Interview with Kabir Karki: From Investment Banking to Private Equity

Western Capital Markets
7 min readFeb 7, 2023

Kabir Karki completed summer internships at Fifth Wall and Goldman Sachs before starting his career as an Analyst at Centerview Partners in New York. He now works in private equity, as an Associate at Onex in New York.

Morgan: Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us. We thought it would be awesome to hear some of your insights since you are a WCM alumni and were a co-president leading the club, as well as the copresident of another large club as well, ACIIC. Since you have had such an aspirational career on both the West Coast and New York, we thought it would be awesome to hear your insights and share them with the rest of the club and the students at Western.

Kabir: Yeah of course. Thanks for the invite. Always happy to help WCM when I can so I am excited to talk.

Morgan: We are curious to hear why you decided to study business and why you decided to study at Ivey?

Kabir: Yeah, that’s a good question. Growing up or getting into high school, I didn’t really have an interest or an idea of wanting to do business. I wanted to do astronomy until probably grade 11 or grade 12. I took a bunch of science courses like math, physics and chemistry. Then, later into high school, when you have to think about colleges and universities and what the path is after that, I realized that astronomy is probably not the most logical, rational or the best idea. The government is cutting a lot of spending in space exploration, it takes a bunch of education, and is a really tough and competitive industry. So, I started looking at other things to do. I took a couple of business courses and I really liked the introduction to business. So, I wanted to pursue that further.

Kabir: Why Ivey? When digging deeper into colleges and universities, I saw that Western/Ivey had a good business program in Canada and it’s great to be able to do whatever you want in your first two years and then do business after. After just looking at the network and the people that were in the program, it seemed like a great place to be and a place where the alumni base was strong.

Morgan: Coming out of university, what spurred your decision to become an investment banker and test out that field. Kabir: I think the rationale for banking was just a great place to start. I knew at the time that it wouldn’t be a career and that I wouldn’t spend my whole life at XYZ company, but I knew it was a great place to start a career. I liked keeping optionality and keeping doors open and learning an important skill set which is financial valuation, understanding excel really well, PowerPoint, and having a lot of responsibility at a really young age which was something that banking and a few other kind of industries that really offer. It seemed like a good option to just kind of get my feet wet and learn a bunch of fundamental skills.

Morgan: When you did start your career in banking, was there anything that surprised you about the job or any challenges you overcame? Kabir: Yeah, that’s a great question. After 7 months you tend to forget about how brutal it was or your experience. Banking is not rocket science, but you realize there is a sense of work ethic, grind, and ability to work hard. I think what else I didn’t realize is that it’s important to find balance. I was surprised with how much people work but I think that you must carve out time for yourself and make sure that you are staying healthy and active otherwise it can be really brutal on your mental and physical health.

Caleb: Any advice for current students in WCM and other clubs who are looking to get the most out of that experience?

Kabir: Yeah. Just be involved and active. I remember that in college I made it a priority to go to every single meeting or event and would constantly be reaching out to people. I think that reaching out, finding mentors and people that you can count on is super important. I have had countless mentors that have helped me. I think that finding mentorship is super important and because of accelerated recruiting, the earlier the better on that stuff and if you find good connections, keep up with them and maintain that relationship because that stuff is invaluable.

Caleb: On that note on recruiting, if you could give some words of advice for students that are currently going through the recruiting process and what you typically look for when you interview candidates.

Kabir: The tips and advice I would give, just general advice or holistically, try not to stress about things. You realize that your internship is a 10-week process out of a 40 year career so just because things aren’t going your way doesn’t mean that you’re doomed. There is a lot of pressure at Western and Ivey that your internship is the most important thing and if you don’t do it you are not smart or whatever. You should calm down and realize that you will get something, it just takes time. In terms of that, recruiting is a numbers game and just how many times you have at-bat. In terms of other things, obviously the table stakes are prepping and having mocks done and reading the guides and doing all the other work that other people are doing. What really helps people as well is having a good network and what differentiates you from others.

What I used to look for when I was a banker is are they technical? Are they smart? Do they have a good background? Good GPA? Involved in clubs? After that stuff, if you can pass the technicals, it comes down to personality and fit and I think that a lot of people tend to forget about that. We are not robots, we are not just output machines and PowerPoint people. We are human beings, we talk to each other and have to talk to senior management and need to have good communication skills. The most important thing after the technicals is “would I want to hang out with this person or grab a drink with this person and could I see myself mentoring this person? Or is this person unteachable and stuck up?”. Be smart but humble, nice, and intellectually curious. Someone that loves to talk about finance and has other aspects to their life. “Be smart but humble, nice, and intellectually curious”.

Caleb: With your experience at Onex. When you think about the volatility in markets right now and the opportunities that creates from an investment standpoint, has your thesis changed in terms of looking at different assets you are investing in.

Kabir: I don’t really know if a thesis changes right. I don’t think we’re a fund where we would change our investment philosophy based on market conditions. We still want to find good businesses that we think are relatively undervalued that have strong cash flows, significant economic moats, that we can get at a good price and where we can find operational changes and improvements. That being said, finding that is becoming increasingly difficult because of competition and information asymmetry, but I think that we are not in any rush. Onex is the type of fund where we don’t do 20, 30, 40 deals a year. We do a handful of deals a year and can be more selective on the companies that we like. That being said, we have to deploy capital in 2023 and going forward but I think we want to maintain a good level of downside risk and also want to be able to buy businesses that are predictable and stable and we don’t really change based on market conditions. We would rather just sit out and wait for the right opportunity then to waver our thesis based on market conditions.

Morgan: Parting advice?

Kabir: My parting advice would be to keep your head up. If you have an interest in finance, reach out to people, talk to people, develop good relationships and realize that finance is not the end all be all. It is interesting and exciting but it might not be for everyone. Take time to understand what you really want to do in your career. If finance is for you, stay involved in WCM and reach out to seniors. If you are in the middle of recruiting, be patient. It’s a long game and I got rejected from so many places that I can’t even remember the names of. It only gives you more experience so it’s important to keep your head up and keep working towards it. You will eventually land something and it’s only a matter of time. It’s a job at the end of the day and finding a balance between your career and other aspects of your life is really important.

Caleb: Thank you taking the time. We really appreciate it and it was really informative to get your insights.

Kabir: No worries!

Kabir Karki Reading List

Kabir spoke to us about how reading played a major role in developing his interest and expertise in finance. The following are his top recommendations:

Books

  • Inside the House of Money
  • Margin of Safety
  • Investment Banking
  • Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits
  • King of Capital
  • More Money than God
  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street
  • Principles Discussion Materials
  • The Masters of PE The PE Playbook
  • The Intelligent Investor
  • Fooling Some of the People
  • The Art of Short Selling
  • You can be a Stock Market Genius
  • The Art of Value Investing
  • The Little Book of Common Sense
  • Investing Stocks for the Long Run (3rd Edition)
  • The Future for Investors
  • Liar’s Poker
  • Flash Boys
  • The Undoing
  • Project Capital Ideas
  • Against the Gods
  • The Essays of Warren Buffett
  • The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
  • Value Investing from Graham to Buffett
  • When Genius Failed
  • Too Big to Fail
  • Stress Test
  • Irrational Exuberance
  • The Outsiders
  • The Most Important Thing
  • Illuminated Competition Demystified
  • One Up on Wall Street
  • The Accidental Investment Banker
  • Den of Thieves
  • Barbarians at the Gate
  • Young Money
  • Monkey Business
  • The Alpha Masters
  • Superfreakonomics Think like a Freak
  • When to Rob a Bank
  • Leading Change
  • Own the Room
  • Are you Smart Enough to Work at Google
  • Millionaire Next Door
  • 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism
  • Thinking Fast and Slow
  • Blink
  • Fooled by Randomness
  • The Black Swan

Podcasts

  • Invest Like the Best
  • Business Breakdowns

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