WCM US Industry Conference Recap
Words of Wisdom from 17 US-Based Finance Professionals
This past December, WCM hosted our 2020 US Industry Conference. This was our first time hosting an event of this nature. Typically around that time of year we host our annual Wall Street Conference, where we send a group of students to tour investment banks in New York City and hear from a panel of finance professionals. Due to the challenges presented by the pandemic, some modifications to the trip were in order for this year. Fortunately our Events team managed to pivot rapidly and delivered a fantastic experience. Over 250 students took part in nine different events with 17 finance professionals! Additionally, because of the virtual format of the trip, it was possible to expand the mandate to include West Coast-based professionals, something that was not possible in the past. In case you missed out, you can find some highlights from the panels and guest speakers below!
…And quick FYI, our next event is our Canada Conference and it’s happening at the end of this month (Jan 27th-30th)! This event will feature a similar format but for Canadian finance professionals. You can register here! Now, back to the recap…
Investment Banking Panels
On the East Coast Panel we had:
- Raunak Gera (HBA ‘19), Evercore
- Eric Kang (HBA ‘18), Greenhill
- Hannah Kim (HBA ‘20), Evercore
- Erinna Ma (HBA ‘19), Goldman Sachs
- Arshdeep Toor (HBA ‘20), Morgan Stanley
Featured on the West Coast Panel were:
- Angela Du (HBA ‘20), Goldman Sachs
- Kabir Karki (HBA ‘19), Centerview Partners
- Amir Khod (HBA ‘20), Qatalyst Partners
- Andrew Tan (HBA ‘20), Houlihan Lokey
- Jim Zhou (HBA ‘20), Silver Lake
On the East Coast vs the West Coast:
- The U.S. is a great place to launch a finance career overall, thanks to the massive scale of the industry in the country. The primary reason some of our panelists focused on the West Coast was an interest in the technology industry specifically. Due to the proximity to Silicon Valley, technology banking is typically done on the West Coast.
What’s it like to work in investment banking and the surprises encountered along the way:
- Banking is not the way it is portrayed in the movies. The analysts found that they had a surprising amount of downtime during the day when waiting for assignments and comments from superiors. Additionally it was mentioned that it isn’t all financial modelling — there’s a lot of administrative legwork involved, especially when you’re just starting out.
Boutique vs Bulge Bracket Banks:
- The advantage of bulge bracket banks is that you can work on very large global deals with a broad variety of people. The panelists also highlighted the advantages of working on lean teams at boutiques, as well as increased responsibility and more interaction with management. You can also build deep relationships with team members given the small team size.
Advice on breaking in/prepping:
- If you are going to make the decision to recruit for investment banking, just make sure you know what you’re signing up for since the job is so demanding. With that out of the way, ensure that you’re taking as much time as possible to prep. Many people spend too much time networking and not enough time getting themselves ready.
Private Equity Panel
The private equity panel featured:
- Hannah Baker (HBA ‘15), KKR
- Alex Cook (HBA ‘12), Tiger Global, previously Apollo and CPPIB
- Harsh Naik (HBA ‘18), Silverlake
Should you go directly to private equity or do investment banking first?
- There are pros and cons to starting on the buy-side right away. The biggest advantage is that if you are a person who is passionate about investing you will really enjoy the job. On the flip side though, there are no formal training programs in private equity — new analysts are expected to be self-starters with an existing toolkit of skills.
How does investment banking prepare you for private equity?
- In banking you are allowed to make mistakes in the first two years — it’s almost as if it’s a training ground. Additionally, it gives you a baseline like a degree does on your resume. When people see that you worked in investment banking they can infer that you have financial knowledge and skills.
Any advice for students starting their career?
- It’s really important to take a 10-year approach to your career — make sure that you’re building the right connections and relationships at each stage. What you do in your 20s is a stepping stone for what you’ll be doing in your 40s and 50s. Beyond this, you should also aim to develop your people skills and ability to communicate effectively.
Guest Speaker: Ashley MacNeill
Ashley is currently a Managing Director and Head of Technology Equity Capital Markets Americas at Morgan Stanley, based in New York. Ashley started her career at UBS in Toronto, where she worked as an Analyst and subsequently as an Associate Director. Ashley received her HBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business and also has a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Western. Throughout her university experience, Ashley was also a member of the varsity track and field team and graduated on the dean’s list.
- Grit is the most important trait: Ashley stressed that grit is crucial to success, no matter which vertical of finance you find yourself working in. Grit is a trait stemming from perseverance and passion which motivates you towards your long term goals. This factor on its own can differentiate a great employee to an employer.
- Coachability is an essential characteristic: Though it is important to strive and take initiative, it is crucial to learn the right way to do things. Ashley quoted one of her mentors, telling us to remember: “You need to learn to walk before you can run.”
- Focus on the people: Focus less on the job, and more on the people and firm. You should also work on building a professional network — the Canadian business network is small but mighty.
Guest Speaker: Charles Korn
Charles grew up in Toronto and attended Western University from 2006 through 2010. Charles attended the Richard Ivey School of Business from 2008 through 2010 and graduated as an Ivey Scholar. As an undergraduate, Charles considered careers in both medicine and law before discovering finance following a summer internship in investment banking at Goldman Sachs. Following graduation, Charles assumed a full time position as an analyst at Goldman Sachs in the Technology, Media and Telecom group in New York. In 2012 Charles joined KKR as a private equity associate, where he focused on media, communications and industrials. In 2014, Charles joined the investment team at Pershing Square, where today he is a Partner. Charles has worked on various high-profile investments, including notable public activist campaigns.
Focus on business quality first: It’s hard to lose money as a long-term investor if you buy a great business with attractive long-term growth potential.
- Great businesses start with a clear and compelling customer value proposition, that is the bedrock upon which all else is built.
- Most investments usually hinge on getting 2–3 critical issues right, which are determinate to the ultimate outcome. Better to figure out the 2–3 critical issues and be right on those than focus obsessively over details which won’t ultimately move the needle.
Valuation is a relative concept: Valuation is a relative concept; a stock might appear “cheap” or “expensive” on current earnings, but that is simply a point in time, and the real question is the businesses future earnings prospects. What will the company’s earnings look like in 3, 4, 5 years time? Focus on identifying business with attractive long-term earnings growth and paying a fair price on current earnings.
- It’s easier to be right about a business’s future earnings prospects than being right about the market’s willingness to assign a future multiple to a business. And if you get the former wrong, you’ll almost certainly be wrong about the latter.
- Businesses which can compound earnings at a high rate for a long time are worth a fortune.
- A high rate of earnings growth will rapidly “buy down” your entry-multiple, conversely, being wrong on business quality leaves little margin for error.
Trading is Hard: Buying “cheap” companies with a goal of flipping them at a higher price is a hard way to make money. You introduce frictional costs (notably capital gains taxes) and reinvestment risk. It’s much easier to find a great business and let it compound (time is your friend).
- Make Friends: You have the opportunity to meet an amazing group of people early on in your career, many of which will go on to do great things. Treat everyone you meet with respect. Be kind. Your reputation matters and will follow you throughout your career.
- There is no substitute for hard work: Many of the entry-level career options in finance require hard work. There’s no shortcut to success. Working hard now (be that in school, or early on in your career) has a force multiplier effect on the ultimate lifestyle you will have 10 to 20 years in the future.
Guest Speaker: Ian Friedman
Ian Friedman is an Ivey HBA alumnus who is currently the CEO of Highland Transcend Partners. Upon graduating from Ivey, Ian worked at the Boston Consulting Group in Los Angeles as a Management Consultant. Following this, he worked at Bain Capital in Boston, working on technology-focused leveraged buyouts. He left Bain Capital to complete his MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and then took a job at Goldman Sachs with their long-short equity hedge fund team. He missed the private markets, and as a result, alongside his partner, he pitched Goldman Sachs on starting a growth equity fund. They liked the idea, and he became Co-Head of Venture Capital & Growth Equity at Goldman Sachs Investment Partners (GSIP). He left Goldman Sachs recently and assumed his current Chief Executive role at Highland Capital Partners after feeling driven to do something more entrepreneurial.
- On skills for being a successful tech investor: You need to be able to distil complex topics into easy-to-comprehend value levers. Real life is not a case study; you need a curious mind to go deep into topics — beyond just the soundbites.
- Investments will go wrong… but you want to lose small and win big. The people who get into the biggest problems are those who double down and don’t reassess the facts.
- Stick to something you love: Don’t just follow the path because everyone else is doing that. Find good mentors, keep doors open, and align yourself with people who will co-own your success.
Guest Speaker: Colin Evran
Colin Evran is an Executive at Protocol Labs, an R&D lab that builds protocols, tools, and services to radically improve the internet. Protocol Labs’ flagship project is Filecoin, the world’s largest decentralized cloud storage network, backed by a cryptocurrency. An alternative to costly cloud storage, the Filecoin network offers efficiently priced and geographically decentralized storage. Previously, Evran was the Founder & CEO of Yard Club, a marketplace for underutilized industrial assets. Yard Club was acquired by Caterpillar in 2017. Colin began his career as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company and was an associate at Bain Capital. He holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an HBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business.
- His early experiences provided him with a solid foundation: At Bain Capital, he worked on large deals and helped portfolio companies transition into the digital era. While these experiences were intense with lots of work, Colin appreciated them for giving him the fundamental knowledge that helped him later on in his career.
- Embrace the different opportunities that come up: Your career doesn’t have to be a straight line. Don’t be afraid to stray from finance because there are plenty of different careers out there.
- Business relationships are like personal relationships: Invest time into them just like you would with friends. All of Colin’s opportunities have stemmed from meaningful relationships.
- Don’t be afraid to take risks: Look for areas that are less competitive and emerging. When Colin joined crypto in 2017, there were very few business people in the field. If you fail that’s a good thing since you learned lessons.
Those were the key takeaways from our 2020 U.S. Industry Conference! WCM’s educationals have resumed for second semester. Make sure to join us on Tuesdays at 5:30pm if you’d like to keep learning about the career paths within finance and the best practices for breaking in!