Thursday, January 29, 2009

For Those Who Are Interested in Asset Management

I have recently read this article which is worth sharing. The story described how Madeline Ho, managing director of Fidelity Investment Management, moves from banking to asset management. She had worked from bottom up and personally experienced different challenges within the business.

For undergraduates wishing to prepare themselves for a career in asset management, Ms Ho says that a good learning attitude rather than perfect technical knowledge is pertinent when entering the industry. 

A bachelor's degree is the basic requirment for any entry role.  Consider an Online Degree in case you need one.

Now, let's see what the veteran says.

Managing other people's money
12 January 2009 - Business Times Singapore

An asset management industry veteran shares with JASON LOW what it takes to make the cut in her line.

SHE describes herself as an 'accidental financial person' but Madeline Ho, managing director of Fidelity Investment Management (Singapore), is certainly no accidental success in the industry.

Mrs Ho, who graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 1990 with a bachelor of business degree, wanted to go into marketing. But the markets were slow then, so she had to look for alternatives.

'When I graduated, the markets were not exactly fantastic and it wasn't easy to get a role in marketing . . . so the natural way was to get into the financial institutions and eventually get a role in marketing there,' the 40-year-old says.

She worked her way up and eventually made the cut. Today, she works for one of the world's most prominent fund management houses.

Ms Ho started in consumer banking upon graduation. In 1996, she switched to asset management at Templeton Asset Management, now known as Franklin Templeton Investments.

According to her, the move from banking to asset management was something that she looked forward to, since she was able to learn something different, especially about the foreign institutional culture in a foreign fund house.

'The industry then was very different from what it is now,' Ms Ho recalls. 'Then, the competition was against the local names. Now the competition is more global.'

But the one thing that has not changed over the years in this industry is the principle behind asset management: to help people achieve their goals with better management of their wealth, she says.

Ms Ho believes that having the commitment to serve and help people to manage their money is one of the most pertinent requisites for her work.

'If you're deciding to be in this line, it is imperative that you have the commitment to serve and help people through proficient wealth management. Personally, that's what I think is my biggest motivation at work,' she says.

'A lot of times, the average person on the street doesn't have the necessary knowledge and expertise to manage his own funds and that's where we come in. This industry offers you the chance to help people manage and create wealth; and it is, to me, a very meaningful industry to be in.'

Asked what she thought makes a great fund manager, she says: 'He is one that needs to have the natural interest in this business, not just profit-driven but commitment-driven. Commitment to serve, that is. Someone who has the innate interest, passion and focus to achieve long term objectives. That, for me, is someone who has the potential to rise to the top.'

For undergraduates wishing to prepare themselves for a career in asset management, Ms Ho says that a good learning attitude rather than perfect technical knowledge is pertinent when entering the industry.

'While mastering the technical aspects of the asset management business - such as your valuation measures like P/E and P/B - is important, the attitude to learn and being inquisitive about things are much more important. The former can be learned, but it takes a much longer time to cultivate the latter,' says Ms Ho, who has been at Fidelity since 2006.

Indeed, the willingness to invest in oneself through learning and training is critical.

Says Ms Ho: 'One must be willing to invest in himself. Otherwise, no one would be willing to invest in him. The time invested on self-learning will never go to waste since what one learns stays with him.'

Such self-learning certainly helped Ms Ho on her way up. Sharing her experience in rising to the top, she reveals that during her time at Templeton, she had tried her hands at almost everything - from the most basic tasks such as folding mailers, to more advanced roles of managing people.

'I've done almost everything from bottom to top, personally experiencing the different challenges that one would have to go through while making his or her way up in an asset management firm. Learning it the hard way . . . made it more difficult for people to fool me,' she says.

The bottom line is to be committed to serve and be motivated by the opportunity to help others.

'Having the dedication to serve and proficiently manage the clients' portfolio is one of the cornerstones of asset management,' Ms Ho says. 'You are managing other people's money after all, thus maintaining a high level of commitment and integrity when serving clients is paramount.'

When not working, Ms Ho likes to spend quality time with her family. The mother of two says: 'Both my kids are at school-going age, so weekend movies are a fixture in our family calendar. We also make it a point to bring the kids to different destinations for holidays during the June and December school holidays.'

Having a work-life balance means a lot to her, and she's glad to be able to take time off to spend with her family.

Her final piece of advice for aspiring fund managers: 'The journey is as important as the destination. If you enjoy the journey, you will undoubtedly be able to reach the destination faster.'

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Quick Tips for Your First Intern Interview

Investment banks usually conduct initial intern interviews around December and January. Some banks like to do the first round of interviews through phone calls. If this is your first phone interview, don’t feel nervous. These quick tips should be helpful.

Venue – make sure to find a private place to do your phone interview. Background noise not only disturbs your listening and talking, it will create a negative image to the interviewer.

Mobile phone – not recommended. Make sure to use a landline where line quality can be guaranteed.

Be yourself – don’t try to be someone you aren’t. The interviewer will be looking for someone who’s genuine and authentic – not pretentious and superficial.

Be polite – thank them for the opportunity to be interviewed. Also thank the interviewer at the end of the call.

Thank you note – if you have an email contact (ask for one, if you don’t), send a short thank you note afterwards.

Listen carefully. Interviewing is all about listening hard and responding sensibly and succinctly. Don’t talk too much and keep your answers well thought out and relatively short.

Answer questions. Make sure to answer the question which is being asked. If you can’t answer it, tell them: people respect honesty, rather than BS.

Ask questions. Ask incisive questions about the Bank. Do your research in advance on the bank, its culture and values, their recent moves and their strategy and ask what they are planning to do globally and in Asia (or the region where you are). This shows that you’re really motivated to work with them, are really interested in their organization and have prepared well for the discussion.

Wrap up. At the end, ask the interviewer if he or she has covered all the points he or she wishes to address – and ask about the next steps in the interview process.

Investment Banking Interview

Investment Banking Interview Guide

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Does A Short Interview Imply Failure?

I have recently presented three candidates to a client. They all flew in to Hong Kong to interview for the same post on the same day. My assistant had been busy arranging transportation among airport, hotel, our office and client’s office and to prevent them from bumping into each other. What a hectic day!

From the driver’s report, I obtained some first-hand information. The first candidate had his interview for almost two hours; the second was an hour plus; the third was only 50 minutes.

For senior roles, if your interview is less than an hour, you can almost assume a failure. With this concept in mind, I felt sympathy for the third candidate for flying 10 hours to do that 50-minute interview. However when I followed up with my client the next day, I was shocked that they like the third candidate the most. Here’s what my client told me.

He answered our questions in a very smart way. His answers were direct, precise and with extended information that made our asking follow up questions unnecessary. However he has limited his talking and his contents were gems and no non-sense at all. He also listened very intently and asked talent questions. After 50 minutes, we just felt that we had known him for several decades. And at that point of time, we all felt that we had no more questions to ask. Hence the interview was short.

So next time, if you had a short interview, review the process and see if you were one of the “third candidate” type of candidates. If so you are likely to succeed even with short interviews. My boss had been in the recruiting business far longer and I do, but it was his first time to hear a story like this. We must admit that there is no single golden rule that governs the world.

Investment Banking Interview

Friday, January 9, 2009

Resume Writing Q & A

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I do hope that 2009 will bring peace to the world and investment banking will be doing far better than the previous year. Let’s start the new year by quickly refreshing some investment banking resume writing skills with a Q & A checklist.

What are the most basic elements of an investment banking resume?
In this exact order if you have less than three years experience.
1. Name and contact info.
2. Education
3. Experience

You might not believe that some of the resumes I receive had no names on them. Some others had no contact info. Please make sure you won’t let this happen. A telephone number and a sensible email address (never use are necessary. Include country and city code in your telephone number, unless you are only sending your resume to your neighborhood companies.

In what order should I list my work experience?
Reverse chronological order. All hiring managers want to find out at the first sight of what are you doing, with whom and for how long. Second they would want to find out what you have done so far. If you fail to provide answers in the first 30 seconds, the hiring managers are likely to loss their patience. List your current (or last) job first and work backwards. Likewise, list your MBA prior to your BA degree. Secondary, ‘O’ or ‘A’ levels can be omitted, unless they are your highest achieved education.

What is the ideal length of an investment banking resume?
One page. Experienced bankers can be longer, but no more than two pages. If you are young and don’t have much transaction experience, you can include your transaction list within your one-page resume. Otherwise, make it a separate list.

Is a career objective needed?
No. Hiring managers don’t really care about this, especially for entry level roles. Even if you are getting experience and want to make clear what you want to do, keep your objective short – one sentence or one line. You can also write this on your cover letter and not your resume.

Do I have to list my skills?
Yes, but only those which will contribute value to the role you are applying. If you are an investment banker, don’t list Word, Excel, Powerpoint, but Bloomberg, Reuters. You don’t really have to say that you speak fluent English, as this is a default requirement in the investment banking world. List other languages that you speak, but make it a simple and precise list, just to avoid occupying too much of your valuable space on a one page resume.

Should I list my hobbies?
It is not completely necessary. Yes, if you have space and no, if you don’t. Again make it short and include hobbies that will add value to your resume and the role you are applying. I would avoid cooking or bird viewing. But football team member or club financial secretary or any other activities that will grant you credit on leadership, team building and achievements.

Should I list my GPA on my resume?
I have come across some hiring managers who are not interested in candidates with GPA lower than 3.5. Though it could be a matter of the individual hiring manager’s preference, but if you don’t list yours, you will be assumed as doing very bad. So unless you are really bad, I would say yes, to include it on your resume. On the contrary, you don’t have to include your GPA if you have already a few years of experience, unless your score is exceptionally high.

Resume Writing
Amazing Resume Creator
Amazing Cover Letters

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Rare Breed of Investment Banker

I come across this interesting story today and would like to kick off 2009 by sharing it with you. You must enjoy reading it either you are already in the business or want to start an investment banking career.

Who is Ashley Wilkins?
FinanceAsia 7 January 2009

The primary focus of this Societe Generale banker is sustainable relationships, not slash-and-burn banking.

Ashley Wilkins is a rare breed of banker these days. He has been employed in the industry for more than 25 years, but has only worked for two bank groups in his career: NatWest and Societe Generale. He joined the latter in 1996.

"If you only work for two companies, and don't whiz around, you have to take a completely different approach to work. You have to think about sustainability," says Wilkins, who leads the bank's capital raising and financing operations in Asia. "If you make transgressions - or bad decisions - those bad decisions will come back to haunt you. So you can't make transgressions. You have to make decisions that are sustainable. You can't slash-and-burn."

Given Societe Generale's troubles earlier this year with its own rogue trader, this is refreshing. But it's not surprising from Wilkins. Whenever we have met we have talked about the longevity of banker/client relationships, be it his own, or when critiquing other deals. One of his first questions tends to be: Has the client returned to the bank for another deal? Surely, this really should be a criterion nearly as important as any league tables. It speaks of professionalism.

And Wilkins has maintained long-term relationships with clients. For example, he led the financing for Shell and PTT on the $1.5 billion Rayong Refinery deal in Thailand in 1993, and then advised them again on the restructuring deal for that refinery in 2004. He advised BP in its bid for the $6 billion west to east Natural Gas Pipeline in China in 2001, advised BP and Sinopec in their $3 billion petrochemical project in Shanghai in China in 2002, and then again advised BP (alongside Mitsubishi and CNOOC) on the Tangguh LNG deal, a $6 billion greenfield liquefied natural gas project in Indonesia.

His repeat client work isn't just with folks in the oil and gas, and power industries. He worked on Asia's first limited recourse gaming project, the Wynn Resorts Macau deal, which Societe Generale led and closed in 2004. Wynn returned to Wilkins the next year when Societe Generale led the expansion financing for this now $1 billion gaming project, which closed in September 2005, and again Wilkins worked with Wynn on a third financing deal for $1.55 billion that closed in June, 2007. As Macau grows, so too does the relationship casinos have with their banks.

"There were no such gaming projects deals done before that first Wynn one," says Wilkins. "I'd say that's another example of a first. Indeed we were proud to support a sustainable, high-quality robust business such as this, which along with other developments in the industry has transformed Macau SAR and its government's revenues over the past five years."

"Asia is a great place to do business, but it is also an easy place to lose money for incautious and/or new 'jet fresh' bankers ," notes Wilkins, pointing out that you not only have to take care of your clients you also need to know what deals not to take. Sometimes, the transactions you've walked away from are more telling of your integrity and skill than those you've executed.

See the world

Wilkins was born in England, but raised in Jersey, where he was surrounded by people that worked in the finance industry that dominates that small island. While he read philosophy and classics at Wolfson College at Cambridge University, it was a far more concrete world in which he wanted to work. "I thought it was a great plan to join an internationally focused bank and see the world."

And he reckons it was a good decision. If he had things to do over again, he'd take the same career path, though adds he might have spent more time trying to gain exposure to the asset management side of the business.

He is married to a former soloist at the English National Ballet and they have four children - three boys and one girl (who was adopted in Hong Kong in 2000 - Wilkins jokes that if they had tried to have a fourth child, they would have likely had another boy). But on a more serious note, he says they are his motivation for working and are who keep him grounded.

Grounded is a good trait to have during these volatile markets. But he's also humble. Indeed when we met for lunch we spent most of the interview talking about the latest news of bank failures and mergers, and which banks would emerge as the new powerhouse - and far less time talking about Wilkins. He's not the sort to toot his own horn, or hype too much for the firm.

While discussing all the business that has disappeared, I did ask him to do some crystal ball reading: He sees the principal finance model as one that is ripe for further growth in the region during the next three to four years. Admittedly, as head of capital raising and financing, and as a banker whose previous role at Societe Generale was project finance and advisory and real estate operations in Asia, Wilkins may see the world through principal financing eyes. But it's not that he's overly bullish on the sector; he cautions that it will be all about picking the right partners, right deals and making sound choices. "The trick will be to get the balance of profit and pain right," says Wilkins, adding: "But isn't that always the trick?"

Ashley is Head of Capital Raising & Financing, Corporate & Investment Banking, Société Générale.

Investment Banking Career