7th #GreatHeights Series – Liyana Helmy Had
By Afiza Zulyadaen
For this week’s KYSER #GreatHeights series, we had our spotlight on Liyana Helmy Had, from class 2006 – an Associate in Investment Banking at J.P. Morgan. Graduated from City University London with First Class Honours in Actuarial Science, Liyana took a dive into investments instead and has been doing better than ever since. In the interview, Liyana talked about her loved ones, education, career, and life aspirations.
Memorable KYS Experience
Liyana cherished her time in KYS. For her, the friendship she built there was unbreakable. “We went through A LOT together. So when we got together, even after going on different paths in life, it’s like we are seventeen again.” Excelling in her studies, she was also active in extracurricular activities, playing violin and hockey while holding several positions in clubs.
“I noticed that I am more efficient and productive under pressure. So the extracurricular activities were what pushed me to focus more on my studies.”
Study Hard, Then Travel
Liyana wanted to study Actuarial Science and her higher education path was set when she managed to get a scholarship from MARA to pursue the course in London. “I did my A-Levels at KYUEM, and it was fun! A-Levels was hard, but the support system there was strong. Then, Alhamdulillah, I went to Cass Business School, City University London. One of the perks is that my business school gives monetary incentive to everyone who maintains a First Class grade, and this was of course became my biggest motivation. With this extra money, I got to travel around during my term breaks.”
Do What You Love
From the admiration of her mother’s work in a fund management company, Liyana was inclined towards finance since young. After her internship in an insurance company, she realized that working in Actuarial line may not be what she wanted even when she excelled in her course. Believing in her decision, she dove into the investment sector as she started her career as Analyst in Capital Market Department at Employees Provident Fund (EPF).
“In short, investment bankers help companies raise money (either via equity or debt) or execute mergers and acquisitions (also known as M&As). Personally, I cover Malaysian clients across all products and sectors.”
A year later, she moved to investment banking in J.P. Morgan and has been there for more than five years. “The journey has been wild, especially during the first 3 years as an analyst. There were countless sleepless nights, missed social and family events, and working through the holidays. My friends were used to me doing work while hanging out with them over the weekends. Alhamdulillah, the worst is over. As an associate, I now get a lot of help from other analysts and I am able to have better work-life-balance.”
Even with all the work she has to do, Liyana still enjoys her challenging work. “There are no two days that I’d be doing the same thing. I could be preparing a pitch book on one day, negotiating a merger agreement on the next, help client sell their shares in another company the next week and then traveling on a roadshow promoting an IPO.” Her proudest moment in career was when her team closed a deal in late 2016, raising US$700-million from 3 investors at a valuation and terms that the client was extremely happy with.
“In my opinion, the one thing that a banker needs to pursue this career in the long run is grit. Without it, it is easy to get caught up and eventually give up.”
With her valuable experience in the sector, she felt that a banker requires many skills and the priority varies depending on the levels of the career. An analyst need to be diligent, meticulous, and curious. An associate would need the skills to manage, not just downwards but also the seniors. For top managerial levels, communication and negotiation skills is highly important.
Liyana showed her loving side when she told us about her life aspirations. “Since I got my baby last year, my view of life has changed. Now, all I want is a happy family, and to raise successful children. I believe it is important to have a purpose that is bigger than yourself, to (1) push yourself even harder and (2) to keep yourself in check.”
Ending the interview, Liyana gave several encouraging advises for those who are still studying.
1. “If you are still unsure of what you want to be, don’t worry too much about the degree choices. Most of my friends, myself included, did not end up practicing what we learned at university. Keep doing all the extra-curricular activities and you will get to know more about yourself. Apart from that, I highly recommend you doing internships during your summer/term holidays. In fact, I realized through my internship that Actuarial Science (as a profession) does not suit my personality. At this point, even though I still did not know what I want to be, at least I managed to cross one option off from the list.”
2. “Do not waste your student years by only studying (or worse, playing video/mobile games). Yes, we need those ‘A+’, but those ‘A’s mean nothing if you’re dull. When employers hire, they hire personalities. They want to hire someone who can make decisions, a team player, resourceful… and no text books can teach you these. The only way to learn is to go out there and play, volunteer, lead, and travel.”