Booth alumni have found a welcoming home in the land of Abbey Road, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben.
- By October 10, 2016
The London Experts
Hernando Bunuan, ’07, Venture advisor, Sigma Technologies Global
Cornel Chiriac, ’12, Managing partner, London Venture Factory
Angelina Chueh, ’87, Director, global fixed income, Baring Asset Management
Milica Fomicov, ’11, Portfolio manager and vice president, J. P. Morgan
Isabel Liu, ’89, Board member, Transport Focus and Pensions Infrastructure Platform
“London, like New York, is a magnet for Booth alumni,” said Angelina Chueh, ’87, a director at Baring Asset Management. “Given London’s position as a major global financial center, classmates not based here are always coming through.”
The city’s concentration of Booth-trained professionals can be a big boost professionally, said Milica Fomicov, ’11, who moved to London following graduation, after Barclays recruited her for a portfolio manager role.
“Access to Chicago-trained researchers and practitioners in investment management is particularly strong,” said Fomicov, who now works in the London office of New York–based J. P. Morgan. “I have engaged a lot of them with my organization and collaborated with many of them.”
“London, like New York, is a magnet for Booth alumni.”
Though careers in banking and finance attract the majority of Booth graduates in London, many alumni also work in entrepreneurial ventures, private equity, and venture capital.
The “connected and engaged” alumni network has a lot to offer to London’s start-up scene, said Cornel Chiriac, ’12, who heads investment screening for the Chicago Angels Network alumni group. He and fellow graduates gather trusted experts, mentors, and angel investors to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.
“All of the participants are eager to engage and help. We do it pro bono, for the love of the venture scene and as a give-back-to-the-school opportunity,” said Chiriac, who works as a managing partner for London Venture Factory and a mentor for Microsoft Ventures, the VC arm of the software giant.
“Booth added structure and rigor to my approach to entrepreneurship and helped me understand the early-stage investor perspective as well,” Chiriac said. “As part of my activities now, I get to see exciting new ideas, meet passionate people, and be part of building innovative businesses.”
Hernando Bunuan, ’07, a venture advisor interested in London’s tech and media industries, moved to London in 2009 after spending two years in San Francisco’s investment banking scene. He found that fellow Booth graduates greatly helped in his transition.
“When I initially moved here, I didn’t have a job lined up but I was able to tap into the alumni network,” Bunuan said. “This was during the financial crisis, and I was lucky to interview with several banks through an alumni referral.” He landed a job, and continues to stay engaged with the school as the United Kingdom Alumni Club president.
“We have a very active alumni community in London,” Bunuan said.
Isabel Liu, ’89, agrees: “I participate several times a month, from listening to faculty or alumni speakers, to enjoying intimate dinners for alumnae to discuss career and community issues, to networking over drinks.”
“As an alumna, I have gotten eye-opening insights from Chicago Booth’s speakers, and not just top-caliber analysis of economic and business issues,” Liu said. She noted a recent favorite: a presentation at the London campus on the intersection of arts and business, presented by Booth’s former visiting artist and social entrepreneur John Michael Schert and Royal Ballet principal dancer Sarah Lamb.
Liu—a board member of Transport Focus, a public-sector champion for UK transportation users, and board director of the private-sector Pensions Infrastructure Platform—also coaches Executive MBA students as an Executive-in-Residence at Booth’s London campus. The staff there has helped her plan visits to the Singapore, Hong Kong, and Chicago campuses—an example of the “global reach of Chicago Booth,” she said.
It’s a network that works, benefiting the tight-knit community of London-based Boothies both personally and professionally.
“When I was deciding to go back to asset management in 2000, it was the Booth alumni network I reached out to,” Chueh said. “Any firm I was considering, I would always check if there was a Chicago graduate who might be able to give me a more personal view.”
Responsive and helpful, fellow graduates not only provided a wealth of advice and guidance, but many became good friends, Chueh said. “It was a great way to expand my social circle.”
“The walking-tour company London Walks leads a ‘Spies and Spycatchers’ London’ tour on Saturday afternoons,” said Liu. “This is an amazing tour of stranger-than-fiction, true espionage deeds in London, some famous—the Cambridge spies, the poison-tipped umbrella, etc.—and some very little known.” The company offers dozens more themed walks about London’s hidden history.
“For afternoon tea, I always recommend Portrait Restaurant, at the top of the National Portrait Gallery,” said Chueh. The menu includes classic fare such as savory sandwiches, scones and jam, and sweet treats. Grab a cup of bottomless tea and take in the sights, Chueh recommended. “The view is super, looking out over Trafalgar Square and down Whitehall.”
“Running in London parks never gets old,” said Fomicov. “The Royal Parks are all amazing, but The Regent’s Park probably tops my list.” Located in northwest London, the 395-acre park includes Queen Mary’s Garden (home to 400 varieties of roses) as well as the London Zoo and an open-air theater. The park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks, which trace their history to the Tudor era in the mid-1500s.
“The ‘Walkie Talkie’ tower’s Sky Garden is a definite must,” Chueh said. Opened in 2015, the terraced gardens’ exotic flowers, ferns, and fig trees stretch through floors 35–37 of the high-rise at 20 Fenchurch Street. If you’re not lucky enough to snag a free ticket through its website, you can still access the garden by booking a table at one of its three eateries, Chueh offered. “The views are amazing, and the atmosphere is fantastic.”
A favorite of Chiriac’s is the Saatchi Gallery, a venue in the heart of London’s upscale Chelsea neighborhood that offers free exhibitions of contemporary art. “The gallery at times houses pop exhibits by the likes of the Rolling Stones, Hermès, or Patek Philippe,” Chiriac said. “A bonus is that the King’s Road area is packed with great restaurants and cafés, so it makes for a great afternoon.”
Home to one of the biggest art and artifact collections in the world, the British Museum is on Bunuan’s must-see list. Its 8 million works span every continent and include priceless treasures—the Rosetta Stone, samurai armor, and an extensive Ancient Egyptian collection, to name just a few. Open daily, general admission is free, though temporary exhibitions may cost an additional fee.
The Night Out: Opera Holland Park
“If you happen to be in London in the summer, Holland Park houses summer operas,” Chiriac suggested. Opera Holland Park’s most recent season included acclaimed productions of the Puccini masterpiece La Bohème and Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, transported from 1800s Vienna to 1930s London. “The setting in the park elevates the experience to a different level. And then there is Champagne with a breeze.”