When you work as a junior M&A analyst in an investment bank, it's a given that you will become very proficient in putting together presentations in PowerPoint and building financial models in Excel. It's also to be expected that you will sometimes work erratic hours to fit clients' requirements. It's less standard to find yourself in a factory somewhere in Northern Europe seeing where chocolates are manufactured.
"It was fascinating seeing each step of the production process," says Rothschild & Co. analyst Theresa Yu of her visit to a client's chocolate factory. "Getting to sample the products was exciting…I felt like Charlie!”
It's not just chocolates. Yu is also an expert on the provenance of biscuits. "I’ve worked with a number of food companies, whether that be in the confectionery, bakery or snacking space, and I still get a bit of a kick when I see a biscuit brand I’ve been working on sitting on the supermarket shelf," she says. "I find the sector to be very interesting and tangible."
Yu is part of Rothschild & Co's consumer, retail and leisure industry team and is in the second year of the bank's analyst programme. As an analyst in a mergers and acquisitions (M&A) team focused on helping consumer and leisure clients evolve by buying and selling businesses, her role is to understand everything there is to know about the companies involved, and to assemble documentation to showcase Rothschild & Co. expertise or to prepare for the purchase or sale.
"If we're helping to position a company for a sale, we might produce a 100-page document where we'll go into everything that will help a potential bidder to understand the business they could be buying - from the manufacturing process, to route-to-market considerations, through to the financials, strategy, and business plan going forward."
This can mean visits to chocolate factories. It can also mean sitting in on meetings with senior bankers and the CEO, CFO or heads of department at the companies involved in the transaction. "At Rothschild & Co., you get a lot of exposure to clients and senior bankers from a very early stage in your career. I have found that the senior bankers are very accessible and I often get to attend meetings or sit in on high-level calls. That's also been a big part of my learning experience."
Yu has had plenty to learn. She didn't study finance. When she first came to Rothschild & Co. as a spring intern in 2016 she was studying at the Royal College of Music, from which she graduated with a first class degree in music. Business plans were not a big part of her undergraduate life, nor were Excel spreadsheets.
Yu says she wasn't the only Excel agnostic in her analyst class. "I studied music, and colleagues in my graduate class studied subjects as varied as veterinary science and petroleum engineering," she says. A background in finance wasn't necessary, however: Rothschild & Co. provided two months of initial training in technical skills and financial modelling. Yu says elements of her musical past have still been relevant. The "discipline, communication and organisation," she applied to her time in music are now being applied to her career in finance.
Junior M&A jobs have a reputation for consuming a lot of life and leaving little time for anything else, but Yu says Rothschild & Co. is careful to ensure its analysts aren't overwhelmed. The bank monitors how long its juniors work and is proactive about ensuring hours aren't excessive. Yu hasn't put in any of the all-nighters the banking industry used to be famous for. She still plays and does, "a few concerts every now and then."
"Work is exciting, There is a lot to learn and do, but I have time for own interests too," says Yu. She has no regrets about a life of PowerPoint instead of piano. "I'm really enjoying myself," she says.
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