Tom Macura started university when most people are still farming sheep on Minecraft and had a decade-long career at Goldman Sachs which began before most people have graduated. He now works for a fintech company, and says that being a 'strat' (a kind of hybrid quant, data scientist and developer) at Goldman Sachs has become the best starting point for a career in finance.
Not Your Average Student – Uni at 11…
I enrolled in university in the US at age 11. It was certainly an unconventional choice to skip high school but I was encouraged by my parents to develop to my full potential, unconstrained by the traditional schooling route. I then came to the UK to study a PhD at Cambridge when I was 16 and I received an offer to join Goldman Sachs’ strats team as my first job out of university when I was 21.
…VP at 24
I was promoted to VP after two and a half years, at the age of 24. Working with people who are older than me has always been the norm. I’ve managed people who are older than me throughout my career. My circumstances mean that I’ve always been further along in my career than other people my own age.
Life at Goldman Sachs
Goldman Sachs’ strats team is full of exceptional people. A colleague of mine was a winner of a math Olympiad and another founded a company at high school, developed it at university and then rejoined it as CEO. Another colleague on my desk started a clean energy company that was sold for $81m. As a strat, I got to meet people with very interesting backgrounds who went on to do very interesting things. There’s a culture of people going on to found start-ups, or to senior roles in fintechs. You can come into a place like Goldman and develop your skills and network before taking your career to a different dimension – this is part of the culture there.
How to be Successful in Strats
Strats at Goldman typically have a quantitative background, such as experience in math and programming. The successful ones couple their strong technical expertise with awareness of the business side which they build-up on the job. You need coding, maths and communication skills. To be a good strat you need to be able to communicate in a way that’s understandable to non-quants.
Moving On and Starting Up
I’d been in my role for 10 years and was naturally curious about the wider world. – I wanted another adventure after my time in finance.
Looking for a fresh challenge I joined a company with a truly unique offering for investors in 2018. WiseAlpha’s visionary strategy to open up the world of corporate bonds to all investors is, I believe, one of fintech’s most exciting developments at present.
My background in Goldman's strat team prepared me for driving WiseAlpha’s technological and operational capability as it seeks to build industry-leading standards.
At WiseAlpha we make corporate bonds available to individual investors at affordable prices. Corporate bonds are a multi-trillion asset class, but the trouble is that they’re only available to the financial elite with six figures to invest. It’s crazy that average investors can’t buy bonds for big brands like Ocado or Netflix. We therefore fractionalize bonds and make them available to investors with just a few hundred pounds or dollars. We’ve already created 30m fractional bonds, and we take a service fee depending on the size of the trade. Many of our clients are already equity investors. As you get older, it’s natural that you should want to but more money into debt than equities – debt is a multi-trillion asset class and we’re targeting individuals who want to add it to their retirement portfolios.
We run an online bond academy to educate people investing in our product. Our free online course which is taught by someone with 15 years’ experience in corporate bond trading, takes students through the early stages of bond investing before moving on to more complex topics. The CPD-accredited course is really one of kind and aims to give everyone the knowledge they need to invest and make informed choices about their financial futures.
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