How I landed my PE position in China, non-target, low gpa, no exp

humble_chinese's picture
Rank: Monkey | banana points 60

This is written as a post of encouragement rather than specifically targeting IB or PE industry/forum.

First, to start off, I've showed a pretty poor judgment in the past. Notably you can read this thread: //www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/looked-the-fool-go-ahead-laugh

My resume: http://www.razume.com/documents/19475 (non-target. my school is actually UNACCREDITED. without giving away too much, it's a "credible" non-accredited school that'll be accredited soon. but most importantly, it has ZERO alumni base)

I came to China/Hong Kong thinking it'd be easy to get a job, since I speak 3 languages (English/Mandarin/Cantonese). I applied to all the BBs and MMs in Hong Kong. Zero response. It wasn't hard to figure out my resume wasn't getting past HR. I paid for a premium linkedin account and messaged MDs directly. No response. Of course I read the Network Ninja guides before e-mailing, but, no response.

I realized it was useless to try to get a job in finance in HK (not to mention I don't even have a HK work Visa). I moved to the mainland. My strategy was simple but very indirect. Every evening, I would attend Toastmasters (for those who don't know, imagine Alcoholics Anonymous, except for public speaking. In America, not a lot of top professionals attend. In China, it attracts diverse business people, including those that work in finance).

Over a period of 3 months, I landed 3 whopping interviews. (Friend of a friend of a friend kind of introductions). I'll describe them for comedy.

  1. Meeting with the Vice-CEO (think MD) of IBD of a major securities firm (think top MM IB in U.S.). Got the contact, called directly, said I've come to China to look for a job, seemed like a cool dude, told me to meet him at his hotel where he was taking classes. Took me 1hr 30min to get there, it's like the Venetian, but less tall, reproduced in some hidden away Chinese mountain. The Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business was holding classes there (I was like, wtf is the Cheung Kong GSB? Much later, it turns out this is the #1 eMBA school in China). I meet him in his room, he gave me his business card, first question: "So, where did you study for your Masters?" "Um, I don't have a Masters." "Oh." And that's it. That was the fucking interview. It all went downhill once he realized I didn't have a Masters (it's actually a very normal requirement for people that want to get into any finance related work in China). I told the MD that I wanted to be an "analyst". He just laughed and said, they have their own "analytical department", people in his team do real work (i.e. build relationships, fuck hookers with CEOs). And that was that. I found out later from his business card that this MD is a "Financial Sponsor" (bao jian ren), think Galleon's Raj, but legal, with very close ties to the Chinese government. There are only 200 financial sponsors in China. Companies have to go through a sponsor to IPO. Fuck! I didn't capitalize on this opportunity properly!
  2. Meeting with the Vice-GM (again, funny title, definitely MD level stuff) of a mega-Chinese conglomerate that's building a commercial bank after acquiring a small one (this is the simplest way to explain it, since banks are tied to a "region" in China, the quickest way to "start" a bank is to acquire one). Since they've just acquired this small bank, they're in a small city that took me 3 hours to get there. All he did was ask me questions about my family. After 2 minutes of that, he said "I'm sorry, I don't think I'd want you to work for me. Your family situation (my parents being in the U.S.) seems very unstable, and I wouldn't want to spend money training you because you know nothing, and it wouldn't be realistic to ask you to start by being a teller first." Fuck you! (Later I found out these type of "family background" interview questions are very common in china) In case you were wondering why I didn't talk to the Vice-GM on the phone first, well, I was introduced by a friend of a friend (again, through Toastmasters), and that friend introduced me to the Vice-GM on the spot (yes, Welcome to China). Depressing and a waste of time.
  3. Meeting with a shady company's MD/Owner/CEO/Whatever Title. Why is this company shady? Because I can't figure it what the fuck it does. According to its website, it does everything in finance. No exception here, got here because of a connection through Toastmasters. I came to the company with the biggest skepticism. However, the company has an AMAZING office (these are expensive at the city I'm staying). I was led into an AMAZING conference room where I chatted with the CIO, whom proceeds to tell me their company does EVERYTHING. He says the company is a shell right now because their parent company was acquired by a major firm (think top MM in China). So right now, besides the CIO and the Owner/MD, everyone else (6+ people) are just secretaries/back office. Speaking of their secretaries, Oh Jesus Christ are they FINE. I would work here just for them alone, but fucking them would probably prove a daunting task. Their MD likes me, and wants me to work there. I don't.

Throughout this 3-month period, I was definitely depressed. If I didn't have a GF I would probably have killed myself. WSO was a big help in keeping my head up. I stuck to my plan, I attended lots of networking events and keep meeting lots of people. I never let any negativity show in public, although it was eating me up in private. It also helped that after doing lots of homework, I figured out the closest thing they have to an analyst in investment banking, private equity associate. The problem was to get into these top PE firms, you needed a top Masters degree and at least 2 years of i-banking experience. However, I was foolish enough to believe I can intern at these places. I then proceeded to telling everyone I meet passionately that I want an internship in PE.

Finally, I met a woman that was willing to help me. She introduced me to a MD (this time, the title was "correct". They use "western" titles) of a top domestic PE firm (they only do RMB funds). I'm guessing this woman has a pretty good relationship with the MD, and he agreed to meet me Monday late morning even though he was flying out that afternoon. The funny thing about the whole meeting was, he talked almost the whole time. I said I wanted to find out about the PE situation in China (I did research beforehand, of course) and he patiently used at least 45 minutes to explain it to me. Even though the firm is hiring, the requirements are high (see above). I asked if I can intern there and he said I would have to ask HR, because of the projects he was taking on, he is not involved in the current hiring situation. Fuck.

No surprise, after contacting HR, they said they would let me know if they have anything (which they never will). I e-mailed the MD again asking for his help. 2 days later, he replied saying since the firm just took on 7 new hires; they're not looking to add anymore at this time. Fuck. I had such high hopes and was completely enthralled by this firm's previous transactions. This was probably the lowest point in my life.

I kept my head up, kept trying to get to different MDs through people I meet. Suddenly, 2 weeks later (just a couple of days ago), I got a call from the previous PE firm I interviewed at and told me to start work on Tuesday. Then the MD called me and told me to start ASAP. I would be paid 2800rmb/month (less than $430USD) to intern there.

After being at work for 2 days now, this is definitely my dream come true. They have a flat structure, which means I'm allowed to sit in all company meetings (including do we do this deal or not top strategy meetings). My first mission is to read a 380 page textbook on private equity, in Chinese, so that I am able to at least understand what goes on in their important Monday meetings. You have to imagine, I am 24 years old, and the next youngest person is at least 30. By no means am I set, as my "internship" is set for 3 months, but I'm 100% I can turn it full-time by proving I've put it work to learn the material.

I hope my story serves as encouragement for people that want to follow their dreams. Finding a job, especially a job you want, is a very difficult process, especially if you didn't spend 4 years of college preparing for it. I can't change what I didn't do (no internship, low GPA), but I stuck with what I thought was possible, no matter how slim the chances may be. KEEP YOUR HEAD UP and MEET PEOPLE.

See you at HBS in 4-5 years. Just kidding.

Comments (34)

Jun 5, 2011

Read the whole thing. Great story. Best of luck to you in this internship. Hopefully it'll turn into a full time gig or you will be able to use this internship as leverage for another gig at a different shop.

Really enjoyed reading this. Thanks.

Jun 5, 2011

hey man... i got through about half of it earlier this morning. i really appreciate you sharing your experiences.

best of luck.

Money Never Sleeps? More like Money Never SUCKS amirite?!?!?!?

Jun 5, 2011

Very inspirational! I'm trying to do the same thing in banking in NYC.

Jun 5, 2011

Great to see that your perseverance paid off! All the best!

Jun 5, 2011
humble_chinese:

but fucking them would probably prove a daunting task.

Ya, I would go for vaginal intercourse first.

Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Jun 5, 2011

Great story man! I am in a similar situation, but the opposite problem (Good GPA, target-ish school, have experience, but don't speak mandarin). I saw that M&I blog post too, it was a depressing read. Keep us posted on how your internship goes and maybe you can even share your story with Brian at M&I so they'll have another take on it.

Jun 5, 2011
Kanon:

Great story man! I am in a similar situation, but the opposite problem (Good GPA, target-ish school, have experience, but don't speak mandarin). I saw that M&I blog post too, it was a depressing read. Keep us posted on how your internship goes and maybe you can even share your story with Brian at M&I so they'll have another take on it.

In your situation I think Hong Kong would be a better place for you. But if you want to move to PE I think Mandarin is a must...you can't do most of the due diligence if you don't speak the language. My Mandarin is good but I'm still working on it to be able to do the most basic of things, i.e. interview a target's customers

Jun 5, 2011
humble_chinese:
Kanon:

Great story man! I am in a similar situation, but the opposite problem (Good GPA, target-ish school, have experience, but don't speak mandarin). I saw that M&I blog post too, it was a depressing read. Keep us posted on how your internship goes and maybe you can even share your story with Brian at M&I so they'll have another take on it.

In your situation I think Hong Kong would be a better place for you. But if you want to move to PE I think Mandarin is a must...you can't do most of the due diligence if you don't speak the language. My Mandarin is good but I'm still working on it to be able to do the most basic of things, i.e. interview a target's customers

Agreed - I've been through some interviews for PE/IB in HK and get pretty close, but Mandarin fluency is becoming more and more of a pre-req. I need to find opportunities with shops that don't just look at China, but PE tends to hire on a as-need basis, not incoming class.

Sep 5, 2018
kanon:

Great story man! I am in a similar situation, but the opposite problem (Good GPA, target-ish school, have experience, but don't speak mandarin). I saw that M&I blog post too, it was a depressing read. Keep us posted on how your internship goes and maybe you can even share your story with Brian at M&I so they'll have another take on it.

If I'm not mistaken, the M&I story is mine.
Brian interviewed me a bunch of years back, and yeah, I was super depressed.
I mean, I got dicked over time and again in China.
I wouldn't do it again if I could go back in time.
I should have stayed in my nice Hong Kong ibank-run PE gig crushing 80%+ IRRs instead of chasing triple-digit IRRs in China where I was going to get raped nearly for sure.
Don't go chasing green grass! It's green because it's fertilized with human bullshit.

    • 1
Jun 5, 2011

Lol, so I had to check the time stamp on my post that you replied to and just realized it was for 2011. Wow, time flies...

Actually, it's funny cause I did end up working in Asia for a bit, and then came back to North America. Your other post on finance in HK is spot on! And as an Asian who is not literate in Chinese, your being a foreigner who is fluent and worked in China is simultaneously impressive, and puts me to shame. Haha.

I haven't been back in HK in awhile, but I may find reason to if I start looking at startups that fit my mandate in Asia. I'd be interested in grabbing drinks if I'm ever in town!

    • 1
Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Jun 5, 2011

Great story. Though, Your gpa is defnitely not that low and your resume is quite impressive.

Jun 5, 2011
rc23:

Great story. Though, Your gpa is defnitely not that low and your resume is quite impressive.

I've gotten multiple feedback from people in IBD - my resume won't make the first cut.

Most Helpful
Sep 5, 2018
humble_chinese:
rc23:

Great story. Though, Your gpa is defnitely not that low and your resume is quite impressive.

I've gotten multiple feedback from people in IBD - my resume won't make the first cut.

People in IBD tend to be arrogant dicks.
I wouldn't take it to heart or let anyone keep you down.
There's plenty of people in the field who got in thru hustle and heart.
It's the stuck up c-nts who pretend everyone in IBD is an Ivy League 4.0-making golden child.
It's absolute horsesh-t.
It's a myth they are likely telling themselves as they speak to you, so that they can feel better about their own inadequecies.
I know lawyers who made the switch, people with bad GPAs, etc.
The guy who ran the whole continent here was a low-GPA guy from a truly non-target state school (Cal Poly Pomona) in an unrelated major.
Right place, right time, tons of sales hustle.
He was given a shot, absolutely crushed it as a rainmaker, and got promoted to head of a continent before 30.
And all those cushy Ivy-leaders had to eat crow and kiss his ass.
"Yes boss. Right away."

    • 2
Jun 5, 2011

dude, if you can read that fucking 400 page tome, major props to you. i sure as hell can't.

Jun 6, 2011

gook

Jun 6, 2011
Lak08er34:

gook

Fuck you.

Jun 6, 2011

nice work. Just curious though...why did they hire you if you have no exp? They don't want someone with a banking exp?

Also, if i read correctly, it's ~$400 a month? Is it enough to survive in bejing/shanghai?

Good job breaking it though nevertheless

Jun 5, 2011
Ricqles:

nice work. Just curious though...why did they hire you if you have no exp? They don't want someone with a banking exp?

Also, if i read correctly, it's ~$400 a month? Is it enough to survive in bejing/shanghai?

Good job breaking it though nevertheless

Banking experience is not REQUIRED. When you apply, they expect you to have at least 2 years of banking, accounting, lawyer"ing", or top management experience. This has to do with the fact that a lot of IBD valuation modeling doesn't apply in valuing SMEs in China.

So it is possible to break in without banking experience. As far as the no experience goes, this is purely a favor done to me by the MD. Since they have a new intake class, it doesn't cost them very much to have me sit in there and learn the same material, read the same books.

For $400/month (2800RMB), you cannot survive. This is why the MD asks you questions about your family background etc. I told him explicitly that in my current financial situation I wouldn't have a problem interning for free. Looking at it from the big picture, ~3000RMB / month is actually extremely high, that's how much top graduates in China get when they start at top Chinese firms (whether they are of foreign origin doesn't matter). After 3-6 months, you can expect a good raise if your work is proven satisfactory.

Jun 6, 2011

Good job on breaking through, even though at RMB 2800 the pay is very Cao Dan .

Jun 6, 2011

Congrats on the job!

Although 3000RMB nowadays is not that high for grads from top tier Chinese universities. Full-timers at PwC, KPMG, E&Y, Deloitte are pulling in 10k-15k right out of college, not to mention those entering IBD at global salaries.

Anyway, it's a good experience. Make sure to continually network - don't hang your hat on a single tree.

Jun 5, 2011
ibhopeful532:

Congrats on the job!

Although 3000RMB nowadays is not that high for grads from top tier Chinese universities. Full-timers at PwC, KPMG, E&Y, Deloitte are pulling in 10k-15k right out of college, not to mention those entering IBD at global salaries.

Anyway, it's a good experience. Make sure to continually network - don't hang your hat on a single tree.

3000/rmb is for interns and what they call "starting period". 10-15k is usually after 3-6 months after graduation. Most importantly, you have to look at bonuses. Big 4 have bonuses ranging from 50-100% of your annual salary. PE's carry in China is around 5x-20x (500 - 2000%!) your annual salary

Jun 6, 2011

i'm also looking into PE in china someday, so i'm really curious about the pay structure - is RMB 2800 universal across all junior staff or just for interns?

anyway, great story and congrats on the job! Hope you'll make it a FT gig

Jun 5, 2011
bearish bull:

i'm also looking into PE in china someday, so i'm really curious about the pay structure - is RMB 2800 universal across all junior staff or just for interns?

anyway, great story and congrats on the job! Hope you'll make it a FT gig

This is typical of interns. I think junior staff, what we call "assistants" (which is a cross between analyst/assoc) get around 5000-7500/month. If you're with a good firm, the carry is 5-20x your salary

Jun 6, 2011
humble_chinese:
bearish bull:

i'm also looking into PE in china someday, so i'm really curious about the pay structure - is RMB 2800 universal across all junior staff or just for interns?

anyway, great story and congrats on the job! Hope you'll make it a FT gig

This is typical of interns. I think junior staff, what we call "assistants" (which is a cross between analyst/assoc) get around 5000-7500/month. If you're with a good firm, the carry is 5-20x your salary

thanks for the answer
am also wondering if you attended other networking events other than the Toastmasters? like the AVCJ conference in may?

Jun 6, 2011

Really inspiring read. Looking back, I wish I could have started networking and shooting for a 4.0 as a freshman in college, but that doesn't matter now. Hard work will pay off, congrats man!

Jun 6, 2011

dont want to burst your bubble but you are not going to good experience if you are not at one of the top funds. pe firms are dime a dozen in china with all the hot money.

Jun 6, 2011

^ This is very real. Please get a higher salary than 2800RMB. For unpaid interns we had, it was 1000RMB. But you should be getting 4000-5000. Then again, McKinsey BA's in Beijing get 8000RMB (divide by 6.5 guys).

Jun 6, 2011
wolfy:

For unpaid interns we had, it was 1000RMB.

You paid your unpaid interns 1000RMB?

Jun 5, 2011
wolfy:

^ This is very real. Please get a higher salary than 2800RMB. For unpaid interns we had, it was 1000RMB. But you should be getting 4000-5000. Then again, McKinsey BA's in Beijing get 8000RMB (divide by 6.5 guys).

This is not my salary, it's what I'm getting as an INTERN, where I'm not expected to do ANYTHING except learn the material. I'm not going to go into specifics or try to defend myself, that isn't the point of this post. The fund is ranked top-10 in China. We were one of the major players restructuring Chinese banks (but then so are the rest of the top10s)

Jun 6, 2011

hmmm.... sounds fishy (the firm, not you). Anyway, learn as much as you can and keep networking!

Aug 20, 2014

Thanks for the experience

Sep 1, 2014

Really good story man. I've gone through almost everything you have been through. I ended up landing my job on a big 4 four consulting firm. Still, I'm looking for breaking into IB in HK someday. Nice story, well inspirational. Cheers, lad.

Everyone has a plan until he got punched in the mouth.

Sep 5, 2018
Comment
    • 1