We chat to Jin Ni Ooi, Investment Associate at ECI, about why she wanted to move into private equity, how to find out if an investment firm is the right fit for you, and the importance of finding good nasi lemak and teh tarik in London.
Q: When did you first know you wanted to move into private equity?
I’d say I was different to many of the young, ambitious graduates these days that have their eyes on private equity straight out of university. I really only learned about PE during my career in financial due diligence when I was at PwC. That sparked my interest in moving over to the buyside, as whilst the DD gave me good exposure to different businesses and sectors, it was only a small part of the deal process. I wanted to be part of that end-to-end deal process.
Q: What was it about ECI that appealed?
The kind of firm and team culture attracted me to ECI. During the recruitment process, I was able to spend a lot of time with Sarthak, Toby and Laura in the investment team, and that really showed me that collaborative work environment. Everyone has a part to play. It also struck me as supportive culture, where people feel comfortable voicing opinions and challenging existing views. It’s a fast-paced industry so you need to keep challenging what you’re doing and continuously refining the way we work.
The firm’s take on diversity and inclusion was also really important to me. I was brought up in Malaysia and came over to the UK in 2012 for my undergraduate degree. So I think, naturally, I come from a very different cultural background. And my career background wasn’t the typical corporate finance route, and the team clearly appreciates this and has given me a lot of support to get up the learning curve.
Q: Have there been any surprises since you joined six months ago?
It’s a lot more transparent than I perhaps expected. The leadership team communicate what we do strategy-wise, short-term and long-term, and discusses what the focus should be. I appreciate this; I don’t think it’s something you get everywhere. So, a pleasant surprise!
Q: What advice would you give to people looking to move into private equity?
Private equity is an exciting and rewarding career, but there’s a real danger of jumping into it without having done sufficient homework to really understand what the role entails. I’d encourage people to learn as much as they can about the work we do, and in particular the investment strategy and culture of the specific PE firm. Does it suit you; does it excite you? It’s important to pick one that reflects you as a person. There is a lot of information now publicly available which should give you an indication of that, but of course, if you can meet anyone working in a firm, that is the best opportunity to work that out. I was lucky that ECI have been established for so long so lots of people know their reputation, so I could speak to people who had worked with the team and got a good view that it suited me and excited me.
Q: What does a normal week involve for you?
I’m probably going to say the same as everyone else: there is no such thing as a normal week! My day often turns out completely differently from my own plans. Your priorities change throughout the day. I think that’s what makes it so interesting as a career. It might include desktop research to assess a company or a subsector, meeting advisors, founders or management teams, building financial models, or doing internal team discussions. It’s great that it’s varied and it also means you get a lot of exposure, even at a more junior level.
Q: What do you think the prospect is for UK entrepreneurship in the current climate?
There’s no debate that we’re definitely in a challenging macro climate. Most of the businesses I’ve interacted with over the last year have shared their concerns around price inflation, energy prices, disruption in the supply chain, worker shortages etc. So, you do hear those concerns again and again, but it is amazing to see those same entrepreneurs adapt and transform challenges into opportunities. They’ve really been able to thrive despite uncertainties.
I think it’s also important to recognise that we live in a globalised economy. U.S. consumer continues to be resilient, and there are geographies like East Asia that are opening up after a long period of lockdown. You see a lot of excitement in the English and Mandarin press for capital raisings across the borders. Particularly with the opening of Shanghai-London Stock Connect, where they’re encouraging more cross-border investment. And entrepreneurs recognise these global as well as domestic opportunities. It might be harder than before to deliver them all, but it is possible. It’s something we’re increasingly asked by management teams, sharing our experience of supporting companies to grow on a global scale and introducing them to Brett in our New York office. It helps improve the odds if you can speak to someone who has done it before
Quick Fire with Jin:
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I really wanted to be a track and field athlete growing up. I used to be quite good at high jump and short distance running!
What’s your worst habit?
As you can probably see, bad posture, especially when sitting. And we spend a lot of time sitting down so I need to get better at this.
What food or drink could you not do without?
So there’s a food in Malaysia called nasi lemak and teh tarik. It’s coconut rice with either slow-cooked beef or fried chicken, and pulled milk tea – that always comes as a combo. You can tell I’m very much still a Malaysian at heart. You can find some really good Malaysian restaurants in London, and that’s always my go-to whenever I miss home and need something to satisfy my craving.
What’s the last film you watched?
I’m quite late to the game, but Parasite. It’s a South Korean black comedy about inequality. It was really interesting, and a film of great contrasts. It is well put together and it’s great to see the South Korean media industry breaking through, with that and Squid Game etc.
If you’ve just completed a deal, where are you celebrating?
I’m a big fan of Japanese food, so I’ll say a restaurant called Akira at Japan House in South Kensington. I’d really recommend it; they do a fantastic tasting menu.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’d say not to worry about having everything figured out. Just accept that you sometimes just need to take a leap of faith. That was advice from a teacher in high school. Naturally, I’ll always want a contingency plan. Covid taught me that you can’t do that, you had to be spontaneous and accept that things would change outside your plans.