Meet the MY JOB Narrators: Nik, Equity Investment Manager, Hong Kong, China
“If you want a career in finance, you can study whatever you
want, in my opinion. You don’t actually need to study finance or economics. That’s not what banks actually are looking for.
In my training class at Goldman Sachs, there were about 140 of us just in investment management, and about 70 percent of them were notfinance or economics majors. No business majors at all—English, psychology, whatever you want.
So that’s what employers typically look for. Nobody expects you to actually know anything about what you studied.
Finance is not rocket science.”
—Chapter 12: Nik, Equity Investment Manager, Hong Kong, China
How I Met Nik
Nik: I met Nik through the same colleague-friend who introduced me to Purnima (see Chapter 14): Sri-Lankan American Manjula Dissanayake, founder of an education nonprofit called Educate Lanka, whose mission is to support low-income students from elementary through university back in his home country. Manjula counted himself extremely lucky to come to the U.S. and attend college at the University of Maryland. He was enrolled there when the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami destroyed much of his tiny island home. His mother instructed Manjula to rally his “rich friends” in America to help the families back home . . . and more than a decade later, Educate Lanka serves 450 students with ongoing scholarships, mentoring, and tutoring.
Nik, himself a German citizen who was a classmate of Manjula’s at Maryland, not only became a friend of Educate Lanka: He became its benefactor. While working as a private-equity investor in Hong Kong, he trained and raised funds for Manjula’s program by running an ultra-marathon. See Nik’s journey to Nepal and his run to raise scholarships for low-income children in the video below.
When I dragged my wheelie through six countries in Asia last year, I just had to stop in Hong Kong to see what Nik’s life is really like. Just thirty-three years old, he runs the Asian division of a company with $450 billion under management in a zooming megacity where people in suits run up escalators on their cellphones and cranes place skyscrapers gingerly atop landfills in one of the world’s richest cities.
Nik was quick-witted, worldly, and patient as he explained the insider’s world of private equity wheelings and dealings . . . But by the end of our dim sum and tea at The China Club, he confessed an irrational fear of death and professed that what he really wishes to do with his talent is to build a legacy of giving with his wife and children. Not what I expected to hear from Nik . . . but that’s the reality of Chapter 12.
Excerpt from Chapter 12, in Nik’s Own Voice
“Autonomy is crucial for me. There are people that work better in larger organizations. I’d rather have more responsibility and live with the volatility that comes with it than have less and have very limited influence over ultimately my destiny. What attracted to me about what I do now is that it was a great institution with a very unique profile but a limited footprint in a fast-growing market.
Private equity is . . . intimate. the office that I’m in here is seven people, very small. So it’s a very collegial, family-type atmosphere, where we just work together and try and get results, but there’s no elbows. You don’t have to take somebody out to get ahead.
Equity is in private businesses that are not traded on the Stock Exchange. We typically buy, control, and then run these businesses.
We look for companies that do things very well in their sector, and then my job (because it takes capital to buy these businesses) is to convince investors that they are the best at that, so that they give us the capital. We invest on their behalf. We charge fees for those investments, and then hopefully make money on the investments, return the capital plus the profit back to the investors.
Everything we do is for profit.”
Get a sense of Nik’s personality and what he values far more than wealth–his family, which includes two parents who have lived all over the world, one biological son, and one daughter adopted from Mother’s Choice, a nonprofit Nik and his wife still support–in the video below.
Photograph courtesy of Nik Rowold/LinkedIn.