My first full-time job out of university was at a very small financial services firm in London where I made dozens of phone calls a day selling research notes on publicly listed companies. I was trained to speak with people on the phone; cold-calling trains someone to be persistent and courageous. Even though my academic background is computing engineering, I was more interested in a sales career, probably as a result of having read a lot about it being an exciting and diverse field.
It was a challenging job market when I graduated and I was not able to get a job with Goldman or any other leading firm at graduation, but it’s what I always wanted. So, I kept following the firm and reading books about Goldman and its culture of success and learned as much as I could. Some of my friends were working on Wall Street when I learned about an opportunity at Goldman in Private Wealth Management—one encouraged me to give it another shot. During the interview process, I was able to show a genuine and deep passion for the firm, its history and current business.
My job in Private Wealth Management (PWM) is to prospect for my team and to identify and build up new relationships with entrepreneurs and companies that have been rapidly growing so that we can offer them PWM services. It’s a very competitive landscape, with many good local competitors. Goldman Sachs has brand recognition with clients, but we still need to work hard to differentiate ourselves by meeting with clients and showing what we can offer. When clients see that we have their interests in mind, it resonates and helps build relationships for the long term. Our number one priority is to do what is best for the client. It’s our first business principle.
Last year I secured a 5-minute meeting with the chairman of a company that I prospected as a target client. At the end of this very brief meeting in his factory, I asked for a follow-up 15-minute meeting with the chairman’s trusted associate, thinking it would be the best way to continue the dialogue. For that meeting, I was able to bring along four people from my team, and we managed to impress his associate such that we eventually secured the chairman as a client. It was a real win and I’m proud of it, especially since the co-founder’s daughter worked for our competition.
Mentoring is a major part of the Goldman culture. It's a culture of sharing. When I first joined, I was able to speak with many senior people to get their feedback and perspectives. It was invaluable for bringing to life aspects of the culture which I had only read about until then. Now, I rely on my mentors for regular feedback and guidance. I do my best to share what I know with people who have joined the firm after me.
For anyone considering a career in PWM, I would say it requires a number of skills that may not directly be connected with any specific academic background. For example, my training in engineering helped me learn how to frame a problem so it can be solved. As an engineer, you are trained to break down a major problem into smaller and smaller ones—creating a tree diagram that leads to a one and a zero—a binary choice. I try applying this approach to finding clients and building relationships, literally one step at a time.
The job of finding new clients isn’t necessarily about having ten friends who are billionaires or being connected through family. While those types of connections can certainly help, they do not guarantee you’ll have successful long-term client relationships. Building a client roster comes down to many disciplines including prospecting and building relationships that are mutually beneficial. Someone who is persistent and remains focused on the final goal can be successful in building relationships which will last for a very long time.
As a young boy, I wanted to become a martial arts instructor. In college I worked as a part-time instructor in Sanda, which is Chinese martial art similar to kickboxing, to help pay college fees. I practice Sanda to this day in my spare time, and actually talk to clients about it when we’re talking about passions and interests.