Interview with: Investment Banker, Alex Karolev

Time to read: 7 minutes

Today we introduce you to Leader, Mediator and Protector Alex Karolev. Alex grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria. After finishing high school he came to London in 2007 to study international business and finance at the European Business School. After graduating Alex worked for HSBC, BNP Paribas and recently started a new position at J.P. Morgan where he works in debt capital markets, specifically in bond syndication, which entails the provision of strategic advice and execution of bond financing deals for governments and corporations from emerging markets.

Alex and his wife Valentina have been together since his teenage years. They got married in 2013, and in 2019 they became parents of their beautiful daughter Isabella.

Alex with his beautiful daughter Isabella

Hi Alex! Thanks for talking with us today! What would you say is unique about what you do?

My job is so dynamic that I never really know what I will be doing tomorrow or whether I will be in London next week. What I do know is that I am likely to have to speak, and as a result share ideas and experiences, with hundreds of people all around the world, every day.

Well.. not everyone is an investment banker at one of the biggest banks in the world. What do you think makes you stand out in it?

I have always found this question very difficult to answer and tend to prefer others to answer it for me, but if I was to choose one thing, I would say that I am fair and just, in an idealistic sort of way. My goal in life is to get to a position where I can help millions of people, and I exhibit a strong sense of empathy – a conversation does not go by without me jumping in the other person’s shoes.

In 2017 Alex was voted as ‘best in the business’ by peers and clients.

I can imagine that’s a quite unique quality to have in the world you are in. What inspired you to go into investment banking?

I was inspired to join the investment banking world in London because I saw an opportunity to work in arguably the most dynamic sector in the world, travel the globe, meet with people from virtually all nationalities and cultures, and all of that whilst being able to provide a good living standard for my family. Which is very important to me.

On a business trip to Saudi Arabia

What is the most challenging aspect of your work or the biggest challenge you have dealt with and how did you overcome it?

The most challenging aspect of my work is no doubt the long hours I dedicate to investment banking and the opportunity cost of those in regards to time spent with my wife and daughter. To try and mitigate that, I make sure to go the extra mile as a husband and as a father by fully dedicating my weekends to them, whilst on weekdays I make sure I call my wife several times a day to ask about how she is doing and in that way ensure she knows that despite my physical absence my family is by far the most important thing in my life. I also have this agreement with my wife that every day she sends me at least 3 new photos and a video of my daughter :)

Alex with his wife Valentina and daughter Isabella on holiday in Greece

I can imagine that being very challenging, but I believe the quality of the time you spend together with your loved ones is more important than the quantity… What is your Mount Everest? What would you love to create in the world?

I am currently still searching for a way to define my mount, be it an Everest, a K2, or a Kangchenjunga. I must admit that as a person I struggle to be as forward-looking as one needs to be to define such a meaningful, specific, almost life-defining goal as a mount Everest. It is still something I am working on.

Having said that, if I can be allowed to sound overly abstract for now at least, what I would love to create in the world is to act as a force of change in our society’s mindset to move away from a self-serving way of living to a mindset where everyone should have a goal of helping at least one other person every single day – be it by offering emotional support, resolving a conflict or improving their quality of life. I don’t know exactly how at the moment, but I believe I can.

What is the most inspiring thing that happened to you as a result of iDiscover?

iDiscover was life-changing for me, like for many others. One of the most inspiring things that happened to me as a result of the programme is simply the opportunity to meet so many inspiring people of different ages, backgrounds, status, goals and dreams and learn about them. Other than that, I believe the most inspiring thing that has happened to me is that I started a journey of pursuit of what I call an internal emotional equilibrium which begins with a realisation, one that I came to terms with during the programme, that nothing good is only good and nothing bad is only bad – this has greatly helped me to find benefits in the low points of my week or month or year – an incredible pick-me-up tool, or the opposite, get-me-down-from-the-clouds tool.

Fantastic! What do iDiscover and its community mean to you?

iDiscover to me is a school of thought that encourages a particular way of being which focuses on a never-ending pursuit of personal development through an ever-increasing level of self-awareness. In other words, iDiscover encourages a way of being, which naturally means that it has become a critical part of the way I live my life – how I interact with others and how I interact with myself. Its a community that aside from serving its members by offering all of us an incredibly deep and diverse pool of knowledge, support and experience, has also served me by introducing me to two of my best friends and many people that I look up to and can learn from. 

Every Saturday Alex is the Captain of his football team.

What is your most sacred daily/weekly/monthly ritual or performance hack that really works for you? 

The answer has got to be watching stand up comedy videos. Whether I am down, or tired, overwhelmed or lonely, 10mins of laughter usually brightens up my mood and gets me going again. It always works.

I love that! Having a good laugh can really change the way we feel! What is your guilty pleasure?

Plain vanilla ice cream, I can eat half a kilo without blinking.

Haha yummy! To finish the interview… What is your favourite quote or the question you want to leave us with?

”Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” – Muhammad Ali

Beautiful! Thanks so much for the interview, Alex. We wish you all the best with your new position and your beautiful family.