Interview with Investment Banking professional Nkanyiso Nyawose

02:34 Monrovia 0 Comments

A brief description of who you are

I am Nkanyiso Nyawose. I was born and bred in Port Shepstone, South Coast of KZN. I attended Port Shepstone Primary School and matriculated from Marburg Secondary School. I then completed my university studies at UKZN (Undergraduate in 2017 and Honours degree in 2018). My work experience began with a Private Equity Summer internship in 2017, followed by internships with First National Bank, Investec and Rand Merchant Bank. I have also been selected as a candidate for the Turkish Summer School, staying in Turkey for a month in 2018.

Major challenges you faced during your university days and how you overcame them

University presented a lot of challenges. For one, I was self-funded, which took a lot of strain on my parents financially. But then we made it work for a while. My parents made means possible to be able to gather the funds to pay my tuition and support me with a monthly allowance. With all grace, I eventually received funding from Rand Merchant Bank, with much thanks to Tracey Ashington, the lead Graduate Recruiter at the time. This funding helped me complete my undergraduate studies and my Honours years.

University itself is not hard but the lifestyle change is. It is a major shock to be suddenly exposed to all that freedom, free will and autonomy. Thus, a lot of students fall through the crack when they go to university. I had a tough adjustment as well and I honestly had to rely on the values instilled in me to make it through safely and successfully. I witnessed many others who were not as fortunate.

Advice you’d give to top matriculants who want to perform well in university

Your academic achievements have taken you far and you will likely make good decisions in the career you want to pursue – but that is not enough in university. So far, you have learned the technical skills you will need to do well in life. Most of your success, however, will not come from that. You need to learn soft skills. Every successful person has maximized their soft skills to get to where they are. And these are the most important things to teach yourself

1.       Always leave your ears open – your true learning is from people around you. Listen. Have an open-mind. Value and respect different opinions and perspectives. You can learn anything from anyone

2.       Respect everyone – it does not matter how rich you are, what school you went to, how someone is dressed, how their hair looks, what brands they wear – respect everyone! Greet the cleaners, make way for someone in your path, offer whatever help you believe you can offer and expect nothing in return

3.       Be teachable – things are changing rapidly and continuously so you must be able to unlearn and relearn.

 Also, have a mentor. You will always need guidance in life. There are decisions you will have to make beyond your capacity. You will need excellent guidance in these moments.

Why investment banking ?

I grew up with a knack for numbers. I love solving problems. Especially of an abstract nature. So, I grew up knowing I will likely go the quantitative route. This was reinforced by my dislike for essays in school. I liked equations and formulae. As I grew older, I had better learnings and exposure and it was my love for Accounting that drew me toward Commerce. Then one day, while cleaning, I came across an interview on Bloomberg TV. The strip at the bottom had his name, position, and company, and the lower strip had some facts about him. The man being interviewed was Kenneth Griffin, CEO of Citadel LLC, a hedge fund. Then a strip came in that said he had earned about $1 billion in the previous year. At that moment, nothing else mattered. I only wanted to own a hedge fund too.

And so began my quest to research what hedge funds are and what they do. I was hooked. I wanted to be a hedge fund manager. As time went by, however, my research sparked a revelation. Investments were a much broader space than I thought. There are banks involved. But these are not your regular banks. They are different. They do not offer savings accounts and black cards. Enter, investment banks – the bankers of companies. And since then, I have gone from a young boy frantic to become an investment bank to being a Senior Corporate Finance Consultant at the age of 26.

(Corporate Finance is a large part of what investment banks do and is a service that is offered by specialized Corporate Finance firms and consulting firms as well.)

After graduation what happens? How did you manage to find a job that suits your interests?

Life after matric is tough. Life after university is difficult! I spent 6 months unemployed after graduation before I landed my first gig at Standard Bank. And that is the reality for many graduates. You do well but the opportunities are scarce. Unemployment is not for a lack of trying. It is a just a sad reality. There is a lot you can do though. Positioning yourself properly is as important in job hunting as it is in football.

If you are going the corporate route, the biggest trick is to start applying early. Apply the year before. Most companies conclude graduate intakes for the next year in the current year. The 2023 intake is completed in late 2022. This will also familiarize you with the different recruitment processes (technical assessments, psychometric tests) and interview styles. This familiarity then helps you alter and tweak your CV and cover letter better.

Understanding the skills required in the career path you’re choosing. Look and read up on industry skill trends from the time you are doing your first year. This will help you do additional learning for skills you are not necessarily taught at school (I wish I taught myself data analytics earlier). If possible, take up a few short programs that earn some certificates that can go onto your CV. Teach yourself how to extract lessons from rejection. You will likely get a lot of companies not accepting your application. It is okay. If possible, ask for feedback even if it is about the layout of your CV or the content. This will help you grow and have a better presentation of yourself.

Maintain a professional identity. In the current age, your online activity affects your job prospects. So be careful what you say online. Most recruiters do a social media screening of their best hiring prospects. Keep it peachy. Maintain a LinkedIn profile as well. It is great for networking and seeing constructive debate. I use it every day. If you fall into an extended job-hunting phase, you will feel a lot of frustration and stress. Here, you need two things: a good circle of friends and something that you can do to pass time and earn an income at the same time. I tutored students while unemployed. It saved my mental health.

Additional advice for the future Investment Bankers

The first mistake you will make is doing it for the money. After all, it is one of the most lucrative career paths. First-year analysts get paid more than most industries. However, you will quickly realize that you must love it or quit it. The money alone isn't enough. The work is hard, the hours are terribly long, and the stakes are incredibly high. Your friends will be out on a Friday at 7 PM and you're only going to be able to join them 4 hours later. God forbid you encounter a bad manager. You will hate your job. But then there is just something about what we do that really puts a smile on your face. Every company we help makes a measurable impact on the economy. You are changing the lives of people all the time. That debt you restructured will save 236 jobs. That $100 million you raised will create 652 new jobs. That real estate development you will be doing a financial model for will house 2 000 students who desperately need it. You have to have passion. You have to have the skills too. But the love will carry you through. Love your job. Show love to everyone around you and you will have a great career. Personally, I am about to exit investment banking for the godfather of finance and my starting point – private equity – and settle off there with the same love and passion I have invested in investment banking.


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