MINH UONG – Interview with an Investment Banker

Minh Uong, based in New York, works as an Investment Banking Analyst at Credit Suisse. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Skidmore College in 2014 with a major in Economics. Enjoy our interview with this outstanding man.

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(T): Hi Minh, thanks for spending time for “How I got my job in the U.S.” Could you tell us a bit more about your background?

(Minh): Sure. I was born and grew up in Vietnam, then went to Skidmore College, a small but awesome liberal arts college, in 2010. I became interested in investment banking the summer before my junior year, and then managed to secure the summer internship and the full-time offer in 2014. It’s a front-office product group at Credit Suisse that focuses on M&A, IPO, divestitures, and capital deployment, using different valuation techniques.

(T): So why did you choose to work at investment banking and why Credit Suisse (CS)?

(Minh): I’ve always been interested in finance and learned about investment banking (IB) in the summer before my junior year. It appeared to be a competitive environment with a lot of smart and motivated people. I also found it interesting to be able to work with top executives from different companies (Yep, compensation wasn’t and isn’t the reason)

I interned with CS in the 2013 summer and liked the dynamic culture of the team and the type of work we did daily, so decided to come back. Most of the people I’ve met at CS are smart, genuine and humble, and I like that.

(T): It is really difficult, even for American students at Ivy League schools to get offers from bulge bracket. Tell us how did you prepare for job search and what made you stand out during recruitment process?

(Minh): It was a shot in the dark for me, coming from a small school with a handful of alumni on the Street. I just tried to make the most out of the situation, received a ton of support from friends, alumni and professors at Skidmore, and got lucky. In my junior year, schoolwork was actually not that difficult, so I tried to finish it as fast as I could, and spent the majority of my time teaching myself about finance (since Skidmore did not have too many Finance/banking classes), networking, applying and preparing for interviews.

I emailed and talked to about 100 alumni (I was that annoying). Probably 10 of them were really helpful (passing my resume, giving me solid advice), and 3 helped me get interviews at different financial services companies, including Credit Suisse. It was a numbers game, and coming from a small non-target LAC, networking was probably the only way for me to get interviews.

Also, I regularly visited Mergers & Inquisitions and Wall Street Oasis, two websites almost fully dedicated to finance and investment banking. Some of the stories on those websites were inspiring while some just cracked me up, so it was good either way.

Another point that I’d like to point out is that while it’s a big plus to have investment banking experience before your junior year, it’s not a must. If you are great at what you did in the past (and can articulate that), have some kind of finance experience, can connect with someone at the bank, then you have a good shot at getting the interview.

(T): I know not all interns at IB got return offer after summer internship. Tell us how did you turn your internship into the full time position?

(Minh): I knew it lasted for just a couple of months, so tried to go the extra mile. Worked hard, asked questions, and absorbed as much as I could. At the same time, there’s a balance and you don’t want to try too hard, which can backfire.

(T): Could you share with us a typical day as an investment banking analyst at CS?

(Minh): There’s not really a typical day for me; it really depends on the project I’m working on. Usually for a deal that I’m working on, I would start by reading some snapshot about the client to have a high level understanding. Then I analyze the operational and financial performance for the client, spread comps to benchmark them at different angles. Next I work on valuation for the client, using conventional and proprietary HOLT techniques. One of the interesting parts is to identify and deal with the nuances, i.e. why a company trades at a significantly different multiple while having the same profitability and growth profile as others.

(T): Investment banking lifestyle must be tough. How do you balance work and your personal life?

(Minh): There’s always something I can do at work if I want to. So I guess the key is to have and commit to hobbies, and prioritize. It can simply be talking with family, BS and hanging out with friends, or playing sports. I get into surfing recently and think it’s great. Sometime it’s hard to keep the balance when I’m swamped with work; I’d just try to stay positive and healthy, and remind myself that it’s just temporary.

(T): For you, what is the most interesting part of the job? Is there anything you don’t like about it?

(Minh): Like: work with smart and interesting colleagues, learn about different companies, valuation analyses, and hope that I could help make an impact in some industries.

Don’t like: big bank’s typical hierarchy/bureaucracy

(T): So what is your plan after investment banking? Buy side, startup, F500 corporate development & strategy or becoming the next Tidjane Thiam?  

(Minh): I wouldn’t mind running Credit Suisse from the CEO office, if I can. I’m enjoying what I’m doing and don’t really have a plan yet. I fortunately just got the H1B visa recently and am still considering all opportunities down the road.

(T): Any other advices to all wannabe investment bankers out there?

(Minh): If your school has on campus recruiting, it can be easier, although you will find yourself competing directly with your classmates, which can be unpleasant. Otherwise, without on campus recruiting, it’s really up to you to go the extra mile. Besides preparing your resume and practicing for the interview, I’d recommend spending a lot of time networking. Employers usually don’t read non-target resumes, unless you know someone at the bank, or your father/mother is a Wall Street executive, in which case do let me know 😛

Thanks!

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