When Boris Vilidnitsky, MSF ‘09 thinks back on his student days at Brandeis International Business School (IBS), his most vivid memories are of a class he took on credit risk with Professor Ed Bayone.
“My classmates and I used to spend hours debating his assignments: parsing his words, analyzing every little detail,” says Vilidnitsky, who was born in Kazakhstan and grew up in Israel. “And when we’d dissect a case study in his class, you really had to be on top of your game. He would cold-call on us; you couldn’t mumble or hesitate, you had to be a sharpshooter. He really pushed us to think creatively, and to defend our position with facts and confidence.”
At the time, those cold call exercises were excruciating, but they have come in handy for Vilidnitsky, who is now a first year associate at Putnam Investments in Boston. His job involves evaluating stocks in emerging markets such as China, Russia, Indonesia and Brazil, and then making buy and sell recommendations to demanding, time-crunched portfolio managers. “All day long I talk to company management teams and busy fund managers,” he says. “My job requires me to get straight to the point, and to make that point succinctly. I learned how to do that in Professor Bayone’s class.”
Having previously worked at Goldman Sachs, the New York investment bank, he says he appreciated that many of his Brandeis professors had decades of real world working experience. “As much as I value learning about theory, I also really want to know the practical side,” he says, making special mention of a class on financial modeling taught by Alfonso Canella, a senior lecturer at the school. “His industry experience shined throughout the class. He taught us how to value a company when numbers don’t tell you the whole story. He forced us to push aside our assumptions, and ask: what are the numbers not telling us?"
Vilidnitsky says he uses strategies he learned in that class every day on the job. “Financial reporting in emerging market countries is not very comprehensive, and many times, companies include numbers you can’t trust. Professor Canella taught me the ability to analyze companies with very limited information when numbers don’t tell the whole story. I still consult him to this day.”
Vilidnitsky has already experienced success at Putnam: Since September of 2010, he independently evaluated more than 30 initial public offerings in developing markets resulting in several million dollars of profit for the company. In addition, the portfolio manager he supports was in the top 30 percent performance in Asia ex-Japan funds last year.
At this point in his career, Vilidnitsky says he plans to stay in asset management, and perhaps do an overseas posting. “I felt prepared coming into this job but the learning curve is still steep: I’m trying to uncover the next Amazon.com and Google–that’s not easy to do,” he says. “I’m open to any opportunities that arise, and I am excited to see what happens next.