I’m what you call an ‘experienced analyst’ at Goldman Sachs. I joined the firm’s investment banking division in mid-2015 after graduating from a local university in Hong Kong that year.
Now, with a promotion to associate not far away, I’m well placed to give you some recent insights into what being an analyst at Goldman’s Hong Kong office is actually like.
Here’s what I’ve learned – call them survival tips – in my two and a half gruelling years at Goldman.
Goldman Sachs is all about looking after number one, correct? Not in my experience as a junior in Hong Kong. It may sound cheesy, but the culture is collaborative and focused on teamworking.
Perhaps people are generally cooperative because there’s no alternative. In Asia, we don’t enjoy the luxury of several analysts being assigned onto single deal – we’re forced into small teams instead. Even on a sizable deal for this region, there’s typically just one MD, VP, associate and analyst working closely together in a four-strong unit.
As a result of small deal-team sizes and being the only analyst, I get to frequently meet clients and travel to mainland China, where most of them are based. If you want an analyst job that just involves crunching numbers at your desk, Goldman in Hong Kong isn’t for you.
Chinese clients see bulge-bracket banks as essentially offering the same products, so they often choose a firm based on customer service. Mainlanders can be demanding and expect us bankers to do a lot of extra things outside our official job scopes. Their research demands are particularly annoying because in Asia much of what they want isn’t readily available online. But to foster a strong relationship, you have to keep them happy.
Investment banking is comparatively new to China, so clients there typically don’t have the same financial knowledge as their Western counterparts (they aren’t so used to doing M&As, for example). In the US, many clients already know the deal process and there are far fewer hiccups along the way, but in Asia we often encounter problems. This is bad for the bank (especially if the deal falls through) but it benefits me as an analyst, giving me more exposure to challenging situations at a young age. Goldman juniors quickly become battle hardened in Hong Kong.
Think European and US financial regulations change too often? Try Chinese ones. As China liberalises its financial system, bankers covering the mainland have to keep constantly up to date with the new regulations it’s pumping out. But again, this is all good training for us analysts.
I usually start at 9am and on a really good day I finish at 9pm. More often, I leave close to midnight or at about 1am. Officially, Saturdays are ‘protected’, and I always try to take the whole day off if possible. But if I have too much work on, I can easily apply for an exemption, giving me the dubious privilege of being in the office on Saturday. I always work Sundays – it’s a given – but from what I hear, Goldman actually has good hours compared with many other Western banks in Hong Kong.
When you’re crunching models on Sundays or late at night, it’s easy to become disheartened. I keep up my spirits by thinking about how my work is helping the overall objectives of the deal. Before I start a task, particularly if it’s mundane, I talk to my seniors about what they’re trying to achieve with the client. It makes my work more meaningful and helps to motivate me.
Much of the work I do as an analyst isn’t hard – most people can learn modelling and PowerPoint presentations. The problem is that the presentations must be perfect and that’s very time consuming. As a junior banker, I’m constantly looking at ways to work more efficiently and free up time for the essential tasks.
When I work into the small hours, it’s to meet client deadlines. I was pleasantly surprised when I joined that my managers set pretty reasonable internal (non-client) deadlines.
I’ve found my fellow analyst intake to be sociable rather than competitive. Almost all of us interned together and got return offers, so we’re a tight-knit group. We still sometime go out together and when we do, there’s a refreshing lack of office politics.
Quentin Tam (a pseudonym) is in his third year as an analyst at Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong.
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