I’ve been fortunate enough to meet HPM two years ago at the first Energy Rodeo in Houston and recently had the opportunity to ask him some questions which the WSO audience could find useful. HPM works in strategy at a top 5 bank. Primarily his group concentrates on product and regulatory strategy with a focus on credit and balance generation.
Monkeys are always looking for advice, what do you have to offer?
A lot of you dudes need to chill. I understand that the economy sucks, you have 100k in loans and you're scared but no one is going to help you out if you can't control (or at least conceal) your urgency. I got a PM the other day that just said: 'Firm Name' - I am interviewing what are you guys going to ask me? The fuck kind of way to address someone is that? Be calm, personable and offer to buy me a beer. I guarantee you I will take you up on it if I don't think you're going to dry hump my leg or stab me when I get there.
To those of you just starting work:
You can't take yourself too seriously because someone is going to crush you at some point. It doesn't matter how awesome and smart you think you are, at some point you are going to get crushed. The way you handle this will define how a lot of people think about you. At the risk of outing myself, I once got dressed down in a rather large meeting by a senior director for a very silly error. It sucked and was something I obviously should have fixed but I worked late, fixed it and sent it to him that day. He told me later that he remembered getting the email from me with revisions late that night more than he remembered the error. Food for thought.
Oh, and people that make excuses are the worst people on earth to work with. Don't do that.
What advice would you give to a new hire entering into your industry?
First and foremost, you don't know anything. There is going to be an astronomical learning curve when you start and you won't even be able to hold an intelligent conversation for a couple of months. The ins and outs of the way the products we use are structured take time to understand and that’s ok. No one expects you to be a world beater on day one but you have to keep learning. Don't ask the same question twice. Try to find places where the answers you already have could apply and use a little trial and error. You're new so nothing you work on is going to be mission critical to the point that fucking it up will hurt our P&L. Relax, and learn.
What do you do in your free time to maintain the work-life balance?
I'm a pretty big fan of going to the gym so that’s probably the number one way I blow off steam. Outside of that and the usual drink with friends, I'm working on a novel and trying to decide when I should apply to business school. I'm also a huge fan of target shooting and do that every other weekend or so. The trick is to find a couple of things that you can use to balance out the nonsense from the week. If I'm really pissed off about something, I'll go to the gym and wreck myself. If I'm generally frustrated with work or the lady friend, I'll go and punch holes in some paper terrorists. If I'm just looking for something to do, I'll read or write. Its all just a matter of finding that one thing that you can go to in any given situation.
If you weren’t working in your field right now, what would you be doing?
I would probably be active duty in the military or working abroad as a contractor of some kind but neither of those things sound at all appealing to me at the moment.
Can you provide a quick run-down of what your daily responsibilities are like?
Completely depends. Day to day, I could be doing anything from visiting a third party vendor in Asia or the West Coast to running historical credit impacts of various metrics. There are very few days where I do the same thing I did the day before. I'm currently responsible for an intern so that makes my day a little different as well. Generally, I'll have a presentation every week or so and most of the week is spent preparing for that. While the content of the deck I'm presenting may change, the cycle of analysis, presentation, revisions, is pretty constant. I have also had a great deal of regulator interaction recently which, while miserable, is a great chance to learn a great deal in a very short amount of time.
Are there any specific personality traits that separate a successful worker in your industry versus other paths within finance?
It’s pretty hard to come up with anything here that is meaningfully different from a lot of other finance roles. Attention to detail, mathematical ability, and the ability to stare at excel for extended periods is always a good start. The one difference I would say is that in strategy you have to have the ability to work in white space better than a traditional finance or banking role. You might get something as vague as 'we need a product for customers that have XYZ characteristics that can bring them into the company earlier in their financial life cycle." There are clearly countless ways to do that so being able to sift through the and make a coherent plan is critical. Bottom line though, if you're intelligent and self motivated, you can do well here.
You have been around WSO since the beginning, can you let the readers know how WSO helped you with whatever it helped you with and how new users can use WSO to help themselves in job/bschool etc..?
To answer the first portion of the question, I actually got my current role through another WSO user but I think the important thing that WSO showed me was just how many options there are in finance. So many fields that I didn't even know existed were suddenly available to me and I never would have known about them before coming to WSO. I have also had the good fortune to meet various posters throughout my time here and they have proven to be great resources. Monty, CompBanker, TNA, Midas (RIP) all were very interesting people with great insight on a variety of issues.