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Azad Zangana

Studied: BSc Economics

Graduated: 2003

Place of Work: Schroder’s

Position: European Economist

Why did you want to study Economics?

Originally, I thought that I wanted to do Mathematics, but Maths became more and more abstract as I progressed through my education and I realised that I wanted to do something that was more applied. That’s where Economics bridges the gap between the abstract and applied: it’s a combination of applied mathematics but it’s a social science as well so it has that human element.

What are the typical things that you would be learning in Economics?

You still have to get to grips with the maths, though not at such a high level. You then learn about the economy, and how, by using your mathematical knowledge, you can model some of the complex economic relationships. By understanding how the economy works, you will be able to forecast and predict economic behaviour over the coming years. Economics is a very diverse subject with many strands running through it. You could be a macroeconomist like myself; or you could be working with microeconomic issues like transport or the labour market, so there’s lots of different areas where you can go and find a career.

Were you thinking about your career before you applied to University?

I knew that I wanted to work in the City, but not necessarily as an Economist: that desire developed as I studied. When I was sixteen, I did some work experience with a company called J.P. Jenkins, a boutique stock broking company, and I remember sitting with all of the traders who, at that time, didn’t really have any qualifications in the way of a degree. But the industry was changing, and as the competition increased so qualifications were becoming more of the norm. With that in mind, I decided to pursue a degree.

What were the courses you particularly enjoyed?

Economics has the dual aspect of the human element, so you know that the goals you are pursuing will have a real implication for society when you achieve them; and the applied maths, which ensures that there is rigour behind your research so that your findings will have more credibility. I think that’s where other social science subjects can fall down.

In particular, I enjoyed Industrial Economics, which is a very microeconomic subject that really tries to understand the way companies behave, given the customers and competitors they have, how they compete and how they set prices. It also involves a little bit of games theory. That course was taught by Professor Anthony Heyes, an excellent lecturer who was at that time the Head of Department.

Overall, what was the best thing about the experience?

It’s got to be the education and the willingness of the academics to go the extra mile with us. We had so many seminar leaders who would spare the time to sit down with you and go through things when you needed to. I remember the night before the final exam in my final year, all of the rooms in the department were open so we could go in and use the facilities for revision. There were also PhD students there, answering questions and helping us to understand problems. That’s the kind of thing that you don’t really hear about in other universities.

Tell us about your current role.

My role is to analyse economic and market developments, and then advise our fund managers, who are managing funds on behalf of our clients. Clients range from very large, sovereign wealth funds right down to independent financial advisors working for the average man on the street. I advise the fund managers on things like how economies are developing, how that impacts on the markets, and where I think they should be investing. The other part of my role is writing independent research, which is published on a monthly basis and is publically available. The last two years have been very busy with the European sovereign debt crisis, and so it has been very important to keep right up to date with what is happening. I have also been able to develop a media profile and appeared on television over 80 times last year, as well as speaking at conferences organised by Schroders and external organisations.

Top tip for current students?

Be patient. Economics has a steep learning curve, and it is usually difficult to see how all the little pieces fit to make the big picture. But over time and as your knowledge expands, you will find the discipline very rewarding.

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