For Sydney native Michelle, deciding to apply for a Morgan Stanley internship in Hong Kong was a no-brainer. She was eager to build on her proficiency in Chinese languages—at home her family, including her Chinese/Vietnamese mother and her father, who is from Hong Kong, spoke Cantonese—and she also attended Mandarin classes as a child. Michelle landed the internship, and while in China, away from home for the first extended period of time, she discovered more than just a chance to test her fluency.
Her time at Morgan Stanley led her to enroll in the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics for a study abroad exchange program, where she found a sense of belonging. “I became friends with an international student who was born and raised in Spain, and her family was originally from Nanjing, China,” she recalls. “My friend invited a group of us from school to visit her grandparents, who cooked an enormous feast, with more than a dozen different local Nanjing specialties. Her grandparents were so kind and just kept urging us to eat more. I was some 5,000 miles away from home with new friends from all over the world, but it felt so familiar. Sharing food as a way to welcome guests warmly and to express love was a running theme in my upbringing.”
Today, Michelle is an Associate in the Hong Kong office’s Investment Banking Division, where she’s found another sort of family, thriving on the opportunity to learn from her colleagues and collaborate with them. “You walk across the floor, and you’ll hear people speaking Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. There are so many different cultures represented here.” The best part, Michelle adds, is that no matter what language her colleagues are speaking, there is the feeling “that we’re all in this together.”
What is your role at the firm?
I’m with the Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) Asia-Pacific Team. My job is to create financial analysis to help companies decide on plans to buy and sell assets, as well as develop analysis on pricing of those assets. On my team, we have broad exposure to various industries and areas at the firm. For instance, if a Thai-owned consumer asset engages us for advice on selling an asset based in China, my team might partner with the China, Southeast Asia and Consumer coverage teams as well.
I just finished our two-year Analyst Program and am now an Associate. Currently, I’m fortunate to be doing a rotation with the Asia-Pacific Investment Banking’s management team, providing analysis on recent transactions and developments in the market in terms of volume and types of M&A activity.
What is your background?
My mom immigrated to Australia as a refugee from Vietnam when she was 16 years old, and my dad moved to Sydney from Hong Kong to go to school. I grew up fairly modestly. In my family, it was always about hard work and education; those were key values instilled in my siblings and me from a very young age. At our dinner table, my family often discussed business and current affairs, so I think that’s what sparked my interest in business.
How did you start pursuing that interest?
In my first year of college, I took a job as an equity research intern at another bank. The position was full-time, so I did a range of night and online classes, popping in and out of work to go to lessons while juggling the demands of my job. It was a lot to take on, stepping into the real world at 17 years old while attending the University of New South Wales in Sydney, where I majored in finance and accounting.
Do you remember your first day at Morgan Stanley?
I do! I had always intended to move to Asia at some point for the right opportunity, so I was excited to stumble across information about Morgan Stanley’s internship program online during college. There were three of us from Sydney in my intern class, and we flew into Hong Kong together late on a Sunday night. We were in the office early the next morning. The firm is very active in making sure you meet a lot of people right from the start, which is what I remember the most about that day. The program was 10 weeks, and we worked in a variety of businesses, really getting to know the firm. Reflecting back on the experience, it was the best choice for my career development and personal growth.
What’s the best advice you’ve received at the firm so far?
During my internship, a colleague said, “You get back what you put in.” Once you graduate from school, you have to take ownership of your own learning. Staying curious is really important if you want to grow. One other piece of advice that has stuck with me is: Enjoy and have fun along the way. Instead of being caught up with moving onto the next thing, I really try to be present and enjoy the moment.
What do you like most about working here?
Morgan Stanley Hong Kong is a special place. People here are genuinely interested in getting to know you. You’re surrounded by individuals who are so driven and smart and also incredibly friendly at the same time. I’ve made lifelong friends here. For example, one friend in my Analyst class is now in New York, and we still chat regularly even though it’s been a year since he left Hong Kong.