Securing a graduate asset management job in Asia isn’t easy. Although buy-side firms are increasing the number of juniors they hire globally, they still offer far fewer opportunities than banks do – and this recruitment gulf is even wider in Asia where the sector is comparatively smaller.
All that isn’t stopping Yvonne Chua, president of the National University of Singapore (NUS) Investment Society, from trying to break into the buy-side straight after she graduates rather than after a stint in banking.
Chua, 21, a third-year NUS Bachelor of Business Administration student who’s been running her own portfolio since she was a teenager, tells us about the steps she’s already taken (including seven internships and counting) towards clinching a graduate asset management job.
Growing up, I often thought about how I could attain financial independence as early as possible. I read success stories about people in the investing and trading industry, which sparked my interest in the sector, so I began to do more research into it. As I learnt more through my internships, I found that I enjoyed nearly everything about the industry – the rigour, the challenges, the level of analysis required and the amount of non-monetary satisfaction it brings. In asset management each individual is valued for their own perspectives, so you can strive to think and analyse things differently from the consensus. And also it’s very rewarding to have the opportunity to learn about many different areas of the world as they are all interconnected in the financial markets.
It can be fairly challenging because there are very few openings available for fresh graduates to enter the buy-side as their first job. However, I do know of a few outstanding NUS alumni who were offered buy-side jobs upon graduation, so I’ll continue to put in the necessary effort towards getting a similar role.
I would think that if one wants to pursue a career in investment management, it’s important to make use of every opportunity to gain as many investment insights as possible from industry professionals. Market movements aren’t something that can be taught through books and classes, which is why I find that actual exposure – through investing my money and time in analysing markets during internships – is crucial to learning lessons and gaining greater experience. I’ve completed several internships in various financial institutions, including DBS Vickers Securities in New York, mostly covering equity, macroeconomic, or quantitative buy-side investment research. I try to take on internships during every school break. My most recent internship was with Dymon Asia Capital and the next is with Goldman Sachs Asset Management.
It’s become fairly normal for students in Singapore to complete multiple internships as opposed to just one because of the increasing competition among undergraduates to get jobs in the financial services industry. But of course, the quality of the internships definitely still takes precedence over the quantity.
It’s not absolutely crucial, but it’s definitely a good-to-have. Getting actively involved allows you to have a greater network of both seniors and peers who share similar interests, offering you a wider range of both perspectives and potential job opportunities in your area of finance. For instance, financial institutions and NUS Investment Society alumni sometimes offer our members internship opportunities first and these may not be made available to other students.
Aside from having the technical knowledge required for the role, one should be able to answer questions about the non-technical aspects as well, and communicate your strengths in all relevant areas to your interviewers. Conveying your eagerness to learn and having a positive attitude are a must. To do well during the internship itself, it’s important to be an independent andpro-active learner. You have to stay focused at all times and always do your due diligence in advance – train yourself to be sharp and to think on your feet.
A portion of my technical knowledge comes from the modules in school, but I’m also striving to expand my skills about investment markets through other means – for example, doing my own research, managing my own investments, and pursuing to be a CFA Charterholder. For most areas of financial services having your own portfolio like I do isn’t that important, but it will be moreimportant if you want to join the buy-side industry.
I prefer to own a portfolio of stocks for diversification purposes. My preference is for either growth stocks with visible catalysts, or value stocks with stable cash flow and/or attractive dividends.