Doctor of physics and QInvest managing director Ataf Ahmed talks about his love of Japan and sushi, his admiration for the author of Flash Boys and blockchain's amazing potential.
Company and job title:
Managing director and head of asset management, QInvest
Previous company and job title:
Director, hedge funds, UBS (based in Zurich, Switzerland)
How many years in the Asia-Pacific region:
What do you consider to be your home town?
Educational background (subject studied and school/university):
Masters in physics, Lancaster University; PhD physics, University of Cambridge; CFA charterholder
First job in the funds industry:
An analyst in Barclays Investment Services in London
What is the toughest challenge you’ve faced in your professional life and what made it so challenging?
Working at UBS during the 2008 financial crisis. Keeping my focus and ensuring the best possible outcome for clients in a period of massive uncertainty was difficult. With hindsight, however, this was one of the most valuable learning experiences I have had.
What achievement in your job are you most proud of?
I’m very proud of the progress we have made at QInvest, in particular within the asset management division. In the past few years we have grown from little more than a vision to a major business line within the bank and one of the leading asset managers in the region.
What advice would you give to someone who is beginning their career in the funds industry?
Never stop trying to learn more or improve, be honest with yourself about your own capabilities and do not lose focus when circumstances become challenging.
If you could change one thing about the funds industry, what would it be?
To have more investors who really understand their own risk appetite and the trade-off between risk and reward.
What is your greatest ambition in life and why?
To look back on my career and feel I have made a real difference to the people around me – colleagues, clients and my peers.
What’s the best investment you’ve made and why?
My education. It has allowed me to improve my intellect and broaden my horizons, which in turn has enabled me to take advantage of opportunities in different parts of the world and find new ways to view the world.
Tell us something about you that most people don’t know:
I’m still a tech geek even after switching from physics to finance. Right now I’m a big fan of blockchain technologies. Not many people realise the way that these will transform our everyday lives.
Favourite country to visit for a holiday and why:
Japan. The mix of leading-edge technology but strong ties to their history and culture is fascinating. Their long period of isolation has created a culture that is truly unique.
Favourite type of food and why:
Sushi, truly amazing when it is well prepared.
Favourite book or film and why:
Anything written by Michael Lewis. Film adaptations of his books are great to watch.
Your house is burning. Your family is safe. You have time to rescue one object. What would it be and why?
A photo album filled with my favourite pictures taken at a pre-digital era. Everything else is material and can be replaced.
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