Put Down your Fears, Take the Chances Ho Jun Choi YCIS Shanghai '11
From Shanghai to Seoul and now in Hong Kong, Ho Jun has settled in various cities. Through Ho Jun’s story, you will be able to know more about the field of finance and the experience of settling in different cities. He showed us with his very own experience on what it’s like to take new risk and what it takes to achieve our goals!
Hi I’m Ho Jun and I graduated from YCIS Shanghai in 2011 after six years of study. After graduation, I returned to Korea for college and finished the military service. Currently, I work at an investment bank in Hong Kong since March this year. What I do is quite straight forward; I work in the investment banking division where I provide solutions to financial problems that various clients may face, usually in relations to risk management, M&A, or financing.
To be honest, I never thought that I’d become an investment banker. While in college, I majored in international relations, interned at UNESCO and was keen to take an exam to enter the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; all I did was to prepare myself to become a diplomat! But it was only after my military service, when I came to realise that I wanted to work in a more open and fast-paced environment, and banking was a very good fit.
I started to do my own research and joined a corporate finance club in my college, where I had the chance to meet more people in the world of finance. I also had an alumnus from college who was working in a private equity fund and was willing to provide mentorship. He gave me an overview of the industry and introduced me to people who could provide further guidance. Having said that, I have to acknowledge that I was very lucky to have such supportive and inspiring people around me. Although I didn’t really start off wanting to become an investment banker and was quite behind in both knowledge and experience, I was able to pick things up fairly quickly. I think once you have an idea of what you want to do, you should strategize early on to meet the right people and access the right resources.
It’s funny how people easily develop stereotypes about banking or finance in general. Even before I started to prepare for this career, I encountered many people who portray bankers as greedy and unfaithful group of people who would value money above all else, like the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. But in reality, investment banking is not so different from any other jobs, not to mention that the work culture varies significantly across teams, banks and regions. We often work very late hours to provide client services, to approach clients with financial or strategic proposals, and to execute live transactions. Personally, I’ve learnt a lot from the senior bankers in terms of their work ethics, communication skills, as well as analytical mindset. As a junior banker, I’m often pressed for time to meet certain goals, and have to work anytime when the clients or senior bankers make a request. Banking in general is similar to other professional services in the sense that there is a strong focus on client service, which could be stressful sometimes.
If you are planning to pursue this career, you have to be ready to sacrifice a lot of sleep and freedom. Start learning about this career by reaching out to people who know more about this industry. This is the easiest way to gain not only knowledge, but also access to the relevant resources you need. Ironically, you need good internship experience to find good internship positions, but don’t be afraid. Have your resume reviewed by people in the industry and keep improving it. Banking resume is quite standardised, so follow the conventions as you continue to beef it up, until you’re fully satisfied with it.
During your internships, make sure to familiarize yourself with the presentations and spreadsheets that were previously drafted by people at the company. It’s important to leverage on these precedents when you deliver any work. Also, be responsive; there could be constant requests from analysts and associates that may overwhelm you. Let them be aware of your capacity and when you expect to deliver. Effective communication is really important. This is something I’m still working on as well, but try to phrase your thoughts in a succinct and clear manner in both email and verbal communication. Last but not least, be ready to live with sleep deprivation!
Up to now, I have lived in Seattle, Shanghai, Seoul and Hong Kong. I decided to move to Hong Kong and pursue a career because I felt that Hong Kong, being the financial hub of Asia, would provide me with broader exposure to cross-border transactions and would allow me to work with a more diverse pool of colleagues. I can confidently say that most entry-level bankers in the Asia-Pacific region would prefer working in Hong Kong than in anywhere else.
It is always exciting to move into a new environment. Frankly speaking, Hong Kong isn’t completely new to me given its vicinity to both mainland China and Korea. But it is always great to explore new cities, make new friends and experience something different from what I’m used to.
Admittedly, it is not always easy to adapt to a completely new environment. To me, the most important thing is to build good personal relationships when stepping into a new environment. It is important to build a sense of belonging by making good friends and spending quality time with them and be part of a local community. Hong Kong itself is great in the sense that there is a large pool of expats to hang out with.
Living in a city is definitely different from travelling to a city;it is important that you create your own daily routine in your new environment, although you could also simply immerse yourself in work. What I like to do is to constantly meet new people. I love hanging out for a drink and enjoying nice food with interesting people. Due to the nature of my work, I tend to dislike spending too much energy on physical activities; being able to relax over the weekends is very important
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone! It just takes a bit of time to get used to things. Once you start to find reasons to be fond of the new environment, there is going to be that moment when you return to your new home from a short trip and feel a sense of relief. I think that’s when you know that you’ve really settled in.
Ho Jun took the risk, not only changing his career plan but also settling in a completely new environment. He showed us with his very own experience that nothing is impossible. If you decide on something, start planning and acting, and trust me your hard work will be paid off just like Ho Jun!