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Anisha Kothapa

  • Degree Programme: Masters in Finance full time
  • Global Nationality: American
  • Profile Job Post-programme: Fintech Analyst at CB Insights
Having grown up and spent her early career in California, Anisha Kothapa (MiFFT2018) decided she was ready for a change. Here, she explains how our Masters in Finance programme ignited a passion for FinTech and enabled her to carve out a career in a fast-moving and disruptive industry in New York.

I grew up in Orange County, California. As an Indian American with parents who immigrated here to find better opportunities, they always reinforced the importance of education. They were highly educated themselves – both were successful doctors – and had seen what could be achieved by working hard. They wanted me to have a similar experience, so from a young age I was encouraged to throw myself into school. Thinking back, this is where my road to a finance career began, with maths being a subject I not only enjoyed, but excelled at – so I ensured I always put 110% into every school project and homework assignment.  


I went to a public high school in Villa Park, California, but had the chance to do advanced placement courses when I was 16, which really helped me secure a great education. In the US school system, advanced placements give you the opportunity to do college courses while at high school. Along with building my academic knowledge at a young age, one of the biggest draws was learning alongside some incredibly smart people in my own year group and the year groups above. I enjoyed the challenge, and without a doubt these courses helped instil the drive and ambition that I have today.


Despite my parents being doctors, they steered me away from medical school and towards a career in business. Because I was so good at maths, they encouraged me to focus on finance, because they knew business was a field that I could one day be successful in. Following their advice, but without a clear plan of what I wanted to do, I applied to University of California, Berkeley to study Environmental Economics and Policy. I chose this major since it was similar to an Economics major but had a bigger focus on environmental policy, innovation and strategy, which was more appealing to me.


It was during my time at UC Berkeley that I discovered a real passion for finance. I had the opportunity to do several internships during my degree – the first, an internship at Bank of America Merrill Lynch as a Private Wealth Management Intern. I then joined a small hedge fund called YSO Capital Management as an Investment Analyst Intern. Both were amazing experiences and gave me exposure to different areas of the industry.  

“Finishing the programme to go on and have the opportunity to find a job in London was something that really appealed to me. Also, travel is one of my biggest passions, so having the chance to join different treks at LBS around the world was something I couldn’t wait to explore”

After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2013, I landed a role as a Corporate Banking Analyst for US Bank within their Relationship Management Team. There, I worked with large corporate clients like Toyota and fast-food restaurant Jack in the Box, managing their portfolios, loans and credit facilities. It was incredibly interesting and I really enjoyed my time there, but after nearly four years I wanted to build a better and more holistic understanding of finance, which is what led to my decision to apply to LBS.


I chose the Masters in Finance because I wanted to understand finance at a core level. While working at US Bank, I was heavily involved in the relationship management, business development and sales side of things, so I never had much exposure to finance fundamentals like accounting, investment analysis and financial modelling. The content of the MiF was ideal and I knew it would help me build a solid foundation for my future career.


You can study the MiF in either a full-time or part time format. I chose full-time because I wanted to be completely immersed in the student experience. Both formats give you access to everything that LBS has to offer, but I wanted to focus on my time at the school without having to think about working a full-time job. Finishing the programme to go on and have the opportunity to find a job in London was something that really appealed to me. Also, travel is one of my biggest passions, so having the chance to join different treks at LBS around the world was something I couldn’t wait to explore.


Up until 2017, I spent my life in California – so when I was looking at business schools, LBS’s location was one of the many reasons that it stood out. I personally learn better in a different environment. Just like when I joined the advancement placement programmes in high school, I’ve always thrived in a more intense context with other people who could really challenge me. When I started looking into the school, its diversity and global reputation presented an amplified version of that new, exciting environment I was looking for. London is also a great financial hub with a number of companies, opportunities, and networks that I knew only LBS would be able to connect me to.

“Before joining the programme, I’d never even heard of FinTech and it wasn’t until I went to the Career Centre events that brought in companies like Monzo and Revolut that I became aware of this fascinating industry”

The diversity at LBS was incredible; in my class alone were people from the Middle East, Africa, South America and Asia. This isn’t something you’d typically find at a US business school. In fact, when it comes to both nationality and professional background, I think you’d struggle to find anywhere more diverse than LBS. Through my classmates I learnt, for example, how finance in Egypt differs from finance in the US, and how they differ from the finance industry in Argentina. From payments, lending, and banking products, each country operates very differently and it was great to hear their perspectives on how Fintech has been disrupting each region. Our discussion on Fintech regulation and VC funding was particularly interesting. Regulation is a key differentiator that either provides opportunities or inhibits innovation depending on the country, and increased VC funding shows where Fintech is booming – which is something we continue to discuss to this day.


Despite wanting to initially focus on the fundamentals of finance, I had the chance to expand my knowledge in other areas too. I took electives like ‘Negotiating and Bargaining’ and ‘Strategy for MiFs’, which allowed me to focus on different skills within finance and take classes alongside MBA students and other students across all degree education programmes. This was hugely beneficial, as I had the chance to learn alongside a diverse group of students – both in terms of nationality and industry – and understand how they solved business problems and approached decision making. I didn’t want to just do a master’s; I wanted the whole business school experience, which the MiF definitely gave me.


I definitely made the most of the huge range of clubs at LBS, and joined the Corporate Leadership Club, the Volunteers Club, the Tech and Media Club, the Women in Business Club and the Entrepreneurship Club. One of my favourite experiences was leading a trek to Ghana with five other students to do a pro bono consulting case for a local non-governmental organisation – all through the Volunteers Club. We visited the sites that our consulting project would help build like a children’s school for local communities, and it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I had a very clear sense of what we could achieve and the impact our work could have.


The LBS Career Centre was key in helping me take my career in the direction I wanted. Before joining LBS, I came in with the intention of going into corporate finance, working my way up the ladder and eventually becoming CFO of a company. The Career Centre’s talks and practical workshops really helped to realign my ambitions, and helped me to prepare myself and build the confidence I needed to make the most of any new opportunities. The career coaches guide you through different fields and organisations, which helped reinforce my passion for FinTech and confirm that it was an industry I wanted to work in. There’s also interview and CV prep, which helped me sell myself to an industry I’d previously had limited experience in, by applying my background in lending at US Bank to a FinTech context. The Career Centre is undoubtedly one of the School’s best resources, all students need to do is make the most of it.

“While the rest of the world was grinding to a halt in April, the MiF alumni community felt really alive – which is testament to the quality of individuals you meet and connect with during and after your time at LBS”

The MiF was the main reason why I moved into the FinTech industry. Before joining the programme, I’d never even heard of FinTech and it wasn’t until I went to the Career Centre events that brought in companies like Monzo and Revolut that I became aware of this fascinating industry. In my fourth term, I secured an internship at Code Investing – a London-based startup that specialises in SME lending – and after six months, I secured a full-time role following graduation. It was an exciting introduction to an industry that I’d later come to love – it was new, and disrupting the entire finance world.  


The Masters in Finance ultimately helped me get where I am today. I currently work as a Fintech Analyst for CB Insights, which is a tech market intelligence platform based in New York. They were interested in my experience at Code Investing, a role which I never would have got without joining the MiF in the first place. I had first-hand consumer experience with Fintech apps like Monzo and Reovlut, which gave me a different and better perspective on how European Fintechs operate specifically compared to U.S. Fintechs. Not only did I have a background working at a FinTech, but I was actually using leading FinTech products too – which gave me a consumer’s lens. In my role today, I cover the entire FinTech industry as an analyst, focusing on alternative lending, payments, financial inclusion, and wealth management.


It’s amazing how the LBS experience follows you no matter where you go in the world. The MiF network in New York is really strong, and I’m part of a highly active WhatsApp group where we regularly keep in contact and share opportunities with one other. I know that if I ever need advice about a specific industry or if I’m looking to move into a new field, I can reach out to people who are bound to have friends or ex-colleagues who they can put me in touch with.


Being an LBS alumna is like belonging to a global support network – which was particularly reassuring during the pandemic. I joined CB Insights in November 2019, several months before the first lockdown when life started changing. I’ve been very lucky to have a secure job during this difficult time, but if I was looking for something new, the LBS network is an incredibly powerful resource. Alongside my MiF New York WhatsApp group, I’m part of other LBS groups, one of which includes MiF graduates going back 20 years. There are always regular conversations, people checking in on each other, and sharing the latest news from their cities and opportunities in their industries. While the rest of the world was grinding to a halt in April, the MiF alumni community felt really alive – which is testament to the quality of individuals you meet and connect with during and after your time at LBS.

 

Learn more about our Masters in Finance programme.