As a student, I interned with Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong and received a return offer, but I had my heart set on getting a buy-side job here in Singapore when I graduated from a local university. Private equity interested me more than investment banking, and the GS job also wasn’t in a particularly exciting team.
Despite the growth of the buy-side sector in Singapore, however, competition for junior jobs is strong, and opportunities at this level are limited, especially if you’re fresh out of school. Aside from good grades, you need some luck to get a private equity job in Singapore as a graduate.
Luck was on my side. I was fortunate enough to hear through my network about a private equity firm that was launching a new management associate programme and was hiring graduates. I secured one of just three places available. There were many other interviewees, so I think my responses to questions about financial markets and investments may have helped secure me the role. My Goldman internship also impressed them.
This year, my firm hasn’t taken on any grads because we have enough juniors in the investment team. Private equity isn’t like investment banking, where there’s a flow of people moving in and out, and junior jobs are opened up every year regardless of market conditions. Had I not got this role, I may well have had to work for a bank.
So what’s it like being a young person in a private equity fund in Singapore? The good news is that entry-level base pay is about the same as you’d receive as an analyst in a front-office M&A job at a global investment bank here. While I don’t qualify for carried interest, I do receive an annual cash bonus.
My hours are very deal-driven. When I was working on a competitive sales process in the middle of last year, I was clocking 80-hour weeks, including regular weekend work. Again, I don’t think that differs too much from investment banking, and I’ve found it ok, especially working from home.
What is different is that I have broader work responsibilities in PE. In investment banking , I’d have a consistent routine focused on very specific tasks, mainly Excel models and pitch books. In private equity, I’m empowered to get involved in everything across the whole scope of the fund – from financial modeling to execution structuring to quarterly reporting – under the supervision of just one or two managers. Juniors here are expected to roll up our sleeves.
If you’re just interested in the technical and marketing sides of finance (e.g. pitch books), then PE isn’t for you because in PE you also need to show commercial acumen as a junior when working on investments. You need to enjoy a risk-and-reward culture, which isn’t something you experience at university.
With this comes the pressure of expectations. PE firms don’t hire many grads, so the senior investment professionals I work with aren’t used to dealing with young people like me. When I started here just over a year ago, I had to hit the ground running; colleagues didn’t lower their expectations. “Can you do a valuation summary over the weekend?” The only answer is “yes”.
I wouldn’t say private equity is a step up from investment banking, but the learning curve is steeper because in IBD you can draw more knowledge from you university and internship experiences. And in PE there are no associates or second-year analysts to hold your hand.
Cassius Tang (not his real name) works for a private equity fund in Singapore.
Photo by D J on Unsplash