This profile is a graduation special edition. Thanks to everyone who shared their profiles in 2022.
FRIENDS IN FINANCE
Aaqif Jagirdar, CFA
Programme Reporting Manager, KiwiRail
Vishal Khanna, CFA
Associate – Treasury, Westpac New Zealand
Vishal and Aaqif have known each other since their pre-teens and recently graduated together as CFA charterholders. The Beatles were right, a little help from your friends can make all the difference.
Pic below: Aaqif Jagirdar (far left) and Vishal Khanna (middle) at the recent graduation event.
When did you first meet and become friends?
Vishal: We first met at around 12-13 years old while attending Farm Cove Intermediate school. Aaqif had just moved to NZ from Dubai and was finding his groove in Auckland. It wasn’t until our time at Pakuranga College where we became friends through having the same classes and sharing a passion for a bit of lunchtime basketball and late-night gaming.
Aaqif: I think we’ve somehow always had some common interests since school which is how we’ve managed to stay friends all this time. Oh, and not to mention the shared trauma that came from studying for the charter together!
You both completed degrees at University of Auckland. How was that? Did you already have ideas for a profession/industry?
Aaqif: I took a less than conventional route to obtain my degree – only starting a Bachelor of Commerce after doing two years of a Bachelor of Engineering program and deciding that it wasn’t for me. I’ve always been good at numbers, so I knew heading into it that I’d most likely be going into accounting but through the University, I also discovered the intricacies of the world of finance which got me hooked
Vishal: Like Aaqif, I enjoyed maths but was not quite sold on the engineering route either. I had done a couple of business papers in high school which I really enjoyed so the commerce route seemed fitting. University was a great experience for me, I think you really get out what you put in and for most people it’s the first time you get to truly make independent decisions, which can be a steep learning curve.
When/how did you hear about the CFA Program, and what made you decide to do it?
Vishal: It wasn’t till after university where I first heard about the CFA program. I had just graduated and was still contemplating my next moves. Originally, I was planning on doing the Chartered Accountant (CA) program but had my mind changed after receiving some sage advice from my elder brother who was also starting his CFA journey at the time.
Aaqif: I learnt about it through Vishal actually. I knew I wanted to head into the finance industry after university and was unsure of the path to take to get there but luckily Vishal had his brother for advice and that transferred through to me.
What was it like having a friend doing the CFA Program at the same time? Any advantages/disadvantages?
Aaqif: I can honestly say that I could not have completed the CFA Program without the support and help of Vishal. There were times when I was ready to give up and pursue something else, but Vish kept me going. I appreciate all the support I received from my friends, family, and co-workers but having someone besides you who knows exactly what you are going through at the same was invaluable.
Vishal: 100% agree with Aaqif here. Having a friend go through the exams at the same time was a massive advantage. From the obvious things such as knowledge sharing and study sessions to the more subtle things like knowing someone else is sacrificing countless Saturday nights with mates so they can memorise different hedge fund strategies or the many different free cash flow formulas.
Now your careers are underway, have there been any highlights so far?
Vishal: Passing each exam has marked a notable point in my career thus far. Level 1, I was an Assistant Accountant at Flight Centre NZ learning the ropes of management reporting. Level 2, I was an Analyst at Westpac getting acquainted with the NZ banking environment and all the rules and regulations that come with it. Level 3, I had joined the Treasury team at the bank which gave me great insights into the NZ and offshore capital markets. Highlights for me would have to be working with my team on large funding transactions to strategically manage the banks liquidity.
Aaqif: I’ve had the pleasure of working for two companies that are undertaking massive infrastructure upgrade projects – Ventia with the UFB fibre roll out; and KiwiRail with the various rail upgrades and expansion of the Interislander ferry fleet and services. It is satisfying knowing that my work is going towards improving the lives of both the current and future generations of Kiwis.
Is there any advice you would give to students (or your former selves)?
Aaqif: Start early and pace yourselves while you are studying for the CFA Program. It’s very easy to burn out and if you are under time pressure to finish, it just exacerbates the problem. Prepare for a rough couple of months/years while you are studying, but I promise that it is worth it on the other side. I always tell people that the CFA Program is more a measure of hard work than it is about being clever so go in with the attitude that you are going to work at it harder than anything else you’ve ever worked for, and it will set you up nicely for success.
Vishal: I would suggest that if you’re currently studying commerce/finance in uni and keen do the CFA Program, speak to your course advisors as they may be able to structure your papers in a way that is most efficient for ultimately doing the program. Especially with the first exam, it would be very helpful to have the knowledge from your bachelor’s degree fresh in your mind when you begin.