From Lima to London
A new way of studying opened the doors to a successful finance carrer for Peruvian MSc Economics alumnus Carlos Anderson
In 1987, Carlos Anderson was in the final year of his undergraduate degree in Lima, Peru, when he was selected via a competitive process to work as a journalist for the BBC World Service in London. After five years already spent working towards a qualification, it was a difficult decision to move away without completing the degree, but Carlos felt that this was an opportunity that he couldn´t turn down.
Once settled in London, Carlos began looking for a way to finish his studies. He recalls a front-page article in the Financial times, which favourably compared Birkbeck´s economics department with those of Oxford and Cambridge. Of course, Birkbeck also enabled him to complete his studies while continuing to work during the daytime at the BBC World Service. As he hadn´t quite completed his undergraduate programme, Carlos began by studying a Graduate Diploma in Economics and, after studying hard and achieving good results, enrolled on the Master´s programme.
Carlos Says: "Birkbeck provided me with the most wonderful education I could imagine. I remember one lecturer coming to class with a copy of the day´s Financial Times and begining the lecture based on that day´s news. Economics became something real, not just something to read about in books, which was the way I had experienced it in Peru".
Shortly after graduating from Birkbeck, Carlos saw an advertisement for a senior economist role at The Economist Intelligence Unit. He says: "Without the degree from Birkbeck, I couldn´t even have considered a position like that". From The Economist Intelligence Unit, Carlos moved into the banking sector, holding roles including Chief Latin America economist at UBS, and Senior Vice President of the global Mergers and Acquisitions team at Lehman Brothers, and he spent the next 15 years based in New York and London.
In 2006, Carlos decided to move back to his native Peru, where he worked as a political, financial and economic commentator in the newspapers, radio and television. In 2006, he established Europa Partners, a boutique investment bank, with former colleagues in London. In 2012, he was asked to join the Peruvian government as Director of Foresight at the National Centre for Strategic Planning, later becoming its President.
Carlos is clear that things he learned at Birkbeck have been useful throughout his carrer but, more than just knowledge and skills, he credits Birkbeck with giving him a new attitude to learning and self-development. It is that which he now tries to impart to his own students, as he lectures at several prestigious Peruvian universities.
He says: "Education is not just accumulating pieces of knowledge, it´s also about becoming a better person- and Birkbeck facilitates that. I was lucky to study with unforgettable lecturers, and I try to emulate the attitudes that I saw in them when approaching my own teaching, to be open and affable. One of the most important things that I learned at Birkbeck was to think critically about issues. This is very different to the way students learn in Peru, where there is always a ´right´or ´wrong´answer to a question. At Birkbeck, I learned that the process of reaching an answer can actually teach you more than the answer itself."
Carlos also credits his fellow students with enriching his education. He recalls: "I arrived to classes tired after a day´s work, but the conversations I had with classmates reenergised me and I became totally absorbed in class discussions, I always tried to arrive half an hour early to lectures, in order to have time in conversation with my classmates. In some ways, it seemed a bit unfair- I was still learning the 'ABCs' of corporate finance, but I had the opportunity to discuss big ideas with colleagues far more experienced than me, and they raised the level of the conversations I was having."
As well as trying to recreate the learning enviroment that he experienced at Birkbeck for his Peruvian students, Carlos has also transmitted this enthusiasm for the College to his own children, and his daughter is currently studying an MBA on Birkbeck´s joint programme with Central St. Martins. Carlos says: "As a fashion designer, my daughter worried about some of the more business-focused aspects of her course, but she now is able to talk confidently about business issues in a way that just a year ago she couldn´t have".
Musing on what aspect of UK life he would most like to see adopted in Peru, Carlos is clear that it is the teaching of independent critical analysis to students. And his advice for Brits on what they could learn from Peruvians? "To enjoy life! Latin culture is famed for its parties and dancing. This might seem unimportant to successful business, but socialising and sports are great ways to build relationships too."