitely leverage on school’s reputation in the industry, as this would potentially make my profile stand out when applying in firms in UK.

WBS had all the features I was looking for, but despite this, a critical factor that affected my decision-making was the first-hand information of a well-respected friend of mine from Greece who graduated from WBS a year before I applied.  Hence, I would strongly recommend that prospective students do their own research, get in touch with past students, connect with graduates on LinkedIn and definitely learn about whether WBS plans to visit their country or organise on-site events, so as to go there and learn first-hand what it looks like to study at WBS.

Tell us about the company you are working for now.

The National Bank of Greece has a 176-year history as the oldest banking corporation in Greece, and today NBG offers a wide range of financial products and services to support the Greek economy. In terms of the company I work for, NBG Securities is the Investment Banking and Brokerage arm of the National Bank of Greece, which offers investment products, such as Greek and International equities, fixed income, ETFs, derivatives and UCITS, and research services to retail and institutional investors. The Equity Investment research provides insightful analysis and actionable research recommendations in a diverse range of companies listed on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE).

What does your job involve?

The core task of my job involves the writing of research reports on Greek listed companies, which incorporates financial statement analysis, forecasting, DCF and comparable valuation, in order to estimate the future stock price of the company. The frequency of the reports depends on when the companies release their earnings, which is usually every quarter. When the company releases its earnings, we expect to release a research report within a few days commenting about the company’s profitability, the company’s growth prospects, and essentially the revised estimates about the prospects of the stock price. The more a stock price may increase in the future, the more attractive a stock may be to potential investors based on explicit assumptions. My job also involves the daily coverage of corporate and industry/economy news that may influence the performance of the companies which I cover. To sum up, the subscribed investors are informed on a daily basis about corporate and economic news and on a quarterly basis about the earnings of their desired company in which are willing to invest or have already invested but they are keen to monitor. 

How did the course you studied help you prepare for your role?

Following the core structure of the course as a postgraduate student, I was equipped with the basic technical skill set needed as a financial economist, but I also gained exposure through my elective modules in Financial Risk Management and Credit Risk of Fixed Income Products. The course prepared me for a smooth transition as a quant analyst in financial risk modelling. When I shifted my career to investment research though, I had to learn new market concepts and new tools that apply better in these products. Despite having chosen less relevant electives from my current job, I managed to change my career path with success and find out what I really like.

Hence, I believe the course provided me with a well-rounded education in finance, in which I developed my areas of expertise. Apart from the technical knowledge, the course gave me the right set of soft skills, which I gained by working with other students towards group assignments under tight deadlines. These experiences helped me to improve my communication skills and my efficiency to come up with unique research solutions.

What were the key things you took away from your course? How have they helped you in your career?

During the course, I learned to carry out detailed independent studies and I improved my time management skills. It may sound overused, but the course was intensive, covering a lot more ground in every lecture than I had used in my undergraduate course.

For instance, we had 2-hour lectures each of which covering a chapter in a book followed by 1-hour seminar classes. I had to revise the taught material in due time and find also some personal time. Physical health is as important as mental health. I learned to be strict and allocate my time properly so that I could avoid overstudying while going out with friends or making dinner for myself.

Lastly, I took away that I have to ask as many questions as I can during or after the lecture while studying with colleagues in groups. In my field as an equity analyst, you will end up wrong at some point if you assume things and avoid asking, hence there is no stupid question. Working on multiple research reports, it is crucial to work on a strict time schedule and sometimes work with colleagues, so as to take advantage of colleague’s expertise and meet the deadlines at faster-pace.

Did you utilise the WBS CareersPlus team whilst you were studying at WBS? How did they help you?

Yes, I did. I utilised the WBS CareersPlus services not only during my studying but also after my studies as an alumni student. I did a few mock assessment tests, many numerical tests, and many interviews so as to stand on my feet and get challenged as much as I could before the official interviews. The WBS CareersPlus team organised essentially 1-1 preparation interviews in which I was involved, so as to prepare myself for the official interview in advance and got personalised feedback, which I found very helpful so as to start improving myself. The team also reviewed my CV many times before I make desirable applications and helped me write tailored cover letters so that my application stands out.

What would you say to someone thinking of applying for your course at WBS?

I would say that MSc Finance & Economics has a tremendous structure because all modules share common grounds. For instance, Corporate Finance shares some Game Theory concepts from Micro, and Econometrics shares common ground with Empirical Finance and Asset Pricing.

I personally find it intriguing to explore the meaning of economic concepts from different angles and this opportunity is obvious in this course, because there is a nice mixture of modules that all communicate. In terms of rankings, the MSc Finance & Economics favours not only from the WBS reputation and its professors like the rest of the finance masters, but also from the Economics department of Warwick University, which has also a high reputation in terms of research in Europe.