Deeper than the Desk

Phil Koch shares his experience working for the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, where he consulted on a project with two other Fisher College of Business Students during the Global Projects Program in Mumbai, India.

I could not be happier with my experience at National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD). From the multi-million dollar office/trading rooms to the two butlers who made the best masala tea known to man, my experience was great. All kidding aside, the work we did was necessary for the bank to move forward in attaining new clients in India. Albeit on occasion the work was a bit repetitive and even monotonous, I learned a great deal about major Indian Business sectors and who controls them (it’s really only a few guys). Additionally, I did another project where I examined SWF’s (Sovereign Wealth Funds) headquartered in the Gulf Cooperation Council to establish both how much assets under management (AUM) they have and estimate what percentage of that was invested in India (the hard part).

Vikas, my boss at NBAD, was impressed with my analysis and pitched the numbers to the Head Office in Abu Dhabi to start the approval process. He was grateful for my thoughts and estimations on this project as they are directly influencing his line of business. As the CEO put it on the last day, that while the work we did at the desktops could have been done from anywhere in the world, it is what we learned outside our six wheeled English made chairs (standard across most high end commercial banks/trading floors) in the building that mattered most.

Everyone around the small office of about thirty people were willing and truly loved discussing their roles and processes within the company (in depth), but they also enjoyed sharing with us the little things, like where to eat and what to do on the weekend etc. Everyone including Vikas were always available and willing to discuss everything from work, to life in India and beyond with all of us. Nilendu, the director of strategy, is one of the most high energy people I have ever met that preaches positive energy and small problem solving as the way to ease through life. He is a very successful banker (closed more than $30 Billion in funding) who is awesome to be around, runs 100+kms for fun and rocks a Mont Blanc watch for big closings. Vikas and Nilendu are exceedingly intelligent and having conversations with them about anything was a real treat as they know so much about both exceedingly specific and broad topics!

I learned a great deal about banking and real estate from Vikas at and away from the desk. Whether in casual conversation over his daily Flat White or listening to him banter in the trading room, I learned about business and life in India as a whole, that an usual intern would have no chance of learning in a typical, slightly more established organization. Vikas is an exceedingly generous person (sensible given his well-kept real estate portfolio that has increased in value by 15 times over the last ten odd years) who took us out to multiple lunches at some very tasty restaurants and purchased coffee/tea for us on average three times a week. Additionally, he graciously welcomed us into his Malabar Hill home and was always ready to respond to any question we asked with a candid and thorough response.

Phil Koch

Phil Koch participated in the Global Projects Program in India, consulting on a project for the National Bank of Abu Dhabi. He is currently studying abroad in Santiago, Chile. He has previously traveled to Switzerland and Italy on the Freshman Global Lab.