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How to leverage on your CFA exams to break into the industry in Hong Kong?

And to give you a perspective of this.  In a captial markets of a bank, combine all the FO, MO and BO roles together.   Out of 100 positions, 80 positions will be accouting background related.  10-15 positions will be CFA/CA (investment related) and 5 positiosn wil be quant related.

You don’t need a lot of quant guys, you just need 1 or 2 to build out the quant models and that’s it.  So your major in university has definitely been a disadvantage to you.

It’s not too late however, if you are in HK do your CPA.  In Canada, that’s a bit harder, as CGA and CMA just doesn’t carry as much weight.  CPA is still relatively attainable out of school.

Are you gonna try to apply to Bloomberg? They seem to have many positions across the globe….I imagine HK is very competitve because there are so many potential candidates…local HKers,mainland chinese,USA/UK/CAD/AUS returners….

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You must be the square root of two cause i feel irrational around you

http://alphahive.wordpress.com/

Maybe you can try to cold call/network with alumuni. There is someone UT BBA working at GS right now from your grad year (maybe he graded a year earlier, dun really remember). GS is one of the few BB in HK who values “unique” experiences. Most of the other banks dislike it. They want you to have the “standard” experiences (president of XXX club, chair of YYY student union, summer internship from aboard). Being too foreign is a disadvantage (I asked someone about taking a gap year to travel and he was like thats insane talk in HK).

I am sure there are loads of alumuni from UT in HK right now. UBC, UT and other CDN university are decently represented in Hong Kong. Heck lots of Big 4 and BB HR are from Canada (linkedin stalk to see what I mean). Sorry can’t give out any names or contacts since I don’t want to get in trouble. 

hi whystudy, thanks a lot for your comprehensive response!

I happen to know that there are two main streams in big 4’s - tax and audit.  Which stream would you recommend if you had an eventual goal of breaking into finance?  

Also, how is the finance job market in Canada, particularly Toronto, at the moment?  I might consider going back if I can actually find more opportunities there. I came back to Hong Kong under the illusion that there were plenty of work opportunities here.  

Hi Alladin.  I tried applying to Bloomberg a couple of times, never heard back from them. 

How is the finance job market in the UK?  I do hold a British passport (I got it way back when Hong Kong was still a British colony) , so I am eligible to work in the UK.  If it’s easier to break into the industry in the UK, I surely wouldn’t mind moving there.  Thanks!

Thanks! That’s good advice.

A friend of mine just suggested me doing that as well. 

I have always found it hard to believe that some stranger would put in the effort to help you out just b/c you went to the same university as he/she did.  But since I am pretty much out of options now, it’s worth a try!

Suggesting that warp9 should take an audit or tax route does not sound ok. We shouldn’t undertake a career  other than the fact that we have a passion and natural flair for it or that we are ready to commit the necessary energy and time to make it work which of course requires passion to carry on. Switching to audit and accounting simply because it is difficult to secure a job in finance might not be the right thing to do at the moment - I certainly understand that things may be very rough. Judging from the fact that you have a math/stat background, audit and accounting might be a bit boring for you. I have a good no of friends in audit and accounting who complain everyday about the routine and monotonous nature of accounting as a profession in general including those in academics. I am yet to see an audit professional who talks great about his job (I might be wrong). Doubtless, finance is a more fascinating, dynamic and challenging field, which makes it more interesting and an average person with a math or science background will naturally make a seamless career change. Finance is not all about FO jobs and Hong Kong jobs. A statistics background will make a great career in risk management which has gained prominence after the 2008 financial crisis. Besides that, rating agencies like somebody rightly pointed out hire people with your background. I suggest you start looking for jobs in risk management ( and enroll in FRM/PRM) and these rating firms, maybe outside HK. Must you work in HK?

Don’t want to sound rude but no chance for you to get a job in uk. BNO gives you the right to land, but not the right to board. So you need a working visa. Too many ppl who r miss inform about this point. 

I know ppl with top uk masters (oxbridge, lse, lbs)who can’t land a job right now due to the visa restrictions. They’re all coming back look for offer.

For me Bloomberg called one day after sending my application. So I think if you had wait for more than one day it means they rejected you. Lots of Canadian grads.

Like 3 from UT and 2 from UWO and one from lse.

My passport is a ‘British’ British passport, not BNO.  I think there were about 200k REAL British passports given out to Hong Kongers just before 1997.

Just wondering, are you currently in Hong Kong as well?

Yup. Hmph I m pretty sure if your parents were not British you would only get BNO (there is no EU) stamp infront of your passport. I have my British passport before 97 as well, but it’s still a BNO.

Its  hmmm not Hmph. Autocorrect on my phone

I truly appreciate your thoughtful advice.  I do know working in big 4 as an auditor is going to be boring, and there’s no guarantee that there’s a grand exit into finance at the end of the road.  But as I see myself now, I have very few options left.  I am also considering to apply for jobs in S&Ps and Moody’s. 

I have tried applying for risk roles before, but there isn’t a whole lot of them in Hong Kong.  I tried applying for those listed on Singaporean job sites, but never heard back from them. 

Of course I wouldn’t mind working outside of Hong Kong, but wouldn’t it be even harder to find a job outside of the place of your local residency?

Auditing at Big 4 has often been regarded as a stepping stone to finance. I have a friend who underwent the auditing programme at Deloitte, got his accounting qualification and transitioned to IBD as an associate. I don’t agree with the people who claim that statistics is a useless degree in finance ! If ppl with a liberal arts background can enter the finance industry, there is no good reason why a statistician can’t. I would imagine risk management would suit you well…quant is a bit of a stretch because you would be competing against ppl with PhDs in math,finance,economics,physics,statistics and the intake is quite low.

I would have thought you might have a better chance in Canada…since you speak multiple languages,have a degree from a Canadian school and perhaps can make use of the career services there. Nobody in HK will be impressed that a chinese guy speaks chinese lol.

May I ask how old you are? I am 26, have an msc in finance from Warwick in the UK and am in a similar position of unemployment..failed L3….i am thinking of applying to call centre roles at bloomberg maybe.

…also one more thing, since you studied statistics, you probably know some programming languages right? why not start a blog/website and showcase some projects? 

Also..you could appply for a masters degree somewhere..with a quantitative background you could apply to many econ/fin programmes.

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You must be the square root of two cause i feel irrational around you

http://alphahive.wordpress.com/

I am 25.  I am feeling a bit too old to go down the audit route, but It’s better late than never.  wink

I do know some programming languages, but they are very specifically geared towards statistically/mathematically modelling.  I have absolutely no knowledge of web programming of software engineering. 

Auditing isn’t the way to go either - accounting firms (ESPECIALLY Big 4 in HK) like to take fresh grads who studied accounting in for their incoming “analyst” class.  You neither studied accounting so you don’t have auditing concepts nor are you a fresh undergrad.  It’s like asking an engieering firm to hire an accountanting student as an engineer - the student simply does not have the skills to do the job.  I’m sure that you’re a smart guy, but you just don’t have the accounting/auditing background that the Big 4 auditing firms need.  (no economics/accounting/auditing/or even finance background!)

I really think that you ought to rethink working in finance and just concentrate with the industry that you are in now.  Emailing resumes around and applying for jobs via websites are among the least effective methods for getting a job.  If you are truly passionate about getting into finance, start pounding the pavement and meet people face to face to tell them what you can do for them.  You need to craft a unique pitch that will pique people’s interest.  People don’t want to hear that you are smart, hard-working…etc etc because everyone says the same thing.  Tell me that you can make me $x or save me y time.  Sadly, HK is too much of a dog-eat-dog world that no one is going to give you a chance to prove yourself.  You need to have proven yourself before anyone will give you a chance.

People with non finance backgrounds get into auditing so i don’t think this is a problem. The fresh graduate part is an issue though. Nobody wants stale meat…which is why i think a masters degree is not a bad idea…

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You must be the square root of two cause i feel irrational around you

http://alphahive.wordpress.com/

non finance but business backgrounds are ok for auditing.  He’s a stats major! 

I have another master’s degree in economics.  In retrospect, I don’t think I have learned anything useful at all from that program, so I didn’t feel like mentioning it. 

But you are right, it might not be so easy for me to get into a big 4 firm either, but I am sure it’s a heck lot easier than breaking into finance.  Let me see if I can find a way. 

Try to go for a small local firm first and move into Big 4. At worse your stuck at Big 4, but it’s not the worse job in the world. The only reason you might be unqualify for most of these jobs is cause your not a fresh grad. 

Also doesn’t really matter your degree for auditing… I know someone with MSc Engineering from Ox getting into KPMG HK as well as someone with Bachelor of Psych/History from no name school (SFU) getting in as well. It’s not the most difficult thing to find someone in Big 4 (compare to BB IB). Many of them are already off into another job, so they don’t have the motivation to screw you over.

Obviously someone with an accounting or finance degree would be better suited, but OP said he had great grads, so it’s not like he’s the worse candidate in the world. Have you try taking the actuarial paper? Really bad pay in the beginning (8000 hkd trainee wage), but that fits your profile a bit better. Also it increase pretty drastically after a couple of years (650,000-750,000 hkd semi-senior manager).  Lot of the stuff they do is risk analysis and then DCF the risk, so you might be interested.  

Also do you know C++ or VBA. Those are the type of programming language that are the most useful. VBA is god for all the repetition you need to do when you’re a junior. It really makes a great impression with the full-time (I was talking with a junior actuarial and a semi-sen manager).

P.S. Do not go for Big 4 risk management. Most boring job in the world (for me anyways). I was doing it for an internship. All your doing is internal control, which is looking at the flow of a company’s accounting process. Did they input revenues correctly. Is someone checking the entry. Is the person that enters the entry the same person as the reviewer. Is the person printing the bank statements out to the bank the same person as the one who goes to the bank to collect money. Do they keep too much money in the office. None of the interns knew anything about the job at all :(, we just all jumped at it cause it was called risk management and it’s part of the “consulting” unit, which is suppose to be the hardest to get into.

warp9 wrote:

I happen to know that there are two main streams in big 4’s - tax and audit.  Which stream would you recommend if you had an eventual goal of breaking into finance?  

NEITHER.  both tax and audit will make you want to self-castrate

Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and greatest weakness.

1BigStudMuffin wrote:

you made it WarpH, you made it.

made it ?

Warp, I feel that you are in the right direction, but just need patience, and you do have time.  Have you looked into the quant side, or risk analyst / management (perhaps get a PRM or FRM)?  Statistics is a good background to have.  Why not work for a few years (doing well at whatever you do), pick up software expertise (a great combination with your statistics background), then get an MBA or MS Financial Engineering / Finance.  I see plenty of people in front office roles who started off in a different field (chemist, software, telecom) for some years, then got an MBA / FE / Fin, and switched to trading / investment / quant / risk management, etc.  Many of them did the switch in their early thirties.

I feel that the above route is better than trying to force your way in through the backoffice.

Warp9, just to tell you a replied to your pm a while back. If you want coffee just email me a time and place. I have to leave for the UK soon.

Ruh roh, more bad news for us in HK… DB just cut a huge chunk of their equities department (I’d guess close to half, maybe more).

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-05/deutsche-bank-said-to-cut-equities-division-jobs-in-hong-kong.html

“Honestly, I don’t think a patchwork of disparate topics presented superficially via the CFAI phonebooks would do much to enhance your finance knowledge, neither would it be of tremendous help in your quest of finding your dream job in finance.”

==> and you seriously think that writing such statements online will bring you closer to the front office - particularly considering that your future employers are maybe reading this?

why would a future charterholder spread subjective, negatively biased statements about CFA online?

I did like the term “phonebook” though… it made me laugh.

You want a quote?  Haven’t I written enough already???

why was this dug up from the dead?

Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and greatest weakness.

because Alexander James is pissed on warp9’s blasphemous remarks reg. Lord CFAI, the deity of financial wisdom and wall street jobs.

"Ivy Undergrad, GS, Top 3 MBA, KKR, 400+ HP Whip, BSD, HCB, 4000+ AF points.... Or, rusty hacksaw to sack." ~ CFAvsMBA

stumbled by chance over this and albeit not being the person to comment on such crap usually ( I have a life to live beside the L3 studies), I couldnt hold myself back this time.

I mean seriously - this forum is not a replacement for a shrink couch for people which cannot find a job and spend the best part of their day to offload their garbage into a forum which will be available to the public until the end of the next Maya cycle.

I appreciate the CFAI phonebooks as they probably spared the rainforest and the pages I open stay open until I turn them.

Why harm the value of the CFA when having put so much effort and time?

Alexander James wrote:

stumbled by chance over this and albeit not being the person to comment on such crap usually ( I have a life to live beside the L3 studies), I couldnt hold myself back this time.

I mean seriously - this forum is not a replacement for a shrink couch for people which cannot find a job and spend the best part of their day to offload their garbage into a forum which will be available to the public until the end of the next Maya cycle.

I appreciate the CFAI phonebooks as they probably spared the rainforest and the pages I open stay open until I turn them.

Why harm the value of the CFA when having put so much effort and time?

because the CFA didn’t “come as advertise” (ie: get the cfa -> pass GO -> collect a job)

Resurecting this one briefly, lots of good info on this thread. I’d like to weigh in:

I hold an HK Permanent ID, which I got when I was a young brat in Island School. Anyway I didn’t regard learning chinese as important, and so now years later I am a monolingual guy in Canada contemplating how to navigate the next few years of my career. 

It is ironic that now as a L3 candidate, and CMA there seems no more critical skill than chinese fluency, no better job market than HK. My past self was a dumbass. 

Based on my research No chinese no HK. that simple. The one exception may be insolvency, which deals with english language commercial law. But we didn’t write CFA to prey on failed businesses, did we?

Regardless, I’m considering it. HK is the market to be in….can anyone with boots on the ground comment on the current job climate?