“Quick Fire” with Tomi Oni

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Tomi Oni, ECI Intern

We chat with ECI’s summer intern, Tomi Oni, about his advice for future interns, why buy-side investing can feel like detective work, and what he has found most surprising about private equity teams.

Q: How did you find out about the ECI internship?

So, I applied through the 10,000 Interns Foundation, its 10,000 Black Interns Program. It’s a really good initiative that aims to champion underrepresented talent. The way it works is you rank your top three sectors, so I put investment management first, investment banking second and accounting and finance third. You write a cover letter for each one, your motivation for working in that sector, and they send it out to sponsors like ECI. It’s great as you aren’t sending 100 different cover letters to 100 different companies, in the hope that they might be somewhat interested, you know it’s a live application and the companies are going to progress.

Q: Any tips for future interns considering applying?  

In terms of prep for interviews, which is the next stage, I found the first interview really was more about your goals, interests, what motivates you, so it really should be building on what’s in your cover letter. There isn’t much you can prepare for there, but it’s worth thinking through, especially if you can bring it to life with examples. I think it’s important to be able to show you have done basic research, especially when discussing why you want to work in an industry. I had read the ‘Private Equity Playbook” by Adam E. Coffey, an Operating Partner who had chaired a lot of PE-backed businesses. That meant I could talk a lot more confidently and was able to prove my interest was real.

The second interview was more technical, a case study, which reflected more closely the type of work you would be doing in private equity. It helped that I had the basics around accounting and finance, but it’s probably general commercial awareness about businesses that will help you the most here. I had some finance clubs at uni that provided useful resources, as in part it’s about understanding the language and having examples of companies to hand. As a consumer you rarely deal with B2B companies for example, which means you may not have those reference points without doing a bit of research. I found the case study really interesting, personally.

Q: What projects have stood out to you since you started the internship? 

I had to do some customer profiling for a deal process, as part of the diligence. Sometimes it felt a bit like detective work leveraging the various tools at our disposal to try to understand what the business really does, why have some of its customers left, are there any concerns we should be aware of. It was great to be involved on a live deal, and it gave me great insight into just how much information is needed on a company prior to investment.

Q: Was there anything that surprised you about private equity now you’ve been involved first-hand?

I was surprised by how flat the structure is within investment teams. You get a lot of accountability and exposure, even at the junior level. I think that helps you learn very quickly. I had lots of opportunities to speak with senior people across the investment team including managing partners, and found everyone was invested in making sure I understood the bigger picture. Everyone in the team can have a very material impact.

That surprised me as I had always perceived PE teams to be top-heavy, and with a very small number of people making all the big decisions. But realistically there is accountability at every level, and every person is expected to be on point. I found that really motivating to be honest.

Q: What are you looking to do next?

For the summer after my penultimate year of university, I’m pursuing advisory roles to a wide range of clients, including private equity. That will help further my education, plus I know it’s very rare that people move into private equity straight after university. It’s been useful hearing about different people’s routes in at ECI, and after seeing the buy-side firsthand, it definitely feels like a career I’d like. You have a bit more skin in the game, it’s good for naturally nosy people like myself.

Quick Fire with Tomi: 

Would you say you’re an introvert or an extrovert?

My friend would definitely say I’m a mixture of both, I probably identify as an ambivert.

What did you want to be when you were five?

I was really obsessed with dinosaurs, so while I wouldn’t have known how to spell it, probably a paleontologist. Although I do remember going on a school trip to look at bones they’d dug up, and it wasn’t quite as a I imagined…it’s not Jurassic Park.

What’s your song of the summer?

I’d say a song by Burna Boy called “Big 7.” Yeah, that definitely gets me in the summer mood. I also feel every year he makes my summer, there’s one he made in 2019 called “Location” that I could listen to every year.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Well I didn’t receive it personally, of course, but there’s a quote by Kobe Bryant which is “Be consistent, that’s the most important part. Be consistent with your work.” He was a big role model for me, and being consistent is really hard, but it’s worth it.

What’s the first thing you will do when you are back at uni?

It’s a long shot but I’ve always wanted to learn to fly small planes. I’ve got family history in the military, so I am going to apply for the RAF University Air Squadrons program in Bristol. You’ll have to wish me luck for that!

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