An interview with Co-Founder of UCL M&A Group: Inclusiveness and Accessibility

Updated: 12 hours ago


UCL M&A Group

The UCL M&A Group is a subgroup within the Tharsos Society that focuses on analysing recent M&A transactions. Their analysts write reports about deals covering a wide range of sectors including healthcare, TMT and real estate; these reports are featured in the Tharsos bi-weekly newsletter and are circulated around campus.​

The group also offers students who are interested in investment banking the opportunity to showcase their skills through writing in-depth reports and conducting analyses on specific deals.


UCL M&A group stands out with its emphasis on inclusiveness and accessibility. Instead of offering first year representative positions like most university societies do, they provide over 80 analyst positions with no quotas which create opportunities for students looking to gain invaluable experience. Accessibility is the ethos upheld within the M&A Group— they consider applications from all students, regardless of their background or the discipline they are studying, as long as they are driven and committed individuals who are passionate about M&A.


We are delighted to speak to the Co-Founder of UCL M&A Group, Yash Parikh, a second year Economics student at UCL and Patrick Gorton, a final year student at UCL, studying Economics Business and East European Studies to elaborate on their experiences in finding and growing the UCL M&A group, as well as providing advice for students wanting to get a head start in investment banking.


Q1. As a subgroup within the Tharsos Society, what is the biggest motivation behind establishing such a unique group focusing specifically on M&A?


I think the motivation behind starting the group is twofold. The most important reason behind finding the group was a way to increase accessibility. For both myself and Patrick, when we first got to UCL we were instantly bombarded with all these societies, advertising their first year representatives. But often these societies have four or five positions for first year applications with over 100 hundred applications, so getting a position seemed almost impossible.

Therefore, we decided that this should be changed in UCL, and so the biggest reason behind finding UCL M&A group was to give students at UCL the opportunity to engage with M&A analysis and get some experience which they can talk about on their CV when it comes to applying for spring week programmes or summer internships.


Q2. What would you say is different about being an analyst at UCL M&A group?


We have section heads and they offer sources of mentorship for the analysts within our group. We have over 80 analysts in our group and the mentorship that our division heads provide really prepares them for interviews and the applications that they put forward for spring week programmes or summer internships.


Q3. In January 2020, it was under your (Patrick) presidency that Tharsos was granted affiliation with UCLSU after 4 years of independence. It was definitely a remarkable milestone; How did you manage to lead such a large team to achieve it?


I was elected to become Vice President of UCL Economics and Finance Society but I decided that I'd rather take on a president role for Tharsos and have a little bit more scope to explore.

At the time it was a trading group that just focused on looking at commodities, currencies and equities, and then trading them on a virtual platform. But some of the other societies such as Bloomsbury Capital and the Investment Society had started trading already, so Tharsos Group wasn't that popular. We weren't able to get funding from the Union, and we weren’t able to differentiate ourselves.

So I looked at what other societies were doing and I saw that if we were to produce financial news as opposed to trading, it might make us more unique. I called together a team meeting with everybody, and I said: “Look, I know this is a trading society, However, why don't we just focus on producing reports, we can still technically analyze stocks, but let's just focus on being a financial news provider.” Everyone got on board, we ended up getting affiliation with the Union and Tharsos is now an official society and the UCL M&A Group is a subdivision within it, and it's been highly successful.


Q4. What would you consider as the most important quality for a leader to have?


I think that everybody has different tactics - some people like to be authoritarian with their approaches whereas me and Yash prefer everybody to be autonomous and have full independence of each of their teams and we just try to be supportive.

Building a passion is what I'd say is the thing I've tried to do. I've got a passion for M&A and hopefully everyone in the M&A Group feeds off that passion and that's why we've been successful.



Q5. Reflecting back at your journey with the UCL M&A Group, is there something you regret or feel that you could have done better in hindsight?


I guess the only regret would have been if we were able to establish it a lot earlier. When I was in first year, there was nothing like this, so if we had found it slightly earlier, maybe I would have had better luck with my spring week applications.

Honestly speaking, since we founded it in June 2020, things have gone beyond our expectations. If you would have asked myself or Patrick back in June where did we see the group, as it is now, just seven or eight months from founding it, I think we both wouldn’t have had this picture in mind, but the group has grown amazingly. People perceive it to grow in a positive way and people who read our M&A analysis can really learn something from it. We've invited big speakers in the last few weeks and it's going really well. I have no personal regrets myself and I'm sure Patrick wouldn't either.


Q6. 2020 was a difficult year but it did not stop the UCL M&A Group from growing. What is your vision for the Group, and for yourself as an individual, in the years to come?


When Yash and I came up with this idea last June, we had no idea how it was going to go. The pandemic just started, there were already many established societies in UCL related to finance. Although this is probably awful to say, but the pandemic did us a slight favour and that was because we're a society which requires nobody to actually be in person- we just produce reports so we actually benefited from the pandemic.


In terms of our vision, I would say that we definitely want to become the best on campus, there's no doubt about it. We've already got 80 plus analysts, just last week Yash and I did an interview with the head of UK investment banking at Jefferies. We've got the head of banking, head of natural resources at Lazard doing an interview with us next week. We are doing a lot of events to really establish ourselves as the most premier group on campus but also the most inclusive. We don't do first year representatives positions and everybody is welcome.


Q7. Acute, comprehensive business and market sense is extremely important for an M&A analyst. What approach did you take to develop and upgrade your business and market sense and how do you keep yourself up with movements in the global market?


I think the best way to improve your understanding of M&A is to first understand why M&A deals take place in the first place. You usually look at the fundamental theory first. I started off by looking at Investopedia which really gives you the theory behind why things happen.

Then you try to apply the theory in the real world. You would look at real life M&A deals by reading articles that are already written by the Financial Times, Bloomberg, etc. and try to understand what and why are things happening.

For example, if an M&A deal is taking place between two companies, why did one company decide to acquire the other? What was the reasoning behind it? How much did they pay? Was it justified the amount they paid? Asking these questions to yourself forces you to think and ultimately helps you to develop your understanding of M&A and that's really how to keep up with global markets.

What I do personally is to have CNBC up, with notifications on, and as soon as there are changes in the market, you get the update and if it's something which interests you, you can definitely look into that. I also have the CNBC APP to tell me every single day what stocks are outperforming.


Q8. Many students have great ideas and aspirations, but often find it difficult to find a good place to start. Is there any advice you would give to students looking to take the initiative and wanting to start something new?


A lot of the times I get very frustrated because people will message me and they'll ask me how I get spring week or summer internships. But sometimes you really need to just go for it and that's how an idea can be turned into reality, whether it’s knitting society or the green finance club. If you're somebody who wants to demonstrate that you've got a passion for something, maybe investment banking or whatever it is that you want to do, you need to get out to make it happen. You can't just sit there, it's the same with setting up Enlightment blog, it's the same with Yash and I setting up the UCL M&A Group. My advice is that if you have an idea, now's the best time to do it because we're at university and there's a pandemic going on. So put the pen to paper, get the work done, get something set up and then when you leave university you'll be able to look back and say “Oh yeah that group which is operating, I set that up” and it can be a proud achievement.


Q9. Finally, being able to secure many internships opportunities in renowned corporations, is there any advice you would like to give to students looking into analyst roles or opportunities in investment banks?


Yash:

I think the main advice would be to figure out what it is that you want to do within an investment bank. Within an investment bank, there are different functions: M&A market, sales and trading, asset management etc.

For me, it is finding out things that interest me and trying to get some experience related to that. You need to start building that story because the most important question that you'll be asked in interviews is why you're applying for this job, and having a personal reason, backed up with experiences puts you in a much stronger position than someone who answers it much more generally.

Secondly, just apply early. Most of the applications are on a rolling basis so apply early and know the application process well. Make sure you're familiar with the practice tests so you pass the screening stages and once you're at the interview, all you need to do is to impress the interviewer.


Patrick:

I like to live by the motto - the harder you work the luckier you get.

In my first year, I remember when I first arrived at university, I had a color coded CV. I was rejected by all of the banks that I applied to and I didn't get a single one of the first year representative positions. I was absolutely gutted, I was really down in the dumps. But I got up. I got rid of the colors on my CV, I learned how to format it properly, I got involved in societies, which is very important. I ended up being the President of Tharsos. It was a constant grind to try.

There is a formula to applying for any internship roles: Do you have a personal story? Are you involved in societies? What are your extracurriculars like? Have you got any work experience?

But ultimately, I think the biggest thing is to have a personal story. Students that I mentored say they want to work in investment banking because it's a fast paced industry and they want to work on big deals, being in the City of London with suits on walking along with a nice cappuccino. But that doesn't quite cut it, you need to have real personal reasons.

For me personally, I always discussed the fact that my mother used to have a vintage clothing shop in Brighton. It didn't do very well and it went bankrupt, so I wanted to take on an advisory role within an investment bank which could have positively impacted clients like my mother.




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