I'd like to reach out to the group for advice. I have been in a 10 year 'trading sideways' stasis. It's a huge problem, I'm quite older now for this industry, and struggling to break back in to the main show, so I'm reaching out here for help.
I finished MBA in 2005 at the young age of 26, and headed out to Hong Kong, because China was booming. Plus pre-MBA I had been in real estate PE and I had the understanding that China property would boom. I had an offer from UBS London that I turned down because it was in fixed income - something I didn't really want to do. Plus I knew China was about to take off, and I'd dedicated a lot of time to learning the language. My future was not in UK, but in Asia.
So I moved to HK, crashed on a friend's couch and hustled. I managed to secure a spot in a rotation program of Asia's leading EB (a strong regional ibank with 20+ offices around the region) where we would be rotated every 4 months into different countries and functional areas. We would be spending 4 months in each in PE, IBD(ECM), equity research, and S&T. There was a verbal understanding that I'd likely be placed in IB or PE eventually, which were growing areas for the bank. The first rotation they put me in REPE, and in my 4 months there we acquired on two big office buildings, and broke ground on a new development. It was pretty good exposure for 4 months, but I took offense at the way the bank had promised exposure to IB and PE and instead put me in my pre-MBA function.
Then they rotated me into S&T, but in an operations role. I had done a fancy regression during our pre-rotation training and they wanted to put that kind of management analysis to work on their S&T business. It was definitely back office. I was very annoyed by this because I saw it as a betrayal of our verbal agreement of how I'd be trained.
If you're rolling your eyes now, I agree with you. It was an entitled, stupid thing for a 27 year old to think, and very short-sighted and immature.
At the same time, a leading Chinese PE fund, where I had interned before joining the bank kept calling me and asking me to join full time. They had just raised a big fund, and were on their way to becoming China's top fund. The CEO himself kept visiting me in HK. Separately the MD that had overseen me at the fund had been asking me for months to rejoin "the rocketship." She said she'd mentor me, look after me, and let me get experience in investment, fundraising and business building / operations experience at the portfolio companies. Meanwhile the bank was extracting value and giving me little in the way of further education or exposure. I felt if I didn't seize the chance to join the PE shop, in a year it would be too late.
So, stupidly and impetuously, I took the shot and joined the PE shop. It was not an easy decision, I cut out midway through the ibank's management rotation program and moved to China. Within a few days I knew I'd made a mistake. My language skills were insufficient, and I could not fully function on deals which required deep cultural and linguistic capabilities to be able to understand local management teams and their finances. I ended up getting taken out of the deal side and dropped into fundraising exclusively. I did my best and got some interesting exposure. In that role I helped raise another big fund, of $1.5bn. But then my utility to the Chinese was done. They were famous enough that money was being thrown at them, and I was pushed out, despite having just raised an oversubscribed fund, right into the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. In China as a foreigner, you either have immediate utility or you are gone.
So I went back to HK. I have been doing some random finance jobs since, but I can't seem to be able to get back into a major platform in a solid role. I did do a stint in cap intro at a BB, a few years each at smaller PE shops, and a bit of time in a family office. But I just can't break back in to the big time, despite having a few solid names on the CV. All the roles I unearth are at 2nd-tier opportunities. Recruiters look at 2 strong, highly-branded China names on my CV, and the BB cap intro stint, and don't know what to make of my CV. It's not enough time in a functional area to be able to come in at a senior level, and though I'd happily take a few steps down in rank I can't get anyone to hire me for that. I'm 42 - so too old to be a VP or below, and I don't have enough time in any function (other than maybe PE) to come in at a senior level.
So I just drift sideways. 10 years as a VP/Director, mostly in second-tier names, unable to get the train back on track. But this isn't a pity party. The above is just detailed context. Now, how do I get the train back on the track? Moving back to US is feasible - but I would have a hard time getting credit for the Chinese names I've worked at. I've interviewed at both US and Asia firms that pretty much discounted my last 15 years of experience. I don't have much of a US network anymore, outside of my MBA alumni. And in Asia it's also difficult because I'm not Chinese, and so there's others who are younger, hungry, and more linguistically and culturally a fit. And my deal experience is a bit light.
Any ideas? What should I do differently? I've saved and I won't starve. I have a number of investment properties. What I'm up to now is focusing on foodtech and medtech, and doing work for a US VC on these areas and writing a piece for an EB. I think maybe if I can do a good job on these I might be able to use them as hooks - maybe to get back to US, or to carve out a role in these areas. I was interviewed 3x at the Gates Foundation for the investment role. It wouldn't pay much but it'd be a hell of a mission. Didn't clinch it but I can keep re-pushing in that direction.