Mixing business and sport
Ronald Tam is executive director for investment banking, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and corporate finance at UBS Asia. He specialises in executing initial public offerings (IPO) and equity transactions, and M&A transactions.
How did you break into the investment banking field?
I have been in the field since 2000, although I graduated in 1997. A year before I graduated, I did a three-month internship at an investment bank called ING Barings, and it was there that I realised this was what I wanted to do.
However, because of the Asian financial crisis in late 1997, I couldn't get into investment banking right out of college. I spent three years with Ernst & Young as a trainee accountant and then joined HSBC's executive trainee programme. In 2000, I rejoined ING Barings when the industry recovered. I was an analyst at the bank's Asian M&A team in Hong Kong for four years before ING sold its equity business to Macquarie Bank. I then joined Bank of China International as an assistant vice-president. I was senior vice-president there prior to joining UBS as director in 2007. I became executive director this year.
You didn’t go into the industry directly from school - is that common for an investment banker?
That is half-true, from what I have observed. Half of my colleagues joined the industry straight out of college, but the other half came from diverse backgrounds which mostly comprise accountants or lawyers.
What does your work entail?
For IPOs, we work closely with auditors and lawyers and often need to resolve specific accounting or legal issues. Meanwhile, we market the deal by preparing marketing materials and co-ordinating roadshows, and getting analysts to prepare research reports.
For M&A, we prepare information memorandum and marketing materials, build valuation models to try to determine the market value of a business or an asset, and help buyers and sellers bridge their valuation gap. We also participate in the negotiation of commercial and legal terms in transaction documents.
What are the challenges?
The biggest challenge is to survive the volatility of the industry. To overcome it, I have committed a lot of time on continuous learning and networking with industry contacts and my association with professional bodies like CPA Australia have offered me endless opportunities in this regard.
What has helped you to succeed?
My accounting qualification helps. Being a member of CPA Australia has allowed me to meet and network with professionals in my industry. Some have become my long-term friends, while others have become my industry sources and clients. Believe it or not, my table tennis skills have been a great asset. I've played it since I was a boy. Table tennis is the sport of choice on the mainland. There is a big stadium with badminton and table tennis courts in every state-owned enterprise (SOE). Whenever I have meetings with my SOE clients, I bring my racket along.
What's your advice for those who want to go into investment banking?
If your interest is in finance, and you seek a challenging, fast-paced career with a good salary, consider a career in investment banking. Time will tell if you can pick up the necessary hard skills, such as accounting and legal knowledge and an acute sense of the market, within a demanding time frame.
Investment banking is a people business and you need to manage your clients and your subordinates. Soft skills, such as EQ [emotional quotient], language skills, interpersonal skills and high tolerance of stress, are important.
- Certified practising accountant with CPA Australia
- Committee member, Young Professionals' Network, CPA Australia - Greater China
- Chartered financial analyst