Advice of Iowa Alumni Proves Invaluable
Portfolio Manager, BNP-Dresdner Bank, Bulgaria
In 1995 as the Business Student of the Year at Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, Chavdar Rissin could have chosen to attend any number of MBA programs. He chose to heed the advice of several of Graceland’s faculty members (who were Iowa alumni): enroll at Iowa.
“Their initial advice was invaluable to me,” says Rissin, MBA97, a Bulgarian native who came to Iowa through a scholarship that offered support to foreign students. “I learned from them that the Tippie College was affordable, had a strong profile in finance, and provided practical training in securities management. Clearly, the quality of the faculty was a key differentiating factor,” he says.
Rissin learned many U.S. business strategies while studying for his MBA, but it was the Henry Fund experience that was “critical,” he says, for obtaining a relationship management position in corporate banking. According to Rissin, the Henry Fund promoted a disciplined framework within which to analyze a company and make investment decisions.
“The experience builds analytical skills in valuing companies and prepares you for making investment decisions,” he says. “Experienced investment professionals—many of whom were Tippie alumni—challenge the fund managers’ proposed investment recommendations, motivating us to better understand the operations of the company, industry specifics, and the development of the economy at large.”
“I was in the position to start managing a portfolio of corporate credit relationships almost immediately after starting with BNP-Dresdner Bank,” he says.
Development of a corporate banking niche through value-added services was “rather atypical” for the Bulgarian market in the late 1990s, Rissin says.
“The standard corporate banking business was based on providing credit on the back of the balance sheet strength of a company,” he says, “a pretty ‘plain vanilla’ banking strategy.”
When the need for complicated credit options arose, his U.S. education was a benefit.
“We began to offer more complex products that structured credit transactions around certain cash flows and not based on just the overall strength of the balance sheet. The institutions that could bring foreign know-how and put together knowledgeable teams on the ground had an advantage,” he says.
“My studies at Iowa exposed me in a systematic way to all the key areas of general management and finance,” he says. “Using those skills in an emerging market gave me an advantage to then pioneer products and business practices in Bulgarian banking.”