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In profile: Christopher Koch SA Fin, spending time on soft skills

by Caroline Falshaw | 03 Jun 2014

Christopher Koch SA Fin is a Director at UBS Investment Bank in Melbourne, and Chair of the Victorian Young Finance Professionals committee. Ahead of the next YFP Connect event, ‘Creating contacts and being noticed’ he spoke to INFINANCE about the importance of developing soft skills to stand out from your peers.

To an outside observer, Christopher’s career appears to have evolved effortlessly. As an undergraduate he worked for then Foreign Minister The Hon. Alexander Downer AC. Graduating with honours degrees in economics and law from Adelaide University he secured a place in Macquarie Bank’s graduate program. 

What happened next “was really luck, timing and where I was in the market”. Christopher started in the equity capital markets team at Macquarie during the busiest period for capital markets in Australian history. “In four or five years I worked on $30 billion of transactions, on 50 or 60 individual deals … a lifetime’s experience.”

And while this experience made ECM a great place to start, Christopher wanted to make the move to M&A because it’s where the relationships happen. “I wanted to get experience in M&A and I realised the longer I waited the harder it would be to make that change.” 

He moved to UBS’ Melbourne office three years ago, switching from capital markets into M&A or more sector focused banking. During that time he has worked on a wide range of advisory matters – across sectors including technology, healthcare and general industrials, and with a focus on cross-border transactions.

Not your typical graduate

It surprised INFINANCE to learn that Christopher didn’t study maths at university, bar a unit in statistics. 

“I’m probably different to the majority of people who started in my sort of peer group … Your typical investment banking graduate is either a maths boffin or someone who really enjoys the quantitative side.”

While those skills are important, so is diversity of approach. For Christopher, the qualitative side of things is equally valuable. The ability to communicate well is vital for forming relationships and originating business. “You need to make sure that you get all of the skills represented to a degree”, he says.

How important are good marks, really?

Having seen both sides of the graduate recruitment process, Christopher agrees that good marks are important “to get past the first hurdle” and on the graduate program track. However, there’s more to it if you’re looking to stand out from your peers.

The ‘more to it’ is something you can learn, but cannot fake: soft skills.

“It’s always about having a view of what’s actually going on and being able to spend time on the softer skills which are much harder because they’re difficult.“

Strange as it sounds, one thing that makes soft skills a bit trickier is social media. Communicating effectively and forming meaningful relationships is made more complex because we’re so readily, but superficially, connected.

The contacts you make may have access to ever more information about you, but the same goes for everyone else. We’re all a little time poor as a consequence. “The landscape has changed a lot, and people are struggling to navigate it.”

This means that sometimes you need to back away from LinkedIn, and pick up the phone. “I still have the most respect for people who somehow manage to find my phone number” Christopher says of the ‘old school’ approach to making connections at the start of your career.  

Creating contacts and being noticed

As Chair of YFP in Victoria, Christopher has worked with the committee and Finsia to make getting a start in the industry more accessible. 

Their next event, ‘Creating contacts and being noticed’ is being hosted by Finsia this Thursday in Melbourne.

If you notice that the dreaded word ‘networking’ isn’t in the title, this is wholly by design. “We did everything we could to keep the word ‘networking’ out of the title” Christopher says.

Click here for more details and to register.

Young Finance Professionals

For more about YFP events in other cities, visit our events page. Or, like us on Facebook.

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