Vincent So (BEng Mechanical Engineering 1991, MBA 1994) made a difficult decision to move away from engineering into finance, successfully becoming an investment banker and then a fund manager. Vincent recently joined a panel of eminent alumni at a reception with Imperial’s President Alice P. Gast in Hong Kong, who together explored some of the challenges and opportunities presented by the fast-changing global financial, engineering, scientific and research sectors.
What did you learn during your time at Imperial, in class or out?
“Imperial’s curriculum is intellectually demanding and requires you to put in a lot of hard work in order to reap the maximum benefits out of the courses academically and skill-wise. Most professors and lecturers are experts in their areas of research and are often able to motivate and inspire us to learn actively, think deeply and expand the boundary of knowledge space. The timetables of both courses were packed, literally from nine to five on weekdays (except Wednesday afternoon, of course). Nevertheless, I enjoyed it and my two degrees at Imperial certainly trained/reinforced my problem-solving skills, critical thinking and vocational skills, like communication, teamwork, EQ to resolve conflicts among members of different nationalities in project works. These are all transferrable which have certainly helped me along my life journey.
I also enjoyed life outside studies. Imperial is a world-leading academic institution that is able to attract so many bright students from all over the world. This gives us a great, life-long network and friendship. Such a highly international student body really widened my perspectives of different aspects of life, made me appreciate different cultures, not only their values of life, but also their ways of doing things, motivations of pursuing knowledge and goals.
During my undergraduate studies, I spent quite a lot of time on the snooker tables in the Union Building! I participated in the College’s snooker tournament a couple of times and my best result was being a semi-finalist with highest break of 49! During my postgraduate studies, I was active in participating in the events organised by the Finance Society and was a regular contributor to CAPITAL - the Society’s official magazine.”
What is your fondest memory of your time here?
“One of my fondest memories at Imperial is really the time spent with coursemates and hallmates of different nationalities. Other than intellectual debates and exchanges of thoughts/ideas, I enjoyed the regular ‘pot luck’ gathering with easily over five or six different cuisines to share, followed by chit-chatting all night!”
Tell us a bit about the work you’re doing now.
“I am currently the Chief Investment Officer of Swan Capital Management, a specialist alternative investment manager, co-founded with my partner, Willie Kung who is also an Imperial alumnus.”
How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?
“In my experience, what I learnt from Imperial certainly gave me competitive edges in a wide range of situations, from interviews for graduate position, making important decisions for myself and in my work, to being excel in your career. A degree from Imperial is also a strong endorsement of your abilities, which gives me a high level of confidence overall.”
What have been your career highlights and lowlights?
“Having been in the finance industry for many years, it feels that I have achieved more than what I thought I could have done, not only on financial rewards, but also persistency and perseverance. I transformed myself from an engineer to an investment banker and then to a fund manager. All along, I successfully built new businesses that made positive financial contributions. The most notable occasion was being a member of a core team building the Asia Pacific business for the London-based Intermediate Capital Group, probably the most leading player in its area in the region now.”
What are your plans for the future?
“I am trying to engage in some sort of educational service in Hong Kong, which could help improve the competitiveness of local kids, especially some essential skills like public speaking and debate, which are typically not covered in the local curriculum at school but are important to their future.”
What would be your advice for current students?
“‘Risk, you have to look at it even if you don’t want to’. Along our journey, we will all need to make decisions, be they big or small, which will certainly involve risk. Find your dreams and passions, stick to your beliefs, and never underestimate your ability to turn what is seemingly a risk into an opportunity for yourself.
I am pleased to have been able to share my experiences with many young alumni over the years, especially current students. Imperial is a microcosm of the competitive world and offers many different exposures, such as a multi-cultural environment that could prepare you for an increasingly globalised world, strong academic training that could you lead to either academic research or a career in banking, accountancy, consulting or even a start-up. Develop your career aspirations now!”
What’s the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make?
“The decision to leave the engineering profession for investment banking. The difficulty lied in peer pressure. Being an engineer was my dream when I was a kid. However, reality is reality. I wanted to pursue a more challenging, rewarding and performing driven career. Despite lots of opposite views, I was determined to do it and I did it!”
What are you most proud of in your life?
“I am so proud of my family - my wife, Daphne, for pursuing excellence in whatever she does, whether she was being a Cambridge scholar, an investment banker, a full-time mum or a cake artist; and my twins, Adrian and Aster, for bringing so much joy to the family and gaining admissions to two good primary schools, St Stephen’s College Preparatory School and Diocesan Girls’ Junior School, respectively this autumn!”