Coming from Assam, one of the furthest North-Eastern provinces of India which is renowned for its tea and one-horned rhino, how does one blend into cosmopolitan London? Let’s dive into the experience of Jiban Nath, Front Office Quant Risk Officer at Carmignac.
Tell us about your childhood?
I was born in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (which borders Pakistan in Northern India) at a time when my father was posted to the frontier as a serving member of the Indian army. A few months after I was born, I had to leave Kashmir with my mother and sister due to the looming Indo-Pakistani war - leaving my father behind. Since then he was away from home for eleven months of every year at a time, so I grew up with my mum in the village of Dudhpatil, in Assam. When I was nine years old I left the village to further my education and went to live in the nearest city, Silchar, with my aunt, who was a primary school teacher. She instilled in me a strong desire to learn and a sense of competitiveness.
What was your dream job as a kid?
Growing up in a village like mine and at the time that I did, the level of exposure and knowledge to what was available in the world was extremely limited to me. Before the age of ten, all I knew was that I needed to study very well to get out of the village where I saw daily struggles all around me, and hopefully become a lecturer in a college. Therefore shortly after I graduated from high school, I left my hometown and took a forty-hour train journey to Delhi, which was an adventure as until then I had never travelled outside of my town.
What was it like in Delhi?
When I arrived in Delhi, paid accommodation was unaffordable, so I stayed in an open courtyard of a temple for a few months waiting for admission to Delhi University. I then rented someone’s lounge jointly with a friend I made during my stay in the temple. As he was employed, he would sleep by 9pm, so I would study sitting in the well-lit stairwell outside the flat until late at night. After the first semester, a family offered me a bed in their sitting room and food in exchange for tutoring their two kids for the next two semesters. A barter that suited me well.
You’ve been living in the UK for a while now. Have you started considering yourself as British?
While I’m proud of my Indian roots, I am proud to be a British citizen too. I’m convinced that the greater the exposure to different cultures, the more one’s knowledge grows. This is not only because of the opportunity to learn more about the world but also about being aware of oneself. Every day is a learning experience in the multi-cultural society that is London, and I enjoy it. In my view, democracy, respect for rule of law, diversity and individual liberty are some of the core values of British society which I share. So I certainly do consider myself British, but always with Indian roots and taking the best of both cultures.
How did you choose to specialize in Finance?
After my master’s degree, I became a lecturer at a college in Delhi. Then within a couple of months I was appointed as a lecturer in Mathematics in a newly established university in my hometown, where I taught masters students for three years. However in my mind I always had a burning desire to do a PhD further afield. Upon applying, I was selected for a commonwealth scholarship for a PhD in the UK at Kings College in London, where I graduated from in 2001. Everyone from my PhD cohort was applying for jobs in finance, so I decided to apply for a Quantitative Analyst position, and this is how my finance career started.
How did you join Carmignac?
Whilst working as a Quant with a Portfolio Manager at a London hedge fund, a senior member of the risk team who I had not worked with before asked for help on a project and I obliged. A few months later, we both left the hedge fund and went our separate ways. Some time later, he started working at Carmignac, and as he needed to hire in his team, he reached out to me. I then met Maxime Carmignac and was soon hired, much to my delight. On paper, I was not exactly matching with the job description, my previous experiences were not in risk management but as a Financial Engineer, an Equity derivatives strategist and a programmer. I think this is the beauty of Carmignac, they are looking beyond the resume, they mostly look at your background skills, at the added value you can bring to the team through your past professional experiences and of course at your ability to adapt to the job efficiently.
What is it to be a Front Office Quant Risk Officer ?
Managing risks on financial markets is just like managing risks in your daily life. Before taking the decision to do something, you always have to step back and ask yourself: is it worth the risk? You have to take into account the different sceanario including the worst case one, their probability to happen, and then assess if it is worth a go. This is my job, giving the portfolio managers and analysts the keys to make these decisions.
How do you leverage your adaptation skill in your daily job at Carmignac?
In the front office team, I work with various teams across the business including Portfolio Managers. To remain relevant, one must be connected, agile and mobile. This is what is exciting about this job and in finance in general. I love to be in the middle of the action. This is one of the reasons why I love being on the floor, in the middle of the debates and the talks even when you are not direcly involved. It is an incredibly porwerful source of learning.
What is special working at Carmignac?
The floor I work on is so culturally diverse, it’s amazing! My colleagues around me are strong professionals from very diverse nations and backgrounds including English, French, American, Spanish, German, Swedish, Turkish etc. I don’t think I have ever witnessed a floor that was so diverse with such a high level of involvement. I find this very exciting and positive. The diverse nature of my colleagues coupled with tolerance allows for a vivid and informative debate. In my view diversity creates excellence.
Talking about excellence, what is your definition of this notion?
We at Carmignac are responsible for effectively managing our clients’ assets, and excellence is about serving that mandate to the best of our collective abilities to ensure client satisfaction. I always ask myself: am I doing my best? Is my best relevant and useful? We improve ourselves by always keeping a realistic eye on what we are trying to achieve.
Do you have a motto?
“Live and let live”. Everyone dreams of having a successful and happy life, but we have to be tolerant of our differences and must adapt to let live.