Founding President of Harvard GCC chapter and a former Director of GCC Management, Eric Glyman, spoke at Harvard last week. His message was simple: it’s not about the here and now; it’s about the future, and China and Brazil together hold a promising future for anyone who cares to learn both Mandarin and Portugese. Video posted below:
“Always remember to look up and look ahead.” Cliche? Sure. But it all comes down to those who are making moves to put cliche ideas into practice.
As Valentine’s Day is coming up, I thought I might share this interesting infographic on Valentine’s Day spending trends. Men spend >2x as much as women do on Valentine’s Day, so maybe all the ads should target what men think women might want instead. Also, 53% of all women would end their relationships if they didn’t get something on Valentine’s Day – time to create that perpetual annual event reminder on your calendar ;)
The title of this post is inspired by the well-known investment book, A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton G. Malkiel (1973). I’ve never read the book, but the idea that Malkiel tried to convey is pretty easy to summarize:
Since stock prices cannot be predicted in the short term, argues Malkiel, individual investors are better off buying and holding onto index funds than meddling with securities or actively managing mutual funds. Not only will a broad range of index funds outperform a professionally managed portfolio in the long run, but investors can avoid expense charges and trading costs, which decrease returns. [...] His witty, acerbic style and persuasive arguments will delight readers but, alas, leave Wall Street unmoved.
In honor of the Zuccotti Park eviction, below are pictures of my random walk downtown about two weeks ago. Hope you enjoy.
Switched up to a more minimalist theme. I realized the previous theme was difficult to read with the gray font.
If you’re reading this stuff I would really appreciate any comment or other feedbacks so that I know there are actually people out there reading and I’m not just talking to myself.
Working on a few blogposts right now hope to publish soon!
After not seeing New York for a year, this trip has turned out to be slightly more overwhelming than I had mentally prepared myself for lol.
So my 13hr flight from Beijing to Newark was delayed (again… 点子太低了) because – get this – they apparently didn’t communicate that the US is now on daylight savings. Beijing air traffic authorities are either challenged or full of BS.
Anyhow, got to Columbia, everything’s closed. Lots to say about the comparison now between Beijing vs. New York. But I guess that’ll have to wait. For now, it’s dinner with GCC followed by night at Circle with good old 2011′ers.
Hello Columbia – it’s good to be back. Even for a week ;)
Of all my whimsical decisions in life – and there haven’t been many, really, not even the great Gap Year – this one probably is sitting near the top of the list:
I am in London.
(Yes, I am that unexciting).
The 11-hour flight on British Airways from Beijing to London was delayed by an hour due to – surprise – 航空管制. Flight was great. Food sucked. Didn’t watch their movies because after all British Airways ain’t no Cathay Pacific. Met a fellow Chinese person who now works in Edinburgh. And we talked for quite a bit about… GCC. How sad. Well we talked more than just about GCC, but I’ve learned that it creates more of an impression than talking about Goldman Sachs. (Can someone in GCC pay me for saying this?) No actually we began by talking about the iPad and how to jailbreak it (Apple is more likely to pay me than GCC so… oh wait, I mentioned jailbreaking…).
Anyhow, sitting in the airport and taking a minute to collect myself: Pounds + SIM card + phone numbers = Functional human being.
Meeting up with a friend from GS over the summer later.
It’s amazing how this airport alone left me with such a great impression of London. I am that shallow. Wow.
Will be up in 12 hours for a GCC conference call at 5am London time. I really feel now like I work for a non-profit organization.
Life is good,
“That’s so cool!” is usually the first reaction I receive when I entrust someone with my idea of taking a gap year.
“So what are you gonna do?” is usually the sentence immediately following that.
To be perfectly honest here for a second before returning to my full-on 忽悠 mode: I don’t know.
… Entrepreneurship? … Management consulting? … Finance??
Ten weeks in finance. I witness the S&P fall to its regional low of 1,022, its correction back to around 1,120 on the back of strong 2Q earnings, and then its dip back down when bank after bank began downgrading economic forecasts of both the emerging markets and OECD. Economics aside, I learned a lot about not so much investments, but rather investor mentalities. On our portfolio trading simulation team, no one knew which stock was going to make us money. We made bets on Visa, on Amazon, on tech ETFs, but no one knew. Ten weeks may have allowed me to skim the surface of some fundamental and technical analyses, but really, I’m barely skimming the surface and I already see how deep the water must be. No one who has the money in the pool is going to stay calm and undisturbed when thousands and thousands of market news cross-pollinate to create a jungle of uncertainty. The incentive structure of the information distribution system in the investment world is skewed up and to the right. Good times everyone makes money, bad times no one talks and the floor contains as much noise as the inside of a morgue. Institutions make bank while prop traders follow, and private investors stand outside the fence wondering what’s up.
If there is something I learned and decided this summer, it’s that I don’t ever want to be an equity fund manager. If I knew the chances of me outperforming the market is so slim, why do I even bother?
Finance is tough and unpredictable. But economics is fun. It’s simple, it’s intuitive, it’s manipulable. This is why economists can get more attention by talking (think Paul Krugman, 郎咸平, etc.), because they don’t have to perform. They just have to talk. I mean really what’s the secret formula here for global fame? Get some very legit credentials (e.g. win the Nobel Prize in Economics), and then say some very controversial stuff (e.g. China is screwing over the US). Maybe hire 10 analysts to get you economic data to support your claims. Save the world while you’re at it.
So back to the topic here… gap year.
I turned down the attractive offer and decided to “explore,” and rather than just taking a semester off and graduate on time, I decided to graduate a year later. It was not an easy decision, for me or for my parents. I’ll explain this part in Chinese:
As Aaron said, there is something intriguing about the fact that the NMD is the only division in GCC that has been handed off to a third Director since GCC was first founded. The first sign of “longevity” – even if only relative in comparison to the other divisions or student groups – is a sign of inner stability.
Building GCC was very much like building a company. The management structure has morphed from a strict division of responsibilities, to a more organic entity, back to a very well-defined system of individual divisions. Like an entrepreneurial firm, the structure needed to adapt constantly to the environment – timing, location, people. If this sounds familiar it’s because it is the familiar “天時，地利，人和” trinity, the circumstances that will determine the success or failure of any entity.
Just as instrumental music became popular in Europe when the technology of making musical instruments flourished, GCC grew and prospered drastically as China became the outlier of economic performance, exceeding expectations and creating exceptions. We have tapped into the biggest shift of paradigm in the 21st century in so many different ways it’s impossible to foresee what will be the exact outcome. But in an environment where too many factors are changing and too many uncertainties lay ahead, the best thing to do is to follow your instinct – and the worst thing to do is to stay stationary.
自古亂世出英雄 – if you only live once, which I assume we all do, why not make something special of your life?
The exposure to the outside world through GCC has profoundly altered my interpretation of risk versus uncertainty. We are all risk-averse. But we cannot avoid uncertainty no matter what we do. Risk and uncertainty both exist as pure consequences of time, but risk can be calculated, modeled, and predicted; uncertainty however, is inevitable and must be embraced. The realization of the inevitability of uncertainty is the single most fundamental factor that changed much of my decision making process, and consequently, yielded the following decision:
I am going to take a semester off and spend it in China.
The decision is almost risk-free. But the decision is ridden with uncertainty. I have come to realize that while I am extremely risk-averse, I am not averse to uncertainty.
A few of us attended the “亚布力到纽约” portion of the Chinese Entrepreneur Forum – the platform involving some of the largest business titans of China today and of the world tomorrow.
Upon entering the Morgan Library, the lobby was filled with familiar faces – the New York network of China-fans is probably smaller than we had anticipated.
The Chinese Economy
毛振华, 冯伦, 曹德旺, 任志强, 陈东升 etc., spoke on various topics relating to one of GCC’s core focuses – China’s economy.
冯伦, President of 万通地产, and a well-known author of some very interesting books on business in China, spoke about the “five views” that are in dialogue regarding China’s political future, ranging from liberalism to absolute Maoism. The predominant view, he says, is the middle-of-the-road “new” thought – slow but reasonable reforms in the government, maintaining peace and prosperity of the country as a whole. Undoubtedly, the view is supported by both large businesses as well as the Chinese government, and probably also preferred by us students who wish to pursue future career opportunities in China .
It is more true in China than anywhere else in the world that business success is highly tied to government policies. Feng observed that the most successful firms in China are ironically along the lines of government policy: the ones that are heavily regulated, and the ones that are not regulated at all. For me, this seems to refer to monopolies such as utilities and telecommunications, as well as the unknown districts of gambling, coal mining, and real estate (until last year).
Feng also touched on the fact that Chinese firms are now beginning to care about corporate image, environmental impacts, and social responsibilities. Chines firms are starting to put together additional pages in their annual reports focusing on sustainable dev and corporate responsibility. This should be good news enough for those of us taking classes with Jeffrey Sachs.
Other panelists emphasized that NGOs has yet to witness their Golden Age in China. With more people who are understanding the impacts of global trade, production, and consumption, there will be both more interest and more room for people to join NGOs to create impact in China. Interested in joining an NGO to work in China in the future? Now is probably the time.
Finance in China
陈东升, President and CEO of 泰康人寿, also left me deep impressions about the future of business in China. 泰康人寿 was founded in 1996, but is now the 4th largest insurance companies in China. Recently, the firm took 550 employees to the Great Pyramids of Giza for both entertainment as well as their annual firm-wide summit – yes, I can relate because I was just there about a month ago. Confirming with what the GCC delegation learned during the Winter Delegation, 混业经营 (Mixed Operation: the practice of merging banking, securities, insurance, and other forms of financial services together for synergetic outcomes) is still a big focus of the Chinese financial services world. On the insurance side, though the traditional models of insurance agents that were introduced to China via 友邦 of Taiwan (which originated from Japan), new practices such as selling insurance plans via commercial banks, selling by phone, online, etc., are all on the rise. 泰康 claims to be selling 100 life insurance plans per day.
A Pleasant Surprise
In the sea of passionate China-lovers who were eagerly networking between panels, I bumped into someone who is perhaps more famous than all of the prominent Chinese entrepreneurs in the room combined - 哈佛女孩儿－刘亦婷.
Fantastic isn’t it? If you are Chinese and you are currently in a top American college, you know who she is.
Sitting next to her during the speeches, I easily forgot that this “Harvard girl” whose fame swept across China as someone who has successfully made it into Harvard from Chengdu, China, is almost ten years my elder. Time flew by and her image as a 18-year-old Harvard girl remained in our memory, but the now-experienced finance professional moved onto better things. After a summer internship at Morgan Stanely followed by several years at BCG, Yiting LIu is now on her path to be an entrepreneur and create something on her own.
It’s in our blood – entrepreneurship. The phrase that “every Chinese wants to be an entrepreneur” was never an overstatement.