When one works for one of the world’s largest investment firms such as BlackRock, you would imagine that they are motivated by the thrill of making money. For the National University of Singapore (NUS) alumnus Ahamed Marzouq, however, it is the exact opposite.
For the graduate from NUS Business School, he is driven to do well by his drive to identify risk and protect one’s money. This attitude was sparked by his wealth management professor during his undergraduate years.
“The disappointment you get from losing one unit of money is disproportionate to the satisfaction that you’ll ever get from making one unit of money,” said the professor.
Those words struck a chord with him, as it made him realise that the pain of losing would far outweigh the joy of winning. Understanding the importance of protecting one’s wealth has also helped him relate to his job better as a relationship manager for institutional clients in Southeast Asia at BlackRock.
The 24-year-old explained: “Money is very important to people and managing money means handling something dear to them.”
That one quote fuelled Marzouq’s drive and motivated him to source for his own internship, an endeavour that eventually landed him an eight-week placement at his current employer.
Two weeks after completing his internship, he was offered a full-time position, which took him by surprise, but one he gladly accepted, even though it happened a year before his graduation.
Having secured a job so early on, Marzouq admitted that he felt more confident to “try many things” in his last year of school because he could, in his own words, “worry less about the grades” and focus more on seeing the world and gathering life experience.
He added: “I went on to do my exchange programme, during which I actually travelled a lot. In my last semester, I participated on four case competitions throughout the 13 weeks.”
The “once-in-a-lifetime experience” as he describes took him to the University of Washington in Seattle for six months during which he toured 18 American cities, immersed himself in the cultures of fellow exchange students and even learnt some catchphrases in their native languages.
Upon his return to Singapore, Marzouq took part in multiple domestic and international competitions – winning two international competitions, and coming up as first runner-up in another two.
In case competitions, teams are put in a room and given a business case study where they have to come up with a solution within a given time and present it to a panel of judges who would consist of senior management staff from respectable firms such as the Boston Consulting Group, Microsoft and Carlsberg Group.
Life now, however, is a far cry from his time as an undergraduate. At work, he spends his day servicing clients, attending to their queries, learning on-the-job and keeping up with current affairs.
The biggest obstacle, he revealed, is “being on top of everything”.
“Every day, you realise how much you do not know. So it’s about learning as much as possible at the beginning. There’s a steep learning curve,” he said, acknowledging that his work constantly requires him to be diligent.
Making a mistake in his job can lead to inaccurate information being relayed to clients or slowing down company processes, both of which are undesirable consequences in a high-stakes field.
“The truth is, that’s the way it is for working life so you have to be resilient. Don’t think about what mistake you have made, but think about how you can move on from that,” said the avid learner who aspires to be a “student of the market and the world”.
His advice for prospective students: “Try every single thing that you can. Try everything that you’ve never tried before, that makes you uncomfortable, scares you, or makes you happy. Just try it now because there will not come a time in your life where it is easier to try things again and you’ll want to do everything right now when you can.”