Image supplied: Mu Tian
B. Finance 2011/ M. Finance (Honours) 2014
Mu Tian is an experienced investment professional with focuses on late stage, private equity deals in the financial services and the enterprise services sectors. He is currently Vice President responsible for strategic investment at China Renaissance in Beijing. Before returning to China where he initially worked as a Senior Associate at Sunshine Insurance Group and then a Financial Advisor at Ant Financial, Mu had worked as a Senior Consultant at Oliver Wyman in Sydney. Mu graduated from B. Finance and M. Finance (Honours) in CBE and was a Santander Scholar at Yale University.
Mu’s responses to questions from CBE students
You made a career move from Australia to China. What motivated your decision and what was the biggest cultural shock at the time?
Motivation was partially career, partially family. Family (I am the only child of my family) need was the reason for that specific timing, but I had considered a move back to China for a while, so fair to say it had been my plan for a while. I’ll elaborate further on the career part of my decision.
Before returning to China, I was working for a global management consulting firm in Sydney. The firm runs on a regional staffing model, thus I got the opportunity to work on China projects (China strategy of renowned financial institutions; IPO preparation of China fintech players; private equity commercial due diligence on China based target etc.). I was able to determine that the capital market and its players in China are both larger and growing faster than those in Australia, creating more opportunities (but could potentially cost me some stability!). Luckily with around 5 years work experience under my belt, I could explore different roles proactively, rather than just take what’s there. I considered Beijing/Shanghai/HK roles from my consulting firm, large US investment management firms, large Chinese financial institutions and PE funds and took time to consult friends, mentors and made some long term planning.
My advice to fellow ANU CBE students is: plan your career first before deciding where to land a job. Gather info from credible sources (such as your career advisers from ANU CBE), ask people with experience for advice, and invest the first few years of your career to explore your own strengths and interests.
I’d say my move went reasonably well because I’ve decided after several years in consulting that Private Equity is my thing. I also had enough info to compare my career path as an investment professional in China vs Australia, in a bank vs a fund, etc. I would encourage you to consider 1) the training you would get from the role, 2) reputation of the employer, & 3) flexibility/mobility for career development with that employer. These are more important than Sydney vs. Shanghai, or i-banking vs. consulting. A big career move could only benefit you if you know clearly what you are looking for, and have some bargaining power while you make that move.
The biggest culture shock for me was the after-hour social culture (which could often be more stressful) – hours after hours of business dinners, with respected entrepreneurs from target companies trying too hard to flatter my team because we were on the ‘buy side’. Quite disturbing to me really, I’d much rather the Australian way of doing business after hours – sharing with clients a few beers and silly jokes, ideally with a view of the Sydney Harbour & the Opera House.
How did you and your team deal with working from home as a result of COVID-19?
Short answer is we work from home and try to be safe. Given the nature of my job, my peers and I are constantly exchanging views on the market. It is also important for us to remind each other the benefits of slowing down our pace at such times – besides the apparent health benefit, not doing anything at all is usually better than doing a lot of things during a financial crisis – as a mentor Prof. Geoff Warren once told me during my ANU years, “don’t catch a falling knife”.
How do you create longevity with the networks you build at university?
I’m probably not quite the role model to follow here, but what I’ve done is: at uni, build connections and social network with people slightly out of my comfort zone – meet and talk to people from different culture backgrounds, my professors, younger students etc. After all, it’s never too hard to come across another of ‘my own kind’, but uni is probably the only stage in life when social diversity and time to spare are no luxury. Reach out, some will respond with equal or greater kindness, build those relationships – they tend to last quite long (as he/she probably don’t have many friends with your background either). Don’t worry too much about hostile people, don’t get put off. Maybe start from adding Vinh on Whatsapp / WeChat/ LinkedIn and grabbing a beer with him, virtually or once the covid-19 situation is over!