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US Army Captain Turns London Finance Exec With Help From The Chicago Booth MBA

Wyatt Cavalier graduated in 2009, a tough year for jobs, but Booth's alumni connections and his efforts helped him land a job with Barclays

Wyatt Cavalier is a University of Chicago Booth School of Business MBA and US Army Captain living in London and working for financial giant Barclays.

We chatted with Wyatt while he was on a training expedition an hour north of London. After graduating with a BA in Political Science from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2000, Wyatt joined the US Army and ever since then he has combined his military responsibilities with roles in management consulting and finance, as well as starting a couple of companies!

He spoke to us about moving into finance with a background in political science and shared some of his favourite things to do in “Chi-town” (Chicago!). Wyatt already ran a furniture company in Nevada, and he let us in on a new project he’s working on to deliver ethically sourced premium food items such as chocolate, wine and coffee to customers' doorsteps in the UK!

You got your MBA in Finance from Booth in 2009. What have you been doing since then?
I’ve been at Barclays since August 2009. That was not the best time for jobs but the former Barclays CEO of Global Retail is a Booth alum so they kept recruiting from the US, especially Chicago. I was fortunate enough to have been flown out to London for an interview and made a job offer.

I’ve been enjoying the job and, given the current economic climate, I feel lucky to be part of a business that is healthy right now. We are working to expand our services to the US and Africa. 

Your educational background is in political science. What made you want to pursue an MBA?

I got my BA in Political Science from UCLA in 2000 and then I enlisted in active duty.  After a couple years as a private, the Army sent me to Georgetown, where I commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Reserves. I also worked for Management Consultancy Booz Allen and Hamilton as a Senior Consultant, did Strategy work for IT Consultancy CSC and had a couple start-ups that didn’t quite get off the ground. As my career progressed I knew I wanted more of a challenge and felt I needed finance education and more grounding in business fundamentals for that.

Which business schools did you consider for the MBA?
I actually applied to eight schools in total but my options eventually came down to London Business School and Chicago Booth. I visited LBS and I met some really cool people and enjoyed hanging out in London but I went with Booth because I felt it was a better fit and carried a bit more cache in the US. Secondly, LBS didn’t let me pick my own classes, which was important to me. Chicago did.

Do you think you’re going to stay in finance much longer or are you looking to branch out and try your hands at something different?

Actually, I’m working on the idea of getting ethically sourced premium-quality items such as coffee, wine, and chocolate delivered customer’s doorsteps. I think knowing they were sourced in the right way, are really high quality, and will be delivered in a way that’s really effortless for our customers resonates with a lot of people. We’re putting a big emphasis on encouraging our customers to really connect with the suppliers in a meaningful way as well, which I think makes it a lot more nuanced and special experience. The company is called Empty Pocket Traders Ltd. and I’m working with a partner to source these items out and sell them on a subscription basis. Our target market is theUK and EU for now, but we may look to expand into the US in a year or two.

We’ll be starting with coffee, because the ethically-sourced segment of the market is already well established, and it’s something people are comfortable with and have demonstrated strong demand for. What we’re aiming to do is to bring together four key components that I don’t think anyone’s got quite right yet: ethically sourced, really high quality, a personal connection, and total simplicity for our customers. I’m in charge of engaging with suppliers, outsourcing, managing the supply chain, while my partner—who is an amazing marketer—is focussing on engaging with customers. We are currently working to get our website up and hope to have to ready to go in about eight weeks.

My ultimate goal would be to hop on a boat and sail around the world to source the wonderful products Empty Pocket Traders will stock. Of course I have to learn to sail first.

How does life here compare to being at Chicago?
My favourite thing about Chicago was the people I met. The classes were great and Chicago does a great job of identifying potential stars, so you just learn so much. The flexibility was really fantastic too; I remember that in my second year I arranged my schedule to have class on only one day a week so when I wasn’t recruiting or studying, I could really get to know the city, work on the hedge fund a buddy and I started, and take lots of time out to learn and grow.

Off campus, there were so many things to do. The Lincoln Park area was great for food and pubs. You could catch the White Sox or the Cubs at a baseball game or freeze at a Bears game. Chicago is definitely my favourite city in the US but it needs to get about 60 degrees warmer.

My favourite thing about London is definitely not the weather but it’s great to have so many folks from all over the world in the same space—something that even New York City cannot beat. 


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Wednesday 2nd May 2012, 13.12 (UTC)


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