Humans of Haas: Zaheer Ebtikar

Zaheer Ebtikar | Haas School of Business ’20

Bio

Zaheer Ebtikar is a Class of 2020 Berkeley Haas graduate. His passion for finance and the macro landscape are his main motivating factors to pursue his role as Partner at Immutable Capital, a proprietary hedge fund focused on finding alpha at the global level. On-campus, he was focused on leadership in the Haas Business Student Association (HBSA) and the Afghan Student Association as well as in finance, exhausting the majority of the financial electives as an undergraduate. In his free time, Zaheer enjoys traveling, hiking, weight lifting, and working as a self-taught barista.

  1. What is a memorable moment you have had at Haas? 

A memorable experience was UGBA 195T1, and this was a class with Rob Chandra who, unfortunately, passed away earlier this year. He was a fantastic mentor. One thing he always mentioned was how being in a traditional business school like Haas he really focused on students being a lot more different than what is traditionally put out there. He was pretty much the ideal Haas student when he was at Haas (he was an undergrad there). He went to McKinsey and did that whole thing, and ended up breaking into VC because of pure interest and that’s what he could really focus on with us. And one day, I pulled him aside after class–and it was really hard because everyone wanted to talk to Rob after class–to discuss some plans with him of taking outside capital. Being a trader, this had been my dream for a while at the time which was starting my own fund after graduation as I had a proven track record–I was doing these things even during school full time. And I pulled him aside and asked, “Hey Rob, I really want to make my own fund, I want to do this full time, how do I go about this whole thing?” And the first thing he said wasn’t like, “OK you’re too young, you need to put in your time, you need to go do all these other things,” but instead, “Just build a track record and show your investors what you’ve done.” And that was so inspiring for me because it’s like, here’s a guy who made his own hedge fund at one point and was a general partner at Bessemer Ventures, and he’s been through the entire system between Berkeley Haas and having a Harvard MBA, so telling me at 21 at the time “Yeah, if you want to do this, your only obstacle is yourself. It’s not anyone else”–that was a supremely important moment for me. 

  1. Many who know you refer to you as a prominent “anti-ABC/traditional Haas student.” Can you elaborate on that? 

I think Haas in specific does some things pretty weird. In the MBA program, they really set you up for a great career and in anything you really want to go into. You’ll see a lot more people interested and focusing on the business side of tech in the Bay, whereas in the undergraduate school–which in my opinion and in the opinion of rating agencies and all that kind of thing–they don’t really do much of that. So it’s kinda annoying because it’s left the third parties–aka clubs, business frats, and things like that–to really push younger kids into more traditional experiences. I’ve spent most of my time in the last four years studying finance pretty extensively. Like, I’ll talk to a lot of kids who are really interested in investment banking when they are freshmen and sophomores, and I’ll ask them “what do you think it is?” and they’ll respond, “I have no clue, I just know it’s a good career,” and I’m like, “What the heck?” I thought this was the place of the free thinkers, the question the status quo type, student always. But in reality, it ends up being the students doing things just because their mentors in the clubs tell them that they are good careers. And it’s a perpetuating cycle. Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with becoming a banker or a consultant, but if we really pride ourselves on being this diverse school with so many people doing fantastic things, then does that really translate into the numbers we have? You can look up historical employment by the way, and Haas publishes a pretty detailed explanation of this, but the majority of our kids go into ABC in some capacity–Banking/anything past just traditional investment banking/investment management/something of the sort–but there’s not a whole lot of kids who end up getting to do other careers. If you break it down by even double majors too, it’s almost a very small number of students that are business students that get to do things that aren’t purely in the business realm.

So if we pride ourselves in being such a great diverse school, then why doesn’t it show so much in the data? And why are we not more invested in changing those things for the undergraduate side? And I make emphasis on the undergraduate side. And so that’s kinda where I spent my time as HBSA’s VP of Corporate Relations–focusing on non-ABC issues. Plenty of people have told me they’re interested in non-traditional fields, but there’s no pathway, there’s no how do you get there. You want to become a product manager, how do you do it? Like, do we really cater to students that aren’t ABC in Haas? And in my opinion, I don’t think we do.

  1. What got you into trading?

With trading, it wasn’t what I always wanted to do; I wanted to go into investment banking and that’s really what I thought I got into Haas for even though I was trading at the same time. But what I really enjoyed about trading early on was the aspect that basically anyone could do it. And obviously not at the same scale a fund might do it, but in terms of basic principles: you can buy, sell, short, long, buy call options, sell puts, all that kind of stuff. Pretty much without needing to show much money or have any expertise or waiting for some date in the future. With banking, you can’t do that. Because, yeah, I can go make some DCF’s, but that’s probably the least important part of the whole industry. And with consulting, it’s the same thing. Me working through cases isn’t really the consulting experience because I am just practicing answers that I might think I’m right but could be wrong. So trading is much more like on the job. So that’s what I really enjoy about trading.

  1. Do you have any long term career goals planned out?

One of my long term career goals is to build out a hedge fund and manage it myself–obviously with other people involved–and it’s ended up being the case. So now after graduation, that’s what I’m going to be doing. And so to be able to do this at a pretty young age is pretty great. I think that kind of hurts me down the line to some extent because I don’t really have many down the line, really different things that I want to work on. In all honesty, the main thing I want to do is having expertise in many different things. I want to start out in trading, I want to start off and try to be the best in this market–obviously, everyone wants to–but as soon as that’s the case, I want to convert more and more of my friends that I think are really brilliant, really bright people, and kind of stick to any of their adventures, on any of their projects. I have a lot of friends that do sports betting and write algos and things like that. Now that I can facilitate that in house, that’s what I really want to do. Or if I have a friend who wants to start up something new, I want to be the seed money that he takes or be the network that funds him to do it. And thankfully at my age, I have been able to generate a pretty solid network of people. They are very close friends now but have a lot of connections to different industries and different forms of business. So really down the line, trying to work with my friends as much as possible to build anything out.

Rapid Fire

  1. What building on campus would you say you are? 
    • I like to think I’m Chou Hall–I feel like everyone would probably think that they’re Chou Hall. But I think I’m similar to how Kevin Chou ended up operating it, I think I’m kind of like that too in the sense that I want to try something different, I want to go for something different, and hopefully achieve that at a young age.
  2. What’s your go-to order at Cafe Think?
    • I wouldn’t pick Cafe Think, but if I had to, I’d usually get a medium mocha and the overnight oats.
  3. Early bird or night owl?
    • Whatever the market makes me do.
  4. Favorite study space at Berkeley?
    • If not in Chou Hall, then at Tartine (a cafe right next to campus).
  5. Favorite place on campus?
    • Chou Hall.
  6. Favorite dining hall? 
    • None. If I had to choose, Clark Kerr.
  7. Favorite place to eat, non-dining hall?
    • Imm-Thai. Far off-campus: Burma Superstar. 
  8. Party person or nah?
    • When the time is right.
  9. Favorite class?
    • UGB 131A – Corporate Strategy and Valuation.
  10. Favorite genre of music?
    • Rhythm and poetry.
  11. Worst experience during dead week/college in general?
    • Always had a 7pm – 10pm final on the last Friday of each semester. 
  12. What was a “total freshman move” you had when you began college?
    • Over-thinking the recruiting cycle.

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