This episode is part of a special mini-series of “Career Conversations” focused on MBA summer internships. We asked rising second-year MBA students to check in from their summer internships, where they are applying the lessons of their first year at Yale SOM.
Oscar Licea Perez ’21 interned at Morgan Stanley in the investment banking division for Latin America. Before coming to Yale SOM, he founded his own micro-lending group, working as its CFO until he was invited to work for the central bank of Mexico.
Transcript provided by rev.com.
Amy Kundrat (00:05):
Welcome to Career Conversations, a podcast from the Yale School of Management. Each episode of Career Conversations is a candid conversation between a student here at SOM, that's me, and a member of the Yale community who's doing something that I'm curious about, kind of like an informational interview, except that you get to listen in. I'm Amy Kundrat, an executive MBA student in the class of 2021.
Emily Kling (00:25):
And I'm Emily King, a full-time MBA student, also in the class of 2021. Today we continue our special Career Conversations miniseries focused on MBA summer internships. We're joined by Oscar Licea. Oscar is a full-time MBA student in the class of 2021. Oscar, welcome.
Amy Kundrat (00:41):
Oscar Licea (00:42):
Thank you so much, Emily. Thank you, Amy.
Emily Kling (00:45):
Would you mind introducing yourself to our listeners?
Oscar Licea (00:47):
Of course. My name is Oscar Licea. I was born and raised in Mexico City, where I majored in finance at the Tec de Monterrey. After majoring in finance, I specialized in banking insurance in Switzerland, doing a certificate in banking insurance at the University of Fribourg. And I returned to Mexico to start my planning firm, where I worked for around two years and a half as a CFO, but later I was invited to work to [inaudible 00:01:19] Mexico, which I joined in 2015 and worked there before until coming to Yale SOM.
Emily Kling (01:27):
And what were you doing at the Central Bank of Mexico?
Oscar Licea (01:29):
Yeah, Emily. Thank you. I joined the central bank as an investment strategist for the foreign exchange reserves in 2015. So this mean I was doing multi-assets strategy for the investments of the portfolio that the central bank holds as exchange reserves. And I worked there for two years. Then I transitioned into portfolio management division where I worked one year as a portfolio manager, and then I was promoted one year before coming to SOM to head of investments where I was overseeing all the fixed income investments of their portfolio [inaudible 00:02:04].
Emily Kling (02:05):
And what made you decide to want to go back to business school?
Oscar Licea (02:09):
Yeah, this is something that I dreamed of since I was little. I wanted to study in the United States my undergrad. And for one reason or the other that did not happen at that time. And I decided to study at Tec de Monterrey which is a really good and really recognized university in Mexico, but that stayed in the back of my head throughout the years. I wanted to come and have an experience in a school that it's international, that has all these amazing professors and all these amazing classmates. So after a couple of years of professional experience, I realized that my set of skills were mostly [inaudible 00:02:52] and very specific to the finance role that I that had in the central bank and also that I had at my old company before the central bank and I noticed that there was a lot of skills I didn't have, mostly political skills and managerial skills, and as well, I did not know anything about other verticals of business like marketing or operations.
Oscar Licea (03:23):
So after a lot of meditation, I realized that the best step in my career was doing an MBA where I could have exposure to a lot of topics and I could have exposure to a lot of different experiences and different examples in terms of what the professors would be bringing to the class and what my classmates with their past experiences in different fields would also bring. So I thought if this is the time to do a professional degree, it has to be a professional degree that allows me to expand not only on the finance skills I already have but on the skills that I most likely will never develop if I don't come to do an MBA.
Emily Kling (04:10):
Oscar, one of my favorite conversations I've had with anyone at SOM was with you at the Thanksgiving dinner when we talked about the differences between living in Mexico and in New Haven. So I'm curious if you wouldn't mind sharing some of your thoughts about that now.
Oscar Licea (04:25):
No. Yeah. Of course. Before coming to SOM, I spent close to a year in Switzerland in Fribourg and then I did a summer in Harvard University where I took two courses and I had a perception, of course, from my international experience that cultures were significantly different and that there was a striking difference between the way Latin Americans or in this specific case that I can speak to Mexicans related to other people. So I kind of felt that at some point relationships abroad, particularly in the United States, seem to me a little bit cold now. While in Mexico, you go in and on the street, you say hi to anyone who passes by. If you do that in the US sometimes it's kind of weird, right?
Emily Kling (05:30):
Oscar Licea (05:30):
If you walking down the street and you're saying hello to everyone, people might look at you like why are you doing that? I don't think it's something that people don't like necessarily, but it comes as very strange thing, because normally no one really does it. And we were talking about this, Emily, I think in New York when I started my recruiting process and I would go around New York in cafes while waiting for coffee [inaudible 00:05:59] or speaking to bankers, I came across as very open and [inaudible 00:06:04], and you wanted to say hello to everyone and saying hello to the receptionist at the building, it seemed to me that people liked it, but obviously they looked at me like, "What are you doing? Who are you? And why are you doing this?" And also it was funny because my fiance, who would spend a couple of weeks here when we started the MBA, she's going to [inaudible 00:06:28] in the UK, she will tell me whenever I said hello to a lot of people, she was like, "Okay. You got to calm down. This is not your neighborhood back in Mexico." It's totally different.
Emily Kling (06:44):
Did you find that SOM was relatively warm as a place to start out? Or was it as cold as New York, which is totally fair if it was?
Oscar Licea (06:56):
So at the beginning I found it really awkward. So it seemed to me that when we're building relationships, some international of course have shared some [inaudible 00:07:07] Latin American culture or coming from very, I want to say, warm places, if you want to put it in those terms, you seem to say hello and interact [inaudible 00:07:20] well. I remember on the orientation, when we sat in between each other's teams across [inaudible 00:07:28] and there were dynamics that we needed to follow to start getting to know each other.
Oscar Licea (07:35):
So I remember one thing that I found really helpful is when people will ask, "Tell me a fun fact about you." That usually doesn't happen in Latin America or Mexico. We don't go around with fun facts in our heads. So when people started sharing their fun facts, I was like, "Oh, my God." And they were going around the table. And everything someone spoke, I was like, "Oh, my God. It's one person less to get to me. I don't know what to say. I don't know if my fact is going to be funny. I don't even know what they are expecting for me to say a fun fact." So I was so nervous because it felt so strange and sometimes too a little bit rigid or [inaudible 00:08:18], but it worked. So at the end, I was struck by the amount of similarities that I had among my cohort and learning team.
Emily Kling (08:31):
Oscar, what was your fun fact?
Oscar Licea (08:32):
You're putting me on the spot.
Emily Kling (08:38):
I have to know now. I have to know.
Oscar Licea (08:42):
So I told them, I remember, and this is an actual story. When I was becoming a teenager, I wanted to play the drums. And my friends, of course, they said, "Why don't you play the guitar? It's a better instrument. It's smaller and less noisy." So I saved all my allowance and I saved every single penny I came across, even when my mom sent me to the groceries, I would just keep the change and I saved for five years until I bought my own drum set and ever since I've been playing. It's almost 12 years now that I've been playing the drums. So if I wouldn't be in finance, if I wouldn't be [inaudible 00:00:09:25], I would probably [inaudible 00:09:27] trying to become a professional drummer. So I guess that's my fun fact. I don't know how fun that is, but...
Emily Kling (09:33):
I love it. I think it's so fun.
Amy Kundrat (09:37):
I feel like that's as good a segue as any to ask about your internship from drumming to SOM to define your finance internship. So where are you interning this summer, Oscar?
Oscar Licea (09:49):
I interned at Morgan Stanley in the investment banking division of the Latin American group.
Amy Kundrat (09:55):
And did you come to SOM knowing you wanted to intern in investment banking?
Oscar Licea (10:00):
Not specifically. I came to SOM wanting to tour other things. And I was coming from investment management. Then I was doing a job that allowed me to have a lot of exposure to investment management. So throughout the four years that I spent with the central bank, kind of felt that I learned a lot and no, I cannot say I'm an expert, but I definitely can say that I'm really good at investment management. So I wanted to switch gears and try something different and probably out of my comfort zone and I thought investment banking is probably the place where I will find a lot of challenges within finance, not pulling far away from my original career.
Amy Kundrat (10:44):
So what was the recruitment process like for investment banking?
Oscar Licea (10:48):
It is intense. It's a recruiting process that starts very early. At the beginning, you're kind of confused of everything that is going on. But at the end you realize why everything happens. So a lot of the banks that recruit at SOM, they come to the school and they present the company and they're joined by several bankers that are usually [inaudible 00:11:15], so most of them. Sometimes they bring other bankers from other schools, but most of them are going to be SOM graduates. And they present the company. They talk about the culture and they talk about different areas. They talk a little bit about how the work is done. And then those bankers are your touching points, [inaudible 00:11:34] touching points. So you have to go around and do as much coffee chats as you can, because it's a dating process. They want you to know what you're getting into, and you want to know how the people in the banking are, because people who are in finance, we see it differently, but I think there's a misconception out there of what a bankers does or how a banker is.
Oscar Licea (12:02):
We see all these finance movies and all these stories about the financial crisis and so on. And I don't know. Probably a lot of people have a different idea or different perspective of what banking is. So bankers all across from Yale SOM and other schools who are working in the [inaudible 00:12:22] banks, really, really big banks or the boutique banks, they want you to know what are you getting into, what the work is like and how they are. And you realize when you go across all these banks and doing coffee chats, that these people are just like you. They went to SOM. They decided to go to SOM for the same reasons. And they decided to do investment banking because they see a chance in investment banking to do things that are meaningful to them and that could be transformational to the corporations and to a lot of stakeholders.
Oscar Licea (12:55):
So the recruitment process goes from beginning of September to early December, and then interviews are early January. And you get to know, even on the same day as you interview, you got an offer or not. But to that point, coffee chats, Yale SOM is in a position that it's probably a little bit challenging to do investment banking recruiting because we're so close to New York, so we wanted to go [inaudible 00:13:24] in person to meet the bankers. But also we're far away in a way that you got to sacrifice a lot of your experience to and from. And I found myself going to New York Monday, Wednesday, Friday, almost [inaudible 00:13:40], and without missing classes and obviously working on the training and studying, so I was really [inaudible 00:13:47].
Amy Kundrat (13:48):
So at Morgan Stanley, what sorts of projects have you been working on?
Oscar Licea (13:52):
So the type of job that we basically perform was around... We had a long-term, if you want to call it, throughout the six weeks project where we were analyzing, evaluating a company in the luxury goods space. So we were given a challenge where we had to advise the CFO on the board of directors what the company was valued at, and if someone wanted to purchase it or if they wanted to sell it, what would that process look like? And why would be the price on the company, if anyone was interested in buying? So throughout the six weeks, we had to prepare a presentation that at the end was given out to the senior bankers and these are the heads of investment banking, which were in a way acting like they were the board of directors for this company.
Oscar Licea (14:54):
And the day before we presented that, we had a conversation with the actual CEO of the company, whereas she presented some of the challenges that she's faced currently and some of the challenges that the industry and specifically the company were evaluating, were having. And we asked her a lot of questions on the performance of the company. And we asked her what she thought was the future in terms of the pandemic environment. So that was very exciting. And another part of the work was working specifically with your group. The luxury goods company was a global company that we're working on, but then you have different verticals in investment banking, where you're working either on a specific product and a product could be mergers and acquisitions, ECM, which is equity capital markets or DCM, which is debt capital markets. So on M&A, you basically advise companies that want to buy other companies or want to merge together and become bigger. And ECM, you'll do the IPOs, the initial public offerings, where a company goes and offers their stock exchanges in the different exchanges around the world. Or in DCM, where basically they're looking for funding.
Oscar Licea (16:13):
So I joined Morgan Stanley in the Latin American group. So my work was specific to Latin America, but the great thing about this group is that we are product agnostic, so we basically do M&A, ECM and DCM and we're industry agnostic, so any industry, any product that comes through the door, we have to advise the company in whatever needs they have. So well, basically Latin America is very heavy on industrials and on infrastructure and power and utilities and financial institution. So there's a lot of work that goes through that and you have to learn a lot.
Oscar Licea (16:51):
So part of the internship, they gave us a fire drill where literally one day around 6:00, 7:00 PM, they send us an email asking for an industry overview and this industry overview was on LATAM telecom. And when I received the email, I started looking at it. It was around 6:00, 7:00 PM, New York time, and it said, "I'm a banker. I'm in London currently. I need your industry overview by 1:00 AM, New York time, because I will need to present it early morning in London." And when I saw the email, I freaked out.
Amy Kundrat (17:32):
Did you know this was happening? Because this is the kind of stuff I expect from an M&A, if you're focusing on M&A or something. So [crosstalk 00:17:39]-
Oscar Licea (17:39):
Amy Kundrat (17:40):
Oscar Licea (17:41):
I was not expecting that, but I knew that that was the job. That's what the job is. So you're working on two, three deals and then suddenly a banker who is presenting to a client in London who is interested in, let's say, specifically to Latin America, they're interested in buying a highway in Colombia, a toll highway in Colombia. And they want to invest 100s of millions of dollars in that. And they want to know what highways look like all across Latin America. So they'll send you an email and saying, "I met with these institutional investor who's interested in buying large amounts of infrastructure in Latin America and I need you to tell me how that looks like. And we had a conversation last night, but we're meet tomorrow."
Oscar Licea (18:28):
And you're in New York. He's in London. You have six hours to put together a presentation that's actually going to convince that institutional investor that you're the best [inaudible 00:18:36], that you're the one who knows more about highways in Latin America or you're the one who knows more about power utilities companies or retail stores. So the situation was they did it to let us know how it works. And they asked us specifically on LATAM telecom and this LATAM telecom industry research had to go all across from Mexico to Argentina throughout all the companies, and telling an investor a compelling story of why it would be a smart thing to invest or not in telecommunications company.
Oscar Licea (19:21):
So I don't know anything about telecommunications. I've always done finance. I obviously understand a little bit. I understand how it works. I use a cell phone. I used to have a wire line at home. I have internet. So that's all I knew. And of course, I didn't know anything about LATAM telecom specifically. So it was so intense. I had around five to six hours to do it, and I had to go from Mexico to Argentina, country by country, trying to understand how the industry works, how concentrated it is, which companies operate, which companies are relevant, which companies actually you can invest on, and then come back with a 6 to 7 slide presentation on why it was compelling for investment to go in to Latin America.
Amy Kundrat (20:11):
Do you have any advice for students who want to go into investment banking and are looking to do an internship in the following summer?
Oscar Licea (20:19):
Yes, I have a couple of pieces of advice I think are very relevant. So first things first, I would say that if you want to do investment banking, you want to be a person who's very interested in finding the different nuances of running a corporation and being able to finance the activities of that corporation. So you have to be very interested in terms of how a company structures their financing activity. So I think to that point, classes like investor, in [inaudible 00:20:57] or classes that you like particularly to pay more attention. I'm not saying that you won't pay attention to other classes, but you want to be a 100% into the material, and into the lectures.
Oscar Licea (21:13):
Second piece of advice I would say, you have to be open to learning as much as you can. And my case was coming from a finance background I kind of felt that I already have enough knowledge to probably start the referral process, but early on, I realized that that was not the case and I needed to sit down and put the hours in terms of studying with my classmates who were also going through recruiting and also studying finance, which... The investment banking would bring something really special because we're a group of people, and I think this also happens in other industries [inaudible 00:21:54] SOM, but we were a group of people who are actually going to exact same situations and who are talking to exact same people and we're receiving the exact same questions. So we talked a lot with each other. We help us out in terms of we tell each other, "There's probably some material you haven't checked out and you have to check it out," and things like that.
Oscar Licea (22:17):
So I think just narrowing it down on the couple of [inaudible 00:22:19]. You have to be on top of your classes. That's very important because SOM cares about the performance of their students, but also cares about placing them in good jobs, but it's also your responsibility to go through the recruiting process without leaving behind your classes. So you have to be extremely efficient. I think time management is the number one skill that one requires when you come to a MBA, and require to [inaudible 00:22:50] industry. Second of all, join the finance club, of course, and talk to your second years. The second years on an MBA are the best resource for you in terms of getting an internship or if you want to do investment banking or consulting or tech or any particular career you're seeking. People who have already done this are the best resource for you.
Oscar Licea (23:16):
And then I would say also time management [inaudible 00:23:17], take care of your classes, then do the recruitment process, talk to second years, join the finance club. Third, reach out to as many people as you can. So it's funny. I think sometimes people feel intimidated by the bankers at Wall Street, but if you send them a note and you tell them, "I'm an MBA student at Yale, so I'm interested in a career in investment banking," they'll give you 30 minutes of the very, extremely easy agendas to talk to you and tell you why they joined investment banking, why they think it's a career that they like and they find fulfilling and they'll give you also the negative part of the long hours and stress, but at some point you're sitting at a SOM, talking on the phone or you're sitting in a New York office talking to a managing director that has done this for 20 years and that has 14 client meetings that they... 30 minutes, 14 client meetings, and he's giving you a slot of 30 minutes to tell you why investment banking's [inaudible 00:24:26] for you.
Oscar Licea (24:29):
So I think you can't be shy, so [inaudible 00:24:36] a piece of advice. And if you are shy, it's okay to be shy, but you have to push yourself to go outside your limits and reach out to as much people as you can. So I would say those are my four pieces of advice. If you're not good at time management, it's about time that you find a way to become good. That means taking care of your classes, taking care of the recruiting process, reach out to your second year and join the clubs, either you want to do investment banking or you want to do whatever. Also don't be shy. Reach out as many people as possible. And be sure that you don't know it all and you have to learn and you have to put hours.
Amy Kundrat (25:24):
Awesome. Thank you, Oscar, I guess, what are you looking forward to in year two? And we'll just end with that. I think it's a great place to end.
Oscar Licea (25:31):
Yeah. A 100%. I think the philosophy that I had when I came to SOM was broaden my scope, open my horizons and learn things and learn things that I don't know and learn things that probably I would never have learned in my life outside of business school. One of the reasons why Yale SOM was so special to me and I worked so hard to be accepted at Yale was the opportunity to not only have or take the amazing classes of SOM, but also going out to other schools. So I'm looking to taking courses that are cross listed with the law school, that are cross listed with Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. I also at some point was looking at going back to my fun fact I wanted to take a class in the School of Music. I'm still trying to find the right class because they are so specific and I don't want to be the business school student that [inaudible 00:26:31]. But I want to find one that it's going let me learn a lot.
Oscar Licea (26:37):
I also want to do a course on the engineering school from Python probably or things around R programming, around things that I used to do a lot in my previous job that I just want to refresh and learn more skills. And of course the SOM courses. They are fantastic, I think. We have fantastic professors. We also have classes that are very challenging and intellectually stimulating. I'm having a struggle on the amount of courses that I physically can take and the amount of courses that I'm registering, so...
Amy Kundrat (27:19):
You might have to stay another year.
Oscar Licea (27:21):
Yeah, exactly. I might have to stay another year or two, because also Yale allows you to sign up for all the courses that you want and that's kind of a problem when you want to learn a lot, but it's also an advantage.
Amy Kundrat (27:36):
Great. Well, Oscar, I think this is a great place to end. You've been so generous with your time. We're really appreciative and we look forward to seeing you on campus and just a few weeks.
Emily Kling (27:45):
Thank you so much.
Oscar Licea (27:46):
Of course, Amy. I hope to see you. I hope to see you, Emily, on campus with the hybrid model and you'll be around and we'll be able to do an elbow bump or something. That'd be good.
Emily Kling (28:01):
Until next elbow. Thanks so much. Bye.
Oscar Licea (28:06):
Bye. Thank you.
Emily Kling (28:08):
You've been listening to Career Conversations, a podcast from the Yale School of Management. If you liked what you heard today, please subscribe to this podcast. You can find Career Conversations on Apple Podcast, Spotify or however you take your podcasts.
Amy Kundrat (28:20):
You can also find the show on our website at som.yale.edu/careerconversations. Career Conversations is produced by SOM. Our producers are Amy Kundrat and Emily Kling. For Career Conversations, I'm Amy Kundrat.
Emily Kling (28:35):
And I'm Emily Kling. Thanks for listening. We hope you'll tune in again.
Oscar Licea Perez ’21
Internship: Morgan Stanley
Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico
Clubs and affiliations: Finance Club, Investment Management Club, Yale Graduate Mexican Society
Favorite Yale SOM Class: Real Estate for Institutional Investors
Favorite New Haven eatery: Mezcal
Favorite Professor: Rodrigo Canales (Innovator course)
Favorite Yale SOM community event: The Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Fall Party from the Association of Hispanic and Latin American Students and Academic Affairs and Student Life
Bonus facts: I love to play golf and I am a black belt in tae kwon do. I ran the 2017 Chicago Marathon and finished it thanks to my fiancée, who pushed me through the finish line.