In his first job out of school as a consultant, John Liu felt something was missing—two weeks into a Morgan Stanley internship, he found his calling.
John Liu’s first project as a summer analyst happened to be a complex merger deal that plunged him into the intense and intricate world of finance.
I was seeing what few people have the opportunity to see.
“It was something amazing to witness,” Liu recalls. He was elated to finally get an exclusive look behind the curtains of the industry. “I was seeing what few people ever get to see. That is how you learn and grow.”
His internship at Morgan Stanley marked a new chapter in his life—and a change in career. Liu, who studied economics and joined a consulting firm after he graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science, felt that something was missing. “I lost my passion, and I didn’t feel like I was having much of an impact on the world” he says of that time. “I needed more from the job.”
And that meant a change. At the time, Liu was already nurturing a budding interest in finance, and decided to take a risk. He left his consulting job for Oxford University, where he earned a Master’s in Financial Economics. His search for a new direction yielded many opportunities. He chose Morgan Stanley. “Everyone else made me feel like a cog in the machine,” he says.
In June, 2016, Liu began his Morgan Stanley internship, with Investment Banking in mergers and acquisitions. Two weeks in, he had already decided that this was the job he had been searching for all along, as he found himself in closed-door meetings and confidential calls to discuss strategy and the details of deal-making. He prepared data for senior bankers interacting with clients, many of whom were the presidents and CEOs of top businesses.
The work wasn’t easy. Pressure ran high and the hours could be long, but Liu enjoyed every minute. The work fused art and science, data analysis with an array of inputs, to help determine the value of a company—current and future. “The job is fundamentally asking ‘what does a company do and how much is that worth?’ ” Liu says. Even though the deal he spent the most time on that summer ultimately didn’t come off, “I felt like I was making a difference in the business world at an early stage in my career,” he says. “It was incredibly insightful. I could see I had an impact.”
For any summer analyst to secure a full-time position at the firm, Liu knew that he would have to show his ambition through his work ethic. He made himself a resource and aimed for perfection.
“There’s no settling mentality here,” Liu says. His senior managers could tell that he cared about working at the firm, and that he put tremendous value on getting things right, he says. “I showed them that I wanted the job, and that I appreciated the opportunity.”
Liu’s effort paid off. He was hired to participate in a three-year analyst program that combines mentorship and increased responsibility. The position allows him to work with the same team that he worked with as a summer analyst.
Now, fully immersed in the new career that he chose and fought to land, Liu is still learning the ropes and applying what he’s learned while taking on more projects. These days, he’s busy modeling the details of various deals, which senior bankers rely on when meeting with clients. His role is as intense as ever and even more satisfying when deals work out. Liu is particularly thrilled that he helped launch a company’s initial public offering within six months of being hired.
“This is the kind of influence I wanted on big business,” he says. “I still have a lot to explore, and I’m where I want to be.”