Q&A: Equity Research in HK/Singapore

Hey guys, I've been lurking on WSO since my undergrad, and thought it was a good time to give back. A bit about me... Grew up in a Western country, did high school in SEA, university from a top school in Australia. Did everything a bit accelerated and graduated at 19. First job out of college was a family office which started a long/short fund, looking at global TMT. After a bit over a year, moved to the sell side to do ER, covering a number of sectors. I was a research associate for a year, then got offered coverage before I left (due to several reasons). Quit to move into VC (firm I moved to was badly run) so I'm now moving back into a long/short fund.

Bit of an unconventional life/career path etc, but thought it would be good to spread a bit of love with my experiences. Shoot!

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Comments (31)

Nov 16, 2015 - 12:46am

Honestly in this case all I can say is like in any internship, work your ass off, network, go to company events, make people like you. Take the time (even when you don't have any) to really learn your companies vs. just doing work, otherwise you'll actually come out of the experience just as clueless as you did going in. ALWAYS turn up to the morning meeting - at my shop, if you weren't in the morning meeting, you might as well have not showed up that day.

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Nov 14, 2015 - 1:36pm

I guess its HK as the ER people which I had met in SG cover sectors like real estate instead. I was wondering if you could share more on why you have decided to quit to join a VC as my impression is that VCs are doing quite well for the past few years. In addition, I was wondering whether family offices have higher AUM compared to the L/S funds in Asia. Thanks.

Nov 16, 2015 - 12:52am

I was in SG for ER. I'd share my sector coverage but would be better over PM since I had an odd (and rare) combination of coverage.

I am leaving VC because the firm I worked for was more of an incubator than an actual VC, and I'd rather be actually investing. It's a bit of a strange company.

In regards to the family offices - they are much more private/secretive around here so it's a hard question to answer. PM me if you want any info on the family office I worked at.

Nov 14, 2015 - 11:37pm

English is Singapore's first language. You'll do just fine.

To err is human. To forgive is divine.
Nov 16, 2015 - 12:57am

I think ER is in a tough spot right now with new regulation and weak volumes overall. Bonuses at my shop were the worst in over 15 years last year (part of the reason I left), with many people getting 0. Structurally I don't see how this will change with perhaps a wee bit more upside from such things as the HK/Shanghai connect, but personally, I wouldn't move back into sell-side ER.

I'm not too familiar with the VC scene since I've only been around for a few months, but I think VCs are primed to do well in SG with so much gov't support. In a way this may not be the best thing, but Singapore seems to have a way of just making everything they support work, so I'd look at the market favorably. HK is interesting since there are not that many funds here but increasing support for making it a global fintech hub - it does make a lot of sense for fintech in HK.. HK VC will be an interesting space to watch. I think the biggest issue at the moment is sourcing talent for the actual startups - this is a very tough process and very expensive.

LS funds - outlook in what sense?

Nov 16, 2015 - 1:00am

Network network network. Getting my latest gig was not easy and I was extremely lucky they chose me with no language skills, but networking is key. The great thing about moving from sell-side ER is you already have a lot of contacts, so just put out those feelers. I had a sales guy who kept referring me to jobs (when I unfortunately wasn't looking), but leverage your internal network too - just make sure the people you're speaking to like you :).

In my opinion, moving from HK->SG is very easy. SG->HK is harder unless you're very good.

Nov 16, 2015 - 1:28am

Howdy,

Thank you for doing an AMA. My question has to do with your age. You mentioned you graduated when you were 19. Do you think you allowed yourself enough time to explore other fields before choosing finance, specifically ER? Any regrets over graduating so soon, or do you view it as "I'm ahead of the game, and will get to enjoy opportunities sooner than others."

All the best,
goodbull

Nov 16, 2015 - 2:24am

Hey goodbull,

I did 2 internships with BBs with a rotation in one of them, so I had a fair idea of what I didn't want to do (IB). I don't think my age has been a hindrance in any way - I my age on its own has given me a bit of room to move around and try new things (within reason - don't want to fill the resume with 20 different things making me look entirely indecisive).

To be honest, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do immediately after uni so I took a short contract role in structured finance while putting out feelers elsewhere. My first gig was a bit of a fluke when I met the principal of the firm on a Bali trip, but definitely don't regret it. I was happy doing ER - it was an educational experience the whole way through.

I believe at/after university, age is somewhat irrelevant - all that matters is where you are in your life.

Nov 17, 2015 - 4:52am

To my L/S? I'm not entirely sure since I'm still serving my notice before moving. To my old ER shop, anyone is kind of appealing. I say this because we were known on the street from hiring from all kinds of backgrounds (some very odd ones too). But being a successful trader, you'd obviously have good market knowledge and know how they work which in itself would definitely be appealing.

Nov 17, 2015 - 4:59am

I'll comment on SG since I've spent most of my time there - I've only been in HK a few months.

For the BB's it will be very tough. I remember during one rotation at one of my internships the MD was throwing out resumes with NYU on it because they "weren't good enough" - this was for corporate banking.

The BB's definitely like hiring locally at the junior level especially with a couple of strong schools (NUS/SMU) - I don't necessarily agree there are that many talents coming out of the schools (had a couple of interns that were horrendous), but that's kind of the mentality.

I think if you look at tier 2 shops (ie. Jeffries/Daiwa) or even local banks, you'll probably have a shot. Another way to break in would be go for the local/Malaysian banks (UOB/DBS/Maybank/CIMB/RHB) and move laterally later - we hired a number of people from local banks who turned out to be ok (of course, there were few bad ones too). Just note comp will be horsesht at these places but bonuses are decent in terms of number of months. A few of the M'sian banks pay ok.

At a local shop you'd probably make US$30k base, with another US$15k bonus potentially. BB pay for ER has been coming down over the past couple of years too - keep this is mind. Also tax is peanuts here so factor that into your calculations too.

Nov 17, 2015 - 9:36pm

Hi, thanks for doing the AMA. I have a couple of questions. I have been working in a small VC here in SG for the about 8 months or so as an Investment Analyst. The firm invests in local ad/marketing tech companies but our main business model is as an Asian accelerator for western mid-stage start-ups with an equity aligned model. It has been a real good experience but I am not sure how I would be able to leverage this experience for the next step of my career yet. I would like to jump to a larger fund maybe in a year or two. Could you please tell me how should I position myself or any routes etc?

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