Yesterday we interviewed Arsalaan Siddiqi, a current student of the IE Global Master in Finance. Arsalaan holds a BBA & MBA from the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi, Pakistan, and an MBA from George Washington University (US) and is currently working at Financial Institutions, Corporates, and Trade at NBP Saudi Arabia. Let´s listen to Arsalaan´s story! 

Arsalaan Siddiqi 
IE Finance Team: Hi Arsalaan, can you tell us briefly about yourself? So you are from Pakistan but currently living and working in Saudi Arabia, why did you move to Saudi Arabia and how is your professional life going?  

Arsalaan: I call myself a professional within the financial services sector. I have been working in banking since 11 years; my involvement in the sector has been cross-sectional and I have worked in a range of functions including Corporate Finance, Loan Structuring, Origination, Coverage, Institutional Banking. From an academic perspective, I have had most of my education in my home country Pakistan but went to the United States to complete a Masters from the George Washington University in Washington DC.

My reason for going to Saudi Arabia was to move to a larger palette within the global financial industry (especially from the standpoint of Islamic Finance, which is one of my specialities). I had been working for local Islamic institutions in Pakistan, and wanted to be part of a larger/more diverse/more global team. I consider myself fortunate to be provided the opportunity of working with the largest Islamic bank globally – Al Rajhi Bank. Although I have moved on from Al Rajhi Bank, I have enjoyed my stint in the Middle East so far; the region has actually grown on me.

IE Finance Team: Can you tell us why you chose IE´s Global Master in Finance over the different top Finance programs worldwide? What is it about the GMIF that appealed to you?

Arsalaan: I always wanted to pursue a specialist finance degree in order to hone my skills and keep abreast of the latest developments in that realm. Interestingly, I stumbled upon IE only through a friend whom I was helping study math for the GMAT. Due to my affinity (till that time) only with US based schools, I was focusing on Universities in the same jurisdiction. Carnegie Mellon, MIT came on my radar only to be rejected due to the lack of flexibility their programs provided – all wanted full-time enrollment and I did not want to pursue such programs due to family/professional reasons. IE’s program, being well ranked and in a format that suited my schedule provided the proverbial “perfect fit”.

IE Finance Team: Now that the GMIF program is coming to an end, could you tell us about your learning experience, your classmates?

Arsalaan: Must say that our current GMIF 2014 class is a competent, confident, and an extremely competitive bunch. However, as much as I was attracted by the “blended format” I wish for more face time to interact with my batch mates/teachers. The learning has been noteworthy and although I frankly believe that a bit too much has been packaged in a one year program, IE still provides you the opportunity to learn as much as possible – it all depends on your hunger!

IE Finance Team: How did you find IE´s blended methodology?

Arsalaan: The blended format is the perfect answer to the needs of a highly competitive professional desirious of a top-notch qualification, unwilling to leave his current work setting  due to work/family committments. I would ideally have one more face to face period where advanced level courses and electives were taught, but as is, this is a pretty neat program with a healthy mix of forums, face to face periods, projects, assignments et al. The workload, I must admit is quite intense, and the pressures of competing with above average candidates makes you forget about grades and focus on learning ONLY.

IE Finance Team: What is your most important take-away from the program?

Arsalaan: Difficult to answer that question; there are more than one take aways but if you restrict me to a solitary take away, I would say…..the knowledge repository which perhaps will stay with me for the rest of my life.

IE Finance Team: Which values do you think that IE’s GMIF is going to add to your personal growth and professional development?

Arsalaan: That is another tough one but the list would certainly include, “ethical responsibility”; “humaneness”; “spirit of competition”; “self belief”…not to forget the folly of a GPA as grades are the last thing on your mind due to the bell curve in a highly competitive class.

IE Finance Team: Thank you very much Arsalaan for your time for this interview and I wish you good luck with the rest of the program & your career!