June 8th, 2020Ethan Ding

Fireside with Morgan Stanley Investment Banker David Liu

A Quick Bio

David's LinkedIn

During this week's fireside chat, our co-founder Nick interviewed David Liu, a graduate of UChicago from the class of 2018. David currently works as a technology investment banker for Morgan Stanley, out of their Menlo Park office (aka the heart of Silicon Valley, to the uninitiated). While at UChicago, David was a teaching assistant for two MBA classes, conducted research in corporate taxation, and interned at Greenhill & Co. as an investment banking summer analyst.

Investment Banking Recruitment

Pretty early on, David knew that he was going to major in economics, as UChicago is a school without specialist finance or business majors, and Econ came pretty easily to him. His decision to pursue investment banking was far from pre-meditated; his first exposure to the industry came from his teammates on the tennis team, who talked about their exciting internships at investment banks last summer. Advice for recruiting for investment banking can be found plastered across the internet, and to David, one thing that’s often left out is the importance of making sure you actually enjoy the lifestyle. Before he began recruiting, he spent a lot of time making sure the life described on investment banking forums like Wall Street Oasis was something he truly believed he’d enjoy and excel at.

Once you’ve made sure that you want to become an i-banker, then it comes time to go all-in on that commitment. David recommends training for interviews and studying finance with friends, emphasizing that the skills needed to go into investment banking can 100% be acquired through self-study, available to anyone pursuing any major. Once your interview skills are down, immersing yourself in the world of finance, reading about recent deals, and keeping up with the news is only the cherry on top. When it comes to applying to companies, he cautions against drawing out the process of writing applications, advising in favor of applying to every investment bank in the industry sector that you're interested in to give yourself the best chance of success.

Recommended Resources

  • Breaking into Wall Street Guides
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Podcasts (Robinhood Snacks)
  • Newsletters (Stratechery)
  • S-1 or 10-K filings

Effects of Coronavirus

From David's perspective, investment banking recruitment hasn't been impacted substantially by the Coronavirus except for a relative reduction in recruitment. Although he does recognize that the current situation has shone a light on the waste of time and money flying people across the country for 30-minute conversations in their offices represent, especially when a zoom conference would work just as well. According to David, the tech-focused branch of investment banking he’s most familiar with has seen a less significant impact than other branches of investment banking. Additionally, he’s noticed that many of his clients, like Scott Guthrie of Microsoft, have been re-evaluating the need to have offices and the true cost of work from home. Industries like agriculture are reflecting on how they can shore up the resilience of their supply chains in the event of another similar crisis.

Misconceptions of Investment Banking

Of course, as much as people talk about it, it’s not actually that often that people dive into what investment bankers really do. David laughs off the deck making or financial analysis as nothing more than “typing numbers into a keyboard”, and that the really enjoyable part of the job lies in regularly interacting with C-suite professionals from client companies much more senior to himself. He recalls how last February, he had to model financials to the executives at a $100B tech company, live. It’s not every job where you get to sit in on and listen to the world’s leading CEOs talk about how they think about their drivers and motivations. Of course, as Nick points out, “typing numbers into a keyboard“ is a substantial oversimplification of the complex qualitative skills an investment banker needs to develop, and learning the tricks to carry out the valuation of a company are vital skills any prospective investment banker should do well to pick up.

Rapid Fire Questions

  • While looking at a recent deal, what should we looks for?
    • Read the press release, and pick up on the aspects that went into the decision making and rational
  • Sophomore Year internship?
    • Bank of America Wealth Management, which is where he really found decided that he wanted to pursue investment banking
  • Advice on converting internships to full time?
    • Show up and provide a morale boost, hard work and a great attitude
  • Favorite Quarantine Activity?
    • Raising chickens with the family! Less context is funnier.

Who's Next

Tune in this Thursday for more Fireside Chats with Edith Labs. We'll be speaking Caitlyn Lubas, a mentor on the platform who currently works in Product at Facebook! Comment here to get an invitation!

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Ethan Ding

Edith Fellow. UC Berkeley IEOR. Incoming PM at Tackle.

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