Getting Train Back on Track


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.

Comments (45)

May 10, 2020 - 7:35am

Interesting story, thanks for sharing. Certainly not the average life path you went.

With your language skills (assuming you are fluent or near fluent), you could try to hit up the Asia focused teams in US banks. They will certainly know the places you worked at and might give you a shot.

Your experience in the field is excellent and valuable in the West.

May 10, 2020 - 3:46pm

You would think so. But most of the international banks now have much of their Asia teams peopled by mainland Chinese. And I am older and it’s not the last job I did. It’s quite tricky. Once I moved back to California and rented a room for six months and went around interviewing. Still very difficult to find a role without a network. I just seem to be caught in between worlds. Not Chinese enough for China , not experienced enough for senior roles , too experienced for junior roles, not a strong enough network to break in to USA jobs. And now things will be harder in a COVID recession. I have just been doing consulting roles since September last year. But no real way to get back into a proper professional track and platform.

May 10, 2020 - 3:59pm

first of all, I have had plenty of interviews and jobs without knowing anyone inside the company. It is not like you "need to network" to interview.
Just search for jobs & companies that require mandarin and certain skills and a lot of US staff won't be able to apply for them.

Then, use the internet to your advantage. you have worked and know people. Ask them for introductions. No company is only in 1 market or region, they are all international.

Alternatively, do something entirely different. Go follow your dreams that don't entail sitting in an office.

Life does end one day.

May 11, 2020 - 3:42pm

No one is rolling their eyes - we all have the 20/20 hindsight thing. Great story. It kind of sounds like you have an inclination to returning to the US, so that's a starting place. What you're doing now sounds like a decent inroad to a next step as well...

Another option: How's your Hebrew? What about Israel? Or, the Israeli banks in NY (Leumi, IDB) are growing, expanding and doing some cool stuff. I feel like the Israelis are very open-minded to help one another, respectful of varied skill sets, and extremely innovative. Your skill set lends itself to such a wide range of options, it's more what you want than what you think you can get. I know with Israel there's a lot about what unit you served with, and that could be a challenge, wondering if you have any sort of Israeli network. There are many Israelis on the US coasts as well - I feel like they like to help one another. Just a thought. I mean, they are medtech central (and kinda foodies, too...)

As for age, I kind of ignore it. I know, "be realistic" - well, I'm older, too, and I refuse to "be realistic," because I've proven to myself multiple times that it's a mindset. If I decided I was too old, I'd never have managed to return to the work force, I'd never get in-person interviews in name shops that shouldn't speak to me per those standards. If you get wrapped up in "ageism," you'll find it everywhere. Sure, some places will turn you down on that, and others just want an energetic, motivated, quality professional that has a very complete, developed, multi-faceted skill set . You only need one person or firm to believe in you and give you a chance, so eyes on the prize and remember that Warren Buffett is productively 89. What you think will be, will be.

I've had success with simply networking via LinkedIn. Cold. People are nicer than you'd expect, especially in the current environment. Find any common thread to request to connect, once accepted, ask to hear about their firm and experience, with a one-line description of your background tailored towards towards the relevant skill set for the area you are interested in (or that's relevant to their firm/position). Ask for a short call. You'll get some hits, and the conversations will give you momentum, insight. Just getting the ball rolling leads you on a path; keep taking little steps until you hit on what inspires you. You will find people tell you "oh, you know, your timing is great, we were thinking about hiring X position". I think in combination with your current projects, in time something will gel, because bottom line, you are relevant to many finance positions, it's more about what really inspires you. Not to sound spiritual. But it's true - PE or VC or Gates Foundation investment role all sound like they could be perfectly on target if that's what grabs you. I think if anything, at your "age" you get a sense more from who you work with than even what you're doing - fit by personality and culture. Almost anything in that arena will be interesting for you if you're working with super people, and anything can be turned into a great paycheck when there's good motivation and inspiration.

You just have to keep plugging away - take small steps. Asking here is a great initial step. Whatever insight and motivation this gives you - act on it. Quick. Before you talk yourself out of it or get lazy. Connect with some interesting people, ask to speak to them, ask any other contacts you know who you could talk to.

If I missed something and there's a specific question, hit me up.

Hazak v'ahava ; )

May 14, 2020 - 2:34am

Thank you Shayne,
Good perspective. I think you're right, and I do need to approach this with a more positive mindset. If I look for ageism I'm likely to find it. Still though I have heard the age issue again and again from recruiters and companies I speak with. It's not exactly that I'm old, but rather that in the case of speaking to some ibanks they really value everyone within a class starting at the same age, and if someone is coming in at 42, that would be at least an AD/director, so experience matters a lot.

May 11, 2020 - 7:18pm

I appreciate the tag, but I'm not quite sure how much of a help I can be, I am finishing up my MBA right now and am, too, stuck in the job hunt. What I will say is the MBA network is pretty strong, I definitely agree with one of the other posters who recommended reaching out cold on LinkedIn, I've done it plenty and have received plenty of warm responses. Feel free to reach out, I have a few classmates who might be able to help make some introductions, but I'd recommend reaching out to your own classmates and see if they have any contacts that might be useful.

May 10, 2020 - 7:09pm

I remember when I was getting pushed out of the PE fund, having just successfully raised a $1.5bn fund, 3x oversubscribed, right in the middle of the financial crisis. The person who replaced me said
"Well you can always go teach English."
"Why would I want to go teach English?"
"Are you saying you're too good to teach English?"

No. But I'm a post-MBA, investment-banking-trained finance professional who just lined up $5bn in the middle of the financial crisis. Why would teaching English be the highest and best use of my skills? Why do I need to go back to teaching English? That's what I did pre-MBA to pay the rent while in language school in Shanghai. And I don't need to go in and compete with the random gaggle of 18 year old fresh American/ Canadian/ British teens who can do the same.

But that's how Chinese mainlanders see foreigners. They think we're hired help, good for teaching toddlers English. At best, we're seen as white faces who can go do fundraising for them, or help them source but not execute overseas deals.

May 22, 2020 - 3:53pm

I could not imagine saying that to a peer, let alone a colleague on their way out. No surprise it was a chinaman.

Thank you for the post.. I always enjoy reading your takes and appreciate the insight into your interesting story. As a white american I don't speak any other languages, and am impressed you were able to learn Mandarin at such level... that takes serious dedication.

What happened to your mentor that encouraged you to take the PE job in China.. did they abandon you or how did that mentorship sour? In hindsight do you think you could have been more coachable?

Have you considered a move to a senior corp dev position in the US?

May 24, 2020 - 4:17am

Thank you for the advice. I would LOVE to find a good corp dev role in US. I often apply to those online. But I think I need to build relationships to actually close such a role. But 100% would love to get such a role.

What happened to your mentor that encouraged you to take the PE job in China.. did they abandon you or how did that mentorship sour? In hindsight do you think you could have been more coachable?

Turns out "the was just pillow talk, baby." Actually she's still nice to me and we are on good terms but she wasn't about to stick her neck out for me at the firm. Her own political position was weak. Why stick her self to my sinking ship? That place was way too local for me to thrive in. She was always down to take me out for a meal and even invited me to spend a weekend at her country house with the family, but was not about to help me out really. She was quite shrewd actually. Be friends, but don't spend political capital.

In terms of 'could I have been more coachable'... I'm sure there are many things I could have done better. The #1 thing is to get more IBD time in BEFORE jumping in to a PE startup. THere were also a LOT of communication problems inside. Some linguistic (many of my colleagues didn't speak English) but perhaps even more so, there were cultural issues. Chinese communication has a great deal of subtlyty to it, and office politics are totally different than in US. It was like Ned Stark walking into Kings Landing in GOT. Didn't even realize there was a game being played until there was a sword at his neck.

Coachability - doubtlessly. I don't think that was my biggest flaw, as I solicit advice frequently and am pretty open to learning. But we could all use a dosse of more coachability.

May 10, 2020 - 8:02pm

1) maybe I will go back. I will consider it a defeat since I do not find it remotely enjoyable or interesting. It is largely devoid of brainwork. But it does generate revenue. I guess I just hoped for more in my career than boring days and a check at the end of the month. I am VERY greedy - just not for money only.

2) If I do go back to that, I would need to pick the fund very carefully. It's the strength of the fund that does most of the fundraising. A good fundraiser is certainly valuable but LPs are fiduciaries and it's the product that they invest in, not the guy making the pitch. That said, there's certainly a well-trod path to fundraising, and I have walked it several times before.

3) The comp would have to be very good. Some fundraisers are treated like full firm partners, and work with the team closely, and given upside in the funds they raise. Others are treated like phone operators. I've been in both situations and it's night and day.

May 10, 2020 - 8:38pm

Your are never too old to do something new or to get back on track. What do you want to do in food tech/med tech? Also, in which area is the majority of your experience and in what kind of role?
May 11, 2020 - 8:41am

Amen to that. ageism is a huge thing in finance I’ve come to notice - at every stage when you’re not senior enough to hold an MD/senior VP spot it seems like. IBs won’t take analysts over 25/26 years old, even PE shops won’t take people with “too much experience” etc. who would happily take a step down the ladder. I’m not really sure how to push past cuz the resume screens are brutal it but I wish you the best of luck in finding out a way to break back into the mainstream.

May 10, 2020 - 9:31pm

One way of getting back into IB:

There's a stigma against working at a Credit Rating Agency for some reason, but I think you have a shot at working at one, and would strongly recommend it for your situation.
There's often extremely high turnover at CRA's, and they have a difficult time recruiting more senior people due to investment restrictions (you literally can't have any stock investments and your significant other is subject to similar compliance regulations) and that relative to other finance roles in the industry their pay is subpar.

Here are the pros of working at a CRA:
- You gain valuable experience analyzing a portfolio of companies, and the opportunity to build relationships with bankers and issuers
-You have an opportunity to communicate with the industry. If you're knowledgable, the industry will know you and you'll be the go to guy at a CRA for questions.
-You get to look inside the black box that comes with every Credit Rating Methodology, which is invaluable knowledge since only rating analysts will have a proprietary understanding of what drives a rating.

Point 3 will be your ticket back to IB (point 2 will be really helpful too). Banks love individuals with CRA experience, so that they can manage the transaction process more smoothly and be able to anticipate and structure deals in a manner that won't have significant ratings impact. I think if you come off as a knowledgeable person when talking to the industry, and get a good understanding of how the sausage is made at a CRA (2-3 years of hard work might get you there), you should have no problem at landing a senior role at a bank once an opening presents itself.

Additionally, since you'll be the go to guy for many companies as the Lead Analyst for them, if investors find you knowledgeable, I don't see why you wouldn't be able to break into a buy-side role. Buy-siders also love having a previous CRA work under them who understands potential rating changes that will occur to the companies in their portfolios.

Good Luck!

May 11, 2020 - 3:56pm

I don't want to be negative - I just want to give another perspective.

Had an internship at a CRA, and this is what I observed. No shade intended, very very smart hardworking people there.
For young people with under 8 years of experience (and under 5 would be best) there is a lot of mobility to IB and elsewhere.
The older people there are truly kind of in that rut. I hate to say dead wood or out to pasture, that sounds rude and I apologize - I really don't mean that. But it's borderline so. People who came from other careers just kind of park themselves until retirement.
Then there are lifetimers, they get to a Director or Senior Director level, and they're just there forever, not going too far. Certainly not going to IB. There are some personalities that are pure CRA, no other fit, definitely not IB. It's not dynamic at all. Sure there are some interactive committee meetings with lots of discussion, but mostly it is morgue silent, silo-style.
The work is rigorous, intellectual, intensive. Again, SMART people. Nice people. But a lot (!) of administrative and bureaucratic pieces, too. Hours are extremely long these days - it's no longer a 9-6 job. Horrific turnover. And it's credit. And the pay is not something to be excited about.
I think at EW's level, it is going to more of a career-ender than career-developer. Just my 2 cents from having done a short stint and having some friends there (and who moved on). I think it's a perfect stepping stone for under 30's.
Please, no offense if you work there and love it -

May 13, 2020 - 5:46pm

This is true. Older people become comfortable and don't look to go anywhere else. The reason it's a career ender is because they choose not to go anywhere. You get used to the hours, I think the higher you are the less hours you work, and you get paid generously. VP's can make all in 200k plus, work 40-60 hours a week and have pretty decent work life balance and job security.

I think for OP's issue, a CRA will put him back on track and give him an opportunity to be on the market again and interview for vp/director roles in 2 years.

May 11, 2020 - 8:29am

thanks for the tag and a bit more about your story. you're clearly good at fundraising, so you've got strong sales skills and a network that trusts you. is your fundraising network usable if you were to come back to the US? or, would you basically be starting from scratch?

I wonder if VC would be doable, but I know nothing about that space. perhaps hungaroe or brotherbear would be good people to comment on this. I'd also consider roles in Asia but at US-founded company to get a name brand on your CV. maybe this is an IR role with Ares in HK, maybe this is a VP role at MSIM on an Asia focused fund, or maybe you take a senior role in the back office at Goldman in HK just to get some brand recognition. I can't tell you what will work, but I can tell you what I'd do, and you won't be surprised - informational interviews.

obviously it'll be different with your seniority, but my opinion is sales/bizdev roles are always in demand. maybe it's less of asking for a handout, and more about where they think the best opportunities are going forward. be candid - you're at a crossroads and want their advice, should you move back, will a second tier name hurt, where are bizdev/fundraising opportunities right now (hint: not in energy focused funds), stuff like that. I'd also consider taking a second-tier name if it A) is senior and pays well and B) could give you the option to move back to the US or wherever else you want to live.

if I were in your shoes, since you don't have any immediate financial obligations and can go at this a little slower, I'd use this time to rejuvenate your network. reach out, tell em what's going on (your covid story is a great icebreaker), tell them you're trying to use this time to restart your network now that there's no travel, and then maybe set up a virtual happy hour with some of your old friends. I've said this before, people will be put off if they think you're only asking for job help, but if you're genuinely interested in them and they have good advice, you have nothing to be ashamed of. people are at home, not travelling, they have time. you will pretty quickly get a sense for who's in a good spot to help and who's more worried about their own self preservation.

finally, call in some chits. people you've opened doors for, done favors for, and so on, call them up in the name of networking. they'll remember who you are (if they don't, you don't have any chits with them). have an "ask" in mind. say I was really close with Patrick (WSO Patrick) and I had done him a favor and I was leaving PWM. I would peruse his LinkedIn, see who he knows that I may want to meet, and just ask him after small talk "hey man, I'm considering a new role in the industry so have been networking. I noticed you're connected with XYZ on LinkedIn, how well do you know them? would you mind connecting us? I'd love to talk with someone like that!" and if you have chits (meaning relationship currency), they'll do it. just keep in mind, chits are hard won and easily spent, so don't go back to a golden goose too often, or they just might stop helping you.

  • Incoming Analyst in S&T - Other
May 11, 2020 - 8:55am

Have you considered IR/senior finance roles at startups, especially those about to raise new rounds? HK seems to have a growing startup scene (with a good number of foreigners). while I'm not sure it'd be worth it initially from a compensation perspective, it might be a rebranding opportunity if you have interest in the space.

I bring this up because I worked at a startup in HK two years ago where there were a number of senior-level hires as they expanded, and they seemed to be either finance or industry types (and at least half were non-Chinese). And the fact that many of these startups eventually rollout China offices may or may not be to the advantage of someone with your background. However, it's overall still a very small scene though so I'm not sure how many opps there are.

May 11, 2020 - 10:59am

I know a few folks, Americans in Asia:

  • works for an Australian REIT in Tokyo; investing role
  • works in the Macao casino industry; might see him on Asian business news on tv; management role
  • works in American based hedge fund; middle/back office
  • works for American based airlines in an operations and sales/marketing role; started in FP&A
  • doing a start up in Vietnam
  • was doing energy consulting in China for oil companies

There are things that keep them there which is they love living in Asia. They are American and the ones with kids attend international school. There are the pros and cons as you know and expressed in WSO which I appreciate. I interviewed for a job in HK in 2008 as one of my friends was vouching for me, so could have been you.

Although I’m not in IB/PE and I don’t have any good advice if that’s all you want to do, but if you want to stay in Asia, why not go into the management side of things for an international company? Initiatives like M&A for the company might be up your alley. Say it’s a regional company that aspires to grow; couldn’t you be in Biz Dev or even Chief Investment Officer or the CFO role?

I mentioned in another post about someone I met earlier in life:


Here’s a true story:

I once took a summer school accounting class in a bigger city at another university (I was a Univ of Hawaii student at Univ of Washington for the summer). In my class was an older guy who drove a Ducati motorcycle to class. Ducati guy and I and another guy would study together. One day I asked Ducati guy what he was doing in the class and he said he wanted to learn some accounting as he was going to run a bank. He had connections to private equity (ok, I subsequently looked up what that was). He previously was in hotels and opened several throughout the world and later became the CEO. He then helped the company get bought out by a mega hospitality company.

I was studying to become a public accountant. Wasn’t sure tax or audit. He was just doing continuous learning. I forget if I asked him or he just told me this, but he said in simple terms, the hierarchy of money in business.

He said, the Management gets paid the most
Then the bankers
Then the lawyers
And then the Accountants

He might of meant in a M&A deal. Anyways, that story I wanted to share.

So, think about how to get into Management. CFO is a great role. Understand an industry. Know accounting, but also think strategically and understand finance, capital markets, risk, learn to negotiate agreements. Learn to build businesses.

I think the role of CFO is so underrated on WSO. Never gets talked about (maybe I could go to corporate finance message board but I don’t). It is ridiculous actually if you think about it. Nobody wants to own part of and run a company and be the most important finance person.

Money touches everything. How many companies are there in the world?

Ducati guy opened up hotels in Asia then helped orchestrate a buy out to a bigger company and got very wealthy. Then went to his next life, and briefly encountered me; and off he went. I guess there are so many more opportunities to add value (and enjoy the work) then just the investment firms that are of such focus on WSO. You know that, younger monkeys might not, but maybe we all need to look in the mirror sometimes and see if we want to go through that again - or help grow something, still at a fast pace, but in a different environment that appreciates what you bring. I left the institutional world almost 4 years ago and although a bumpy ride, I am enjoying it (more time with family, young kids; the pressure is a lot more manageable; my role better aligned with my strengths - as I helped create it; ownership incentives).

I know you mentioned you are trying to get back on the train after some time. You are not too old to get good in Operations/Management of a particular industry, say medical tech or food tech. I would find that super fascinating - like creating the next Rain Bird or drones for agriculture; parts of Asia could really benefit from the leap; capital markets still inefficient; and you might have more knowledge and ability then most country based folks on geopolitical risk/mitigation (what do you know about Asian Dev Bank, IMF - I don’t know much); I find the TPP and ASEAN intriguing. You could probably spot opportunities. Anyways I respect you and what I’m saying you prob thought of already, but also writing so people think about life after ____. It might be that you need to look outside of China in your next act (could be based there but export driven).

You know what’s cooler than working for a brand? Being the one/on the team that created the brand.

I guess hypothetically based on my interests and “what if” I moved to Asia in 2008; what I’d be thinking, if not moving back to Hawaii, where I’m from. My wife is originally from China, and does not want to live there, so I’m left with only talking about it on message boards. I did live in Asia (Korea/Japan) growing up for a few years as my dad worked for the US military, so that was the beginning of my interest in East Asia.

Have compassion as well as ambition and you’ll go far in life
May 11, 2020 - 6:06pm

I see a couple options that are straightforward. The last two seem most achievable:

  • venture capital
  • investor relations for private equity
  • cap intro (at a bulge bracket or a placement agent)

If you're interested in venture capital, I would recommend you look for one of the firms that straddles the Valley and China, like GGV or Sequoia. Your language skills, local experience, and network really mean something. There are a lot of people coming out of HSW who are native or fluent in Mandarin. There aren't many who have raised ten figures of capital in that market before.

You're already doing a lot of the right things. The only thing I'd add is a couple investments at whatever scale you can afford. Do at least half a dozen deals, ideally at $100k ($50k if that's what you can do), to demonstrate your sourcing ability and professional connectivity.

As those perform (raise future rounds, get acquired), you are rounding out the overall profile of the ideal employee a firm like that wants. You also need founders and people in the community to know your name and speak positively about you. It will take a couple years.

And at the end of it, you probably won't get the partner title, just whatever the firm calls its pre-partner level (Principal, etc.). It's an unconventional route with a lot of uncertainty.

This will be a pretty hard route for a prominent name-brand firm. There aren't many senior roles, and when they come up, they tend to draw from the ranks of people already in the industry. To combat this, you can try to go downstream a bit in size. It sounds like you're really brand-focused at this time, so this may not be an attractive route.

Investor relations seems like an amazing fit. Have you talked to Blackstone or any of the megafunds? I think you solve a lot of problems for them. They all want money from the huge corporate pensions, insurance companies, and allocators in that market. Again - your language skills, local experience, and network are very attractive.

Beyond the giant shops, you should look at all the recent spin-outs. The last half of the decade, really strong people left the huge shops like Apollo, Carlyle, and Blackstone to start their own place.

Names like Searchlight (ex Apollo), Owl Rock (Doug Ostrover, the 'O' in GSO), Gamut (ex Apollo), Arcline (ex Golden Gate), Arbour Lane (former Credit Suisse distressed team), Cove Hill (ex Bain), Cornell Capital (Henry Cornell, former vice chair of Goldman merchant banking), Falcata (former software execs), Brightstar (ex Lindsay Goldberg) ... are all great candidates.

They'd probably very strongly value someone who can prove a fundraise above the billion-dollar mark. It's always preferable to have an in-house person instead of a placement agent, provided that you get the same result or better relative to the agent.

Capital introductions or a placement agency seems like a layup. Mercury Capital Advisors, Eaton Partners, and all the bulge bracket banks should follow the exact same logic as the private equity GP universe. I would imagine you'd have the lowest friction here of all.

Good luck man. It sounds like you've done some interesting things. I think it shouldn't be hard to string that all together in a compelling package where someone bites.

I am permanently behind on PMs, it's not personal.

May 12, 2020 - 3:56am

I think this is one of the best pieces of advice so far. On the hint by thebrofessor I would share some thoughts:

For entering into VC you would necessarily need to bring some edge: China/HK experience, past deals/activity or some industry expertise. At the moment may be due to C19 challenging to break into, but I know of many funds carefully timing lower valuations to deploy capital (if, as it looks like, investing is your thing). Have you think about an alternative path of joining a CVC? Particularly one where you have past deal/experience and/or network, or your profile may have a match. Could be a stepping stone to get back into the game. In addition, you can test a hybrid, as some VCs also have VC-as-you-go services for Corporates. Being the CVC guy dealing with the VC (if investing through funds or as co-investors for example) may propel you towards your goal. I know some in EU, so if this appeals to you, let me know.

As APAE mentions, you seem to be focused on big names. I would however considering widening your options (smaller shop, alternative geos, etc.).

I've read some of your comments on other threads and appreciated your contributions to the community, and you come across as someone with valuable experience, leveled and grounded views. I'm happy the WSO community is giving you back with this post. You may be better placed to succeed that you may be currently be aware of (frustration and so on). So, with the cards on your hand,(and some of the feedback here, plus from your network) redraw your strategy, pick which cards to play when/how and be open for the opportunities that may arise on the way.

At a stage in my life, I tried so hard to fully open a door that was partly closed and didn't see/valued other doors that were fully open and welcoming me. Luckily I got to explore one thanks to serendipity and I am grateful for this turn of events.

Good luck to you and keep us posted!

May 11, 2020 - 6:14pm

Very interesting story You have! Mind me asking what kind of business school had you attended? Can’t you leverage that network?

May 13, 2020 - 3:13am

I think others have posted some really good suggestions, especially how you might make VC work or how to leverage/reinvigorate your network to get access to relevant opportunities in the US. So I will try to chip in with my 5 cents and a few random ideas I think might be worth considering for you.

As I read your posts, you want to move to a role at one of the most prestigious firms in an investment focused role. You can likely go to such a firm with a strong brand name by focusing on the IR/fundraising opportunities, but you are not really interested in this route unless the other track is dead and you have to settle. On the other hand, you have a difficult time getting to the relevant tier 1 opportunities when looking for the investment focused roles.

Essentially it seems like you are struggling with a similar issue that I have been grappling with too - trying to decide whether to prioritise working for the "right" company (prestige/brand name) vs. working in the "right" position (actual job content). I say "right" because how exactly to define it is quite subjective. Obviously, if we can get the perfect combination of working the "right" position at the right company, then that is the ideal opportunity. In this sense, I can really relate to your comment about being very greedy in a wider sense than money by wanting the opportunity that offers it all. But what do you do, if this is very unlikely or difficult to obtain perhaps due to your profile not exactly being the perfect match?

I see no need for you to give up chasing the opportunities with the ideal combination that present themselves simply because they have lower probability to turn into a job. Landing such an opportunity is after all a numbers game, where you only need to get lucky once. However, you might ultimately have to decide whether working for the "right" company is more important than working in the "right" position in case nothing materialises. Fortunately, things will rarely turn out to be as black and white as this (i.e. there are various levels of prestige), but I think it will be very helpful for you in making the best decision to have gone through this exercise and to know your true priority. Most opportunities will in reality present some tradeoff between the two, and you need to figure out the balance that maximises "value" for you. Again, defining value is quite subjective, but I like to think of it as what makes me most happy in the long term.

What I am trying to ask is: Would it not make sense to consider taking a tier 2 opportunity that gives you the "right" and desired experience despite being at a less prestigious firm? This could potentially open the door further down the road to a tier 1 firm, or in worst case you will still be at a decent firm doing work that you are actually interested in. I am assuming that with tier 2 opportunities we are not talking garbage level firms, but rather medium instead of top bucket prestige. You really do not seem to have any love for doing IR/fundraising. How low in prestige do we need to go for the investment focused role to be less attractive overall in comparison?

I also recognise the issue with some recruiters when they encounter a candidate that is not exactly the cookie cutter profile that they are used to market to your desired roles. It really takes one who recognises what you can bring to the table beyond the titles on your CV and is willing to stick his/her neck out a bit for you to give you the tier 1 opportunities. Networking is likely going yield the superior result in your case, but I think it could be worth your while working with a few select recruiters that you feel get your value add and know how to sell it. I have so far only come across a few great recruiters like this and the difference from the rest of them is just staggering. 

Random ideas for you to consider:

  • Could secondaries be an alternative option for you? Perhaps in an advisory role at an EB? Without being an expert in this field, it might be a way for you to combine your connections with GPs/LPs while simultaneously offer involvement in the investment process (although, sell side). I know that the part of the job that entails shopping LP stakes around perhaps is less what you are looking for, but the GP led transactions could provide more complex and stimulating work. 

  •   You might already have them on your radar, but otherwise consider reaching out to EQT. I understand that they are looking to beef up their presence in Asia, and I believe they have a strong focus on healthcare - your China knowledge and medtech/foodtech focus should align well with them.

May 14, 2020 - 7:40am

I can see two additional options - one high risk, one lower risk.

  • You use your capital raising expertise and deal experience to join an early stage PE fund/partner with a couple of other folks who are spinning out. Your fundraising expertise compensates for a bit of a lighter deal track and you get partner economics, but it takes a few years to bootstrap it. You don't get a brand and need both the investments and relationships to work out but you bring things to the table that merits a serious equity % with your co-founders. I am thinking a little bit downmarket from what APAE suggests (though those are good names), because those funds will likely raise well either way whereas a notch down you could get some guys who are talented but where your fundraising chops are a huge difference maker and materially accelerates the firm's development, allowing you to command a bigger piece of the pie. But given you've worked at a couple of smaller PE firms, maybe this is too similar to this. It's definitely a risk on trade.

  • You pivot into the LP space in either the US or Asia. US LPs are hungry for people with relationships, some language skills, but who are also willing to be based in the US and work for their mission. Basing people in Asia hasn't worked out for most of them but flying out twice a year isn't great either. Comp will be mid six figures and lower risk, though you should know this is an illiquid market with both more money and more involuntary churn than there was 10 years ago. There are also more people than there were 10 years ago, so career progression is slower and dependent on seats changing. On the plus side, it's lower stress, you can work with some great missions, and have control over your time.

Happy to discuss if you want to PM me. I appreciated your post on doing PE in your PA btw.

May 16, 2020 - 10:02am

Thanks Oracle. Your thinking is wise. In fact, on 4 separate occasions I have taken on a supposedly-hybrid fundsraising + investing role. In all cases, the role starts with "first raise $ for us, then you can invest it later." And in all cases, that later never comes. If I just wanted to do IR, I would have joined Morgan Stanley or similar, where there previously were offers. I didn't want to just be a fundraiser, so I opted for smaller funds. But there are few people who know how to raise $, and more people who are keen to do deals. I suppose I can just hold out until there's a high-end fundraising role, but I really don't like the fundraising process at all. And on the deal side, well it doesn't look like those are going to materialize anytime soon.

May 22, 2020 - 4:44am

Yeah, I think these hybrid roles morphing to what you are most strong in is a serious risk. That's part of why I thought a very small team might be best - if there aren't a lot of other resources, they have to use you, whereas some of the high pedigree spins are more likely to be able to afford a lot of other investment resources.

I think the LP world in the right role might also satisfy your desire for impact and decent economics.

Your comments below make sense - I would suspect that filling the technical skill gaps will just give you more confidence but you may need only a pretty narrow range to do some of the roles you want.

Good luck with the search and thanks again for your posts, some of which I have found quite valuable.

May 15, 2020 - 6:02pm

This hits close to home for me. i'm also over 40 (but under 50).
Worked in trading related IT for about 5 years as a desk analyst / programmer...then traded rates at a few firms for about 5 years...laid off in 2008...then traded my own money prop for almost 8 years. had a few good profitable years...some struggles.

I realized a few years ago that i wanted to get back into the BB community, but can't even get an interview. I've seen job postings for what was essentially my old job (but at a different firm) and tho i apply with what should be a great resume for the position, i can' even get an interview. I've used the resume review/writing services, and they helped polish my resume a little, but for the most part people seem to tell me my resume and story sound good and they don't understand why i don't get interviews.

Even tho I'm too experienced for an entry level trading analyst role, i've applied to the ones i've seen on linkedin or indeed...and yet still no interviews. I've applied for analyst, associate, VP and Director level roles, no matter the level...but for roles where my experieme should be an asset and where i'm confident i could perform well. i don't get interviews.

I had a bad political experience when i was younger about 10 years ago, and that may have tainted my reputation (rates trading is a small world...and my "enemy" is popular and knows everybody). I know that my old boss has only negative things to say about me when people call to ask "i'm interviewing ironchef for a trading role...what do you think?". I know this because someone did a favor for me and made that call to ask, just to see what would be said. My old boss throws me under the bus and says unflattering things. Its frustrating because i thought we were friends back in the day, but apparently i was wrong. Whats worse is, now, it feels like i've been blackballed from the industry. My only means of survival has been prop trading futures for myself. I do profitable, but its very hard. There are certain trades i want to put on, but require an ISDA to trade swaps or 50mm of capital to trade and clear certain i'm stuck in a very small universe, compared to what the larger firms can do.

I'm at a point where i realize the huge advantage i had at a BB trading desk, and i wish i could go back in time, because i would do so much better the 2nd time around.

Unlike ibanking or PE, trading really is a skill that you learn and develop over time...and has almost nothing to do with relationships when it comes to actually generating revenue...because its all about pattern recognition...and it takes years of exposure to learn all the patterns (including overcoming your own emotional patterns). Thats why i know i would be a great trader on a BB desk now that i'm over 40 and have 15 years of trading experience, and its frustrating that opportunity has been blocked because of something stupid i did 10 years ago (and i'm not even sure what it was).

May 16, 2020 - 1:09am

Try reaching out to the boss that hates you and grab drinks with them, and if not drinks lunch/coffee. Meeting them will be a fun mental game to play, and just maybe they'll like you and let the past go.

Have you ever thought about reach out to group heads? They should surely be interested in meeting you given your experience?

Most Helpful
May 16, 2020 - 8:42pm

jarstar1 APAE thebrofessor odog808 , Beautiful Monkey King" Shaynepunim WanderingWanchai @Dr. Rahma Dikinmahas , financeabc , BankCredit993 hungaroe OracleofBromaha

Thank you very much. I appreciate your guidance.
I am late in responding because I wanted to absorb and meditate on all the insights.

I'm not sure how to solve, but this all helps.

  • Networking - I think the advice to do a lot more informational interviews is spot on, so I'm going to ratchet-up the networking. People are always open to take meetings, especially if they feel there's knowledge in it for them. So I come with writeups on fundraising or foodtech and that unlocks most doors.

  • Learning - I think there's a gap in my finance knowledge from jumping out of IB too early, and then getting pushed into IR on the PE side rather than getting to be more on the deal side. I should try to close that gap.

  • Goal - my greed is that I want both to work on environmental impact or healthcare impact, while also earning a decent middle-class living. That's the challenge. Jobs that make the world better don't pay well, and jobs that pay well rarely make the world better. There's a few exceptions maybe - like being senior management in a hospital system or a healthcare investment banker, or working in PE in renewable energy. But these are rare. Mostly you can either make a decent living or make an impact but not both. My greed is that I want both. Don't need to be wealthy but I do want a middle-class life and the security and freedom that comes along.

  • Actual options - this is the part I have no idea about and keeps me up at night. I'm determined not to take another stop-gap job, but unclear on what job options are actually open. I've been looking at more PE/VC roles that focus on impact sectors, but it's unlikely those roles would be in HK. i will not take another IR or cap intro job. I'd rather keep waiting and fighting for something that leads to the end point. I just don't have more time to waste.

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