Before embarking on any path in your career, a healthy question to ask is “What am I getting myself into?”.
This question is especially important to ask when thinking about breaking into finance. Careers and internships in finance have earned a wide variety of reputations; the Wolf of Wall Street-esque partying /lifestyle, somehow working 25 hours a day, or getting lunch for so many people that you feel like an Uber Eats driver.
With this series, we hope to clear up some of the common misconceptions when working in finance, and tell you what an internship in finance is actually like. Today, we have Zarbux Daruwalla who will run you through a day in his life during his summer internship at Ares Management in Los Angeles, California.
Zarbux, can you give a brief introduction of yourself and the company you worked for?
To start, I’m a 4th year student at the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University. Throughout high school, investing was something I was very interested in, and this summer I had the opportunity to complete a summer internship in the corporate private equity group at Ares Management in their LA office, which is a $26bn private equity fund.
What drew you to this field and this company?
It started with a financial securities course I took in grade 12 that drew me into the public markets. I was fascinated with the idea that you could profit from being smarter and more nimble than the broader investing community.
Once I started business school, I realized that my passion for investing was based on creating value for businesses in the form of change, rather than swinging with the markets to make small profits. That’s when I looked to private equity. What drew me to Ares wasn’t just the opportunity to receive a top-notch private equity investing education, but also being exposed to special situations / distressed opportunities was part of the experience. Being able to learn about how to analyze a business and where in the capital structure is the optimal place requires a very special skillset, and Ares was a leader in that space.
WAKE UP UNTIL YOU GET TO WORK
I usually woke up at 6:30AM to shower and get ready for the day. Most of the investment professionals get in around 9AM since we aren’t tied to public markets, but I always aimed to be in the office around 8AM. I would shower until 7AM, iron my shirt / pants for the day, and eat some food.
I would call my Uber at this time to drive us to work, which typically took around 5 minutes. I lived very close to the office. I would usually swing in around 7:50AM / 7:55AM, set down my things, and then go grab a cup of coffee and a Greek yogurt snack to start the day.
BEGINNING OF WORK UNTIL LUNCH
At its core, private equity breaks down into two main components: 1) looking at new business opportunities, and 2) maintaining / monitoring portfolio companies (PoCos). As an intern, we primarily worked on new deals and didn’t touch PoCo work much.
8AM – 9AM
I would typically spend this time touching up any work I did the previous day and read the news. Although our work isn’t as tightly tied to the public markets, being aware of what’s going on is crucial for looking at new deals from a macro perspective. Moreover, I would spend this time reviewing notes / materials for current deals I’m working on and prepare for any upcoming meetings.
9AM – NOON
This really fluctuated on a day to day basis. On the “typical day”, I would say most of my time is tied up doing calls with industry professionals for current deals we’re looking at. For example, if we were looking at a packaging business, we would spend some time doing calls with C-suite executives from large packaging companies to understand their perspective of the industry, where they think it’s going, and any industry knowledge they’ve acquired over their entire career. Very often, I would get an email to swing by a partner’s office – this typically meant they received a CIM that they glanced at and liked, and they wanted me to run preliminary due diligence to see if it was worth chasing. This would take up 5-8 hours, where I would arrange industry calls, build out the financial model, and think about the investment thesis outlined in the CIM and created by the bankers. A good chunk of this job was thinking about the thesis and determining whether the banker was trying to put makeup on the pig (sell us a bad asset). I would usually send in all my findings directly to the partner by EOD.
Ares has a catered lunch every day, which helps promote socializing amongst the firm. Private equity is only one part of the company – we have a ~30bn PE practice, ~30bn Real Estate practice, and an ~70bn credit platform. As such, it’s nice to speak with some other people from different groups, or hang out with the analysts / associates in a more casual setting. I have never had to get lunch for other people – however, on Thursdays we had a farmer’s market that everyone really enjoyed. The Hawaiian chicken was amazing, and I would usually ask if anyone wanted me to grab one for them on my way there.
NOON – 1:30PM
This is when the bulk of whatever I’m currently working on comes to a close. Whether it’s building out a preliminary LBO from a CIM I received that day, to topping off some analysis I was doing for a current deal.
1:30PM – 5PM
This is the time frame where most of the industry calls happen. With every deal, we like to do 5-6 calls to really get a grasp for the drivers in that industry, who the major players are, how consolidated / fragmented it is, and what are the potential things to look out for. It’s really important because we need to verify whether this is something we want to spend money doing more diligence on, or if it goes straight to the garbage pile. For context, in a typical year, Ares will look at ~1000 businesses, and spend money on less than 5% of those, and end up investing in, maybe, 5-8 businesses. That means a lot of calls, and a lot of learning about industries you might not know anything about.
5PM – 8PM
This is typically when a Partner or Principal on your deal team will ask for a task to be done. It’s usually very vague and it’s not deal work per se, but it’s usually something small for a deal they’re currently working on. This consists of research, modelling, or data entry. At around 5:30PM, the Analysts / Associates would usually go out for dinner and the interns would join them. Dinner is paid for by the company, so we would swing by the mall beside work to grab a bite to eat. I usually go for the salad since sitting all day isn’t exactly the greatest form of exercise.
8PM – 10PM
This would be grind time – this is when I’m typically cranking out anything needed to be done for that day. This could be current deal work, a new deal that just came on my desk today, or some smaller tasks for a partner or principal. There are many iterations of all this work, so a small task can end up taking quite a while if you’re not meticulous with your work. If we were doing a deal and it passed the 1st round bid, we would typically spend 2-3 days traveling to meet with the management team and see if we liked them. This was a really fun part of the job because you get to travel, but also get exposed to professionals who spend their entire life in the industry you spent the last 2-5 days researching. During my summer, I got to attend 3 MPs where we traveled to New York, Chicago, and Atlanta. They were all a ton of fun and really great opportunities to apply your learning / research and see a Partner / Principal in action.