Where are they now? Conversations with alumni

From Chicago to its sister city Hamburg and back to New York, HAW Hamburg international graduate David Szmigielski is making a sustainable impact on the world of corporate finance. After graduating with an MSc in International Business in 2019, David now works on Wall Street, where he is responsible for multi-million and multi-billion-dollar syndicated loans for large corporations and multinationals. He is also spearheading a sustainable financing platform, which incentivises corporate borrowers to improve their sustainability performance and prioritises investments in projects with meaningful benefits to the environment and society.

'I grew up in Chicago. German was one of the many foreign languages offered in high school and I took a keen interest in the language and culture. I decided to pursue my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Germany full-time, as it was a great way to immerse myself in the language and build diversified and international experience in preparation for working in corporate finance.

At HAW Hamburg I studied in the 'Foreign Trade / International Management' Bachelor of Science programme and completed my thesis on the topic of syndicated bridge loan facilities for jumbo acquisitions. I enjoyed the practice-oriented style of teaching at HAW Hamburg, so I stayed on to do the Master of Science degree in 'International Business'. My Master’s thesis focused on anti-competitive conduct in the syndicated loan market.

After gaining experience in Germany with a leading bank in corporate loan syndication as well as a big-four auditing firm in corporate restructuring, I worked as a delegate and advisor for a sovereign delegation at the United Nations, covering sustainable development and financing. I moved to New York, where I initially worked at the flagship branch of a large pan-European corporate and investment bank; expanding its US corporate financing and advisory capabilities and developing its sustainable finance offering in the Americas.

I am currently a syndicated loan originator and sustainable finance expert with a Japan-domiciled global corporate and investment bank. My work comprises pitching, structuring, and executing syndicated loans mainly for US and multinational corporate clients.

In addition, I am coordinating our market-leading sustainable and positive impact loan-financing platform. This builds environmental, social and governance metrics and considerations into corporate financings. For example, interest rates under a financing may be linked to greenhouse gas emissions, whereby rates improve as emissions decrease along a science-based trajectory. I liaise with loan market trade associations to shape market guidance and governance for such loans.

When I consider the skills that were important for starting out in my career, work experience was a primary factor and the business programmes at HAW Hamburg equipped me for the working world really well. Thanks to the built-in six-month internship programme in my Bachelor’s degree, I was able to have an edge on the job market. This is very consistent with the overall spirit of putting knowledge into practice at HAW Hamburg. During my studies, I was afforded not only opportunities to learn, but also to teach and engage. I worked for Professor Christian Decker as part of the International Corporate Finance and Academic Research and Writing modules, which was not only an invaluable experience, but has fostered a great friendship and mentorship.   

To international students just starting their studies, I would say ‘do not try to do it alone’. You may be facing a new culture and an unfamiliar environment, but now is not the time to be shy but rather be more open and proactive – even reliant on others, as difficult as that may be. There are lots of other students in your shoes and many more that can help. By studying full-time abroad, I had to essentially re-learn how to learn. Your peers and HAW Hamburg's infrastructure are great resources. Make friends with local students. You may initially rely on them for help, but in later semesters you will be able to give back by helping others with your experience and expertise.

To those about to graduate, do not underestimate the international profile of HAW Hamburg and your credentials. Shoot for meaningful and ambitious career paths and use your international credentials to your advantage.'


Ingrid Weatherall
International Office